To grapple with multiple narratives: Today we invite you to explore how one person’s encounter with Gudalupe has been and continues to be transformative; engage with Guadalupe’s historic and current religious and cultural entanglements, multiple narratives involving colonialism, conquest, trauma, healing and meaning-making; and embody for yourself the complex story of Guadalupe.
“Shout aloud and rejoice, people of Zion!
I am coming, I will make my dwelling among you,” says YHWH.
Many nations will give their allegiance to YHWH on that day
and become God’s people,
and God will dwell in your midst.
Then you will know that YHWH Omnipotent sent me to you.
YHWH will claim Judah as God’s own portion in the holy land,
and will once again choose Jerusalem.
Silence, all mortal flesh! Be silent in the presence of YHWH,
who has been bestirred once again and come forth from the holy dwelling place!
Then God’s sanctuary in heaven was opened,
and within it the Ark of the Covenant could be seen.
Then a great sign appeared in heaven:
a women clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet,
with twelve starts on her head for a crown.
She was pregnant and in labor,
crying out in pain as she was about to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in heaven:
a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and each of the seven heads with a crown.
Its tail swept a third of the stars from the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
The dragon stood before the woman about to deliver,
to devour her child the moment she gave birth.
The woman gave birth to a male child, a son,
who is to rule the world with an iron rod.
But the child was snatched straight up to God and God’s throne.
The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven shout:
“Now have come salvation and power,
and the kindom of God,
and all authority for God’s Anointed.”
Response (15:9D): You are the most esteemed of our people!
O daughter, you are truly blessed by YHWH
above all other women on the earth;
and blessed by YHWH,
who made the heavens and the earth.
R: You are the most esteemed of our people!
Your faith in God
will be remembered in the hearts
of all who celebrate the power of YHWH.
R: You are the most esteemed of our people!
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,
to a young woman named Mary;
she was engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David.
Upon arriving, the angel said to Mary,
“rejoice, highly favored one! God is with you!
Blessed are you among women!”
Mary was deeply troubled by these words
and wondered what the angel’s greeting meant.
The angel went on to say to her,
“Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God.
You’ll conceive and bear a son, and give him the name Jesus — ‘Deliverance.’
His dignity will be great, and he will be called the Only Begotten of God.
God will give Jesus the judgment seat of David, his ancestor,
to rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and his reign will never end.”
Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be, since I have never been with a man?”
The angel answered her,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you
– hence the offspring to be born will be called the Holy One of God.
Know too that Elizabeth, your kinswoman, has conceived a child in her old age;
she who was thought to be infertile is now in her sixth month.
Nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary said, “I am the servant of God. Let it be done to me as you say.”
With that, the angel left her.
Within a few days Mary set out
and hurried to the hill country
to a town of Judah,
where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.
As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the child leaped in her womb
and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
In a loud voice she exclaimed,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
But why am I so favored,
that the mother of the Messiah should come to me?
The moment your greeting reached my ears,
the child in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed is she who believed
what our God said to her would be accomplished!”
“My soul proclaims your greatness, O God,
and my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior”
For you have looked with favor upon your lowly servant,
and from this day forward all generations will call me blessed.
For you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
and holy is your Name.
Your mercy reaches from age to age
for those who fear you.
You have shown strength with your arm;
you have scattered the proud in their conceit;
you have deposed the mighty from their thrones
and raised the lowly to high places.
you have filled the hungry with good things,
while you have sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the aid of Israel your servant,
mindful of your mercy – the promise you made to our ancestors –
to Sarah and Abraham and their descendants forever.”
The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved.
