The holy season of Advent highlights the Blessed Virgin Mary as the exemplar of the hopes of the people of the Old Testament. She embodies the people who wait and hope for the coming of the Lord, now and at the end of time. Hence Mary is also exemplar and Mother of the Church, the new people of God. As we renew our expectation of the coming of the Lord during this time of Advent, we look to Our Blessed Mother as our Mother, who gives us Jesus for our salvation.
The Immaculate Conception
The first of the great Marian feasts of Advent is that of her Immaculate Conception, which we celebrate on December 8th. This is the principal feast of Mary in the Church’s liturgy, and so it is always a holyday of obligation. It is most appropriate to celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception in the womb of her mother St. Ann during Advent. These are the last days of Mary’s pregnancy. As the mother of God it is most fitting that she be free of all sin — original sin and actual sin — from the moment of her conception. Today we rejoice at the great privilege that our Mother received so that she might be a worthy temple for receiving the Son of God made man in her womb. Under her title of the Immaculate Conception we invoke Our Blessed Mother as patroness of the United States.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Although not a holy day of obligation, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe has special significance for us Americans. It is under this title that we proclaim Mary Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization. Our Lady of Guadalupe is also the patroness of our Diocese of Colorado Springs.
The Mother of God appeared on our continent four times, from Dec. 9-12 of 1531. This year we mark the 475th anniversary of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearances to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City.
Juan Diego was a simple man, a convert from the pagan Aztec religion. The Spanish Franciscan missionaries, who were outstanding in their pastoral care of the Spanish explorers and the Native Americans, taught both Juan Diego and his wife the doctrine of the Catholic faith, and both of them together with Juan Diego’s uncle Bernardino received the gift of faith and were baptized. Juan Diego’s wife died two years before Our Lady’s apparitions.
On Dec. 9, 1531, as Juan Diego was making his way to Mass, he heard a voice calling to him from Tepeyac Hill. When he had made his way to the top of the hill he saw a beautiful lady, radiant as the sun. The lady spoke to him in these words:
“Know, know for sure, my dearest and littlest son, that I am the perfect and ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the God of truth through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near us, the Lord of heaven and earth. I want very much to have a little house built here for me, in which I will show Him, I will exalt Him and make Him manifest. I will give Him to the people in all my personal love, in my compassion, in my help, in my protection: because I am truly your merciful Mother, yours and of all the people who live united in this land of all the other peoples of different ancestries, my lovers, those who love me, who seek me, who trust in me.”
The Virgin sent St. Juan Diego to the Bishop of Mexico City. There the humble peasant presented the request of Our Lady, that a chapel be built to which she would draw many to the all-merciful love of God for them. Understandably the bishop did not take the request seriously. It was not until three days and three apparitions later that Our Lady of Guadalupe provided Juan Diego with the sign that would convince the bishop that the Mother of God had indeed shown herself to this poor convert to the faith.
Our Lady told Juan Diego to go to the top of Tepeyac Hill, which was covered with frost in the dead of winter. There he found beautiful flowers, which the Virgin arranged in Juan Diego’s cloak — or tilma. He went to the bishop’s house, opened his cloak, and there fell to the floor the most beautiful and fragrant flowers.
But an even more powerful sign was given to the bishop. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on Juan Diego’s tilma. The tilma bearing the image of Our Lady is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is venerated by hundreds of thousands of the faithful every year. Within ten years of her apparitions to Juan Diego Our Lady of Guadalupe brought some nine million Native Americans to the Catholic faith.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Rose of Heaven, make intercession for the Church of God! Protect the Sovereign Pontiff, and have pity on all who call to you in grief and need. Mother of God and every-Virgin Mary, win from you Son the grace that we keep faith and hope amid life’s bitterness and sorrow. Make love burn brightly in our hearts all days until you bring us safely to the vision of your most holy Son, Our God and Savior. Amen.