The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Mexico, empress of the Americas, Brown Madonna…how does an apparition and encounter of the sacred on a remote mount in rural Mexico speak to us in the now? As a trans and queer Latinx person with Indigenous and Spanish roots, my encounter with Lupita, this dark haired and brown skinned woman, has been and continues to be transformative, healing, and wholizing as she was my first experience of divine manifestation and sacred revelation that was and is like me. We are taught that we are all created in the image of God, but growing up the images of the sacred were always white, European, cis and heteronormative, and interestingly athletically toned and muscled. Very rarely were any images brown, frumpy, and quirky. I started to question was I somehow less than? An abomination? A mistake? The answer: Nope…I too, in my transness, queerness, latinxness, frumpiness, fierceness, messedupness, I too am a reflection and creation of the divine. My encounter with Guadalupe continues to inspire me through the image’s and the story’s embracing of transgression, boldness, prophetic indigeneity, queerness, and even frumpiness. Though my understanding of what happened based on tradition and insights grounded in intersectional re-reflections of the narrative has and continue to evolve, one thing remains constant—like Guadalupe herself, like Juan Diego, like the millions of devotees, I am and we all are sacramental, blessed, loved, and called to fiercely share prophetic roses.
Elizabeth Johnson in her book Quest for Living God quotes religion and theology scholar and professor Roberto Goizueta: “In the Náhuatl world of Juan Diego, beauty is truth and truth is beauty: flor y canto. It is in the singing of the birds, in the aroma of the roses, and above all in the encounter with the Lady of Tepeyac that Juan Diego comes to understand the truth of who he is, who she is, and who God is” (Chapter: God of Fiesta, pg. 146). Both Johnson and Goizueta speak to the multilayered complexities of the Guadalupen encounter; complexities that result from the interactions of trauma and resilience. For a long-time I struggled with the story of Juan Diego and La Virgen due to being taught at a young age that this encounter’s importance in history was the conversion of the indigenous people. The story was presented to me in a very romanticized, white-washed way that overlooked the harm and horrors of Spanish and European colonization and conquest under the guise of evangelization. However, as I grappled with the image, the story, its place in history, its place in my faith journey, I came to understand that what happened in Mejico more than 500 years ago was a moment in which the sacred, the mysterious, the divine came near—a moment in which God revealed the Godself in a way that Juan Diego and later myself could understand, embrace, and identify with. On that day, my messiness, my identity, who I am as a person was also lifted up as sacred.
Not only is the tilma an important part of the story, but also the messenger Juan Diego, a simple indigenous farmer on an errand early in the morning, who was chosen to share a simple yet powerful message to the church and to the world: God is with us in the struggle amidst the confusion and in the liberation of claiming and reclaiming resilience. He, like La Guadalupana herself, is a reminder that the call to holiness is not limited to any one group but an invitation open to all people, period. The story we commemorate today lifts up all those pushed to the margins by church and society. By remembering Guadalupe, we also re-member the dignity and worth of all people on the fringes of church and society. The image, feast, and story of Guadalupe spoke then and speaks now the message that we are all equally, lovingly, and fiercely blessed by God.
¡Que viva la Guadalupana hoy y siempre!
***sources of inspiration and influence for this reflection include: Gloria Anzaldua’s La Frontera/Borderlands (1987); Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God (2011) and Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints (2003); and Timothy Matovina’s Theologies of Guadalupe: From the Era of Conquest to Pope Francis (2019). Unless noted, no direct citations taken from any of these sources.
Gloria Anzaldua writes: “After the Conquest, the Spaniards and their Church continued to split Tonantsi / Guadalupe. They desexed Guadalupe, taking Coatlalopeuh, the serpent / sexuality, out of her. They completed the split begun by the Nahuas by making la Virgen de Guadalupe / Virgen María into chaste virgins and Tlazolteotl / Coatlicue / la Chingada into putas; into the Beauties and the Beasts. They went even further; they made all Indian deities and religious practices the work of the devil….” (Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza, p. 26). Anzaldua through her connecting of Guadalupe with indigenous deities reflects the historic and current religious and cultural entanglements of multiple narratives involving colonialism, conquest, trauma, healing and meaning-making. She calls out past injustices whose impacts are still experienced today while also redefining historical perceptions and connections of Guadalupe that sparked then and sparks now resilience, resistance, and revolution.
There are no easy answers to the harm the Catholic Church has done, perhaps with good intentions given historical context, but nonetheless, the Church needs to be held accountable for the destructive impact it has had over the centuries, regardless of intention. What ways can Our Lady of Guadalupe become a source of healing and reconciliation not just in Latin America but around the world? How can the tilma and the narrative spark conversations and actions that can help heal both old and fresh wounds while challenging the Church to live new possibilities of being church?
One of the central tenets of Catholic Social Teaching is the dignity of the human person as a child of God. This teaching has been a source of both pain and inspiration for many of us pushed to the margin due to the disconnect of church practice that otherizes and dehumanizes those of us who are queer, trans, people of color, people living disabilities (visible and invisible), women, and other identities historically and currently minoritized. Much like the image and narrative of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s conflicting narratives of conquest and reclaimed resilience, how can this central teaching of our faith be a source of reflection and introspection of both our historic and current realities as Catholics? It is important that we learn from history and recognize the atrocities committed in the name of the Church but also recognize, even if just a glimmer, of how the Spirit is helping us make sense of the past in order to do different now and tomorrow. What efforts are being made to atone for colonization and other isms? Where is growth and action still needed in the now? More and more, being Catholic today means decentralizing traditional sources of religious authority in order to make room for the nontraditional voices whose witnesses are just as impactful and spiritually whalluping as the traditional ones (and I would argue in some cases even more so).
The Catholic Church as well as other Christian denominations are starting to have conversations about the complex history of colonization and the imposition of religion as a way of controlling and ultimately eliminating different cultures around the world. There are similar conversations regarding Christian conformity with the enslavement of Africans and Indigenous communities as well as how Christianity has and continues to be a source of trauma for many groups pushed to the margins. The story and encounter at Tepeyac is part of this complex and conflicting narrative with many seeing the apparition as a way of increasing the number of Catholics in response to the Reformation and the hundreds leaving Catholicism. It was a miraculous event to keep Catholicism alive. However, at what cost?
I share this prayer I wrote for a Chapel Service organized by Yale Divinity Latin@ Association’s in 2009 honoring La Guadalupana and all women:
Santos DIOS, Bless us as we gather together today to celebrate Mary of Nazareth, the mujer from the barrio. Lift up our hearts today as we remember her manifestation to the indigenous man Juan Diego of Mejico in 1531, and the special relationship she continues to have with the peoples of the Americas. In honoring her, we honor and lift up all women who are in la lucha. In this space, we gather to remember profetizas Latina who like Maria de Nazaret took charge of their lives, lived out a daily yes by embracing the messiness of GOD’s unfolding revolutionary plan with all its joy and frustration. In our commemorating of La morenita del Tipeyac, we commemorate the dwelling and expression of GOD in all people, of all colors, ethnicities, cultures, sexualities, abilities, genders, nationalities. United with La Guadalupana, maternally guide our hearts and prayers to live a prophetic life…to give birth to the Divine in our words, deeds, hearts, thoughts, lives, in our lucha. Amen. Que así sea.
In many Latin American communities, it is tradition of honoring the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe through Las Mañanitas (little morning or dawn) or Las Flores (flowers) … cultural practices and liturgies involving music, prayer, community, and flowers. Create your own flower giving ritual honoring La Guadalupana and all those pushed to the margins. Some examples:
The Los Angeles Catholic Worker community has and continues to live into and live out a much needed witness of solidarity with indigenous and native communities in the United States. They have organized many events and started initiatives calling in and calling out the church locally and nationally to directly address the complex history of missions and evangelization, especially targeting indigenous and native communities. Like the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, their efforts honor stories of resistance as well as calling for transparency, accountability, and justice. What can we learn from the LA Catholic Worker and how can their efforts inspire similar actions across the US?
Libertad written and performed by Yadira de Jesus
Many artists have re-envisioned the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, creating new ways of honoring the story and the ways the story speaks to us today. Many are creating new tilmas that express the multiple messages the original tilma inspires. Take some time to reflect on these images and perhaps even create your own. Yolanda Lopez (Chicana artist who created several different interpretations of the tilma): Portraits of the Artist, her mother, and her grandmother as the Virgin of Guadalupe
Kittredge Cherry has collected several different variations: Queer Lady of Guadalupe: Artists re-imagine an icon