A Virgin and a Rock

Today is December 12th. In Mexico that means it’s the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. 480 years ago today, so the story goes, an indigenous peasant named, Juan Diego, was on a hill outside (today’s) Mexico City when a Virgin appeared to him and told him to build a church there. His skeptical bishop asked for a sign and a few days later she reappeared to Juan Diego and told him to gather roses blooming out of season, put them in his cloak and take them to the bishop. When he opened his cloak to show the bishop, an image of the virgin was imprinted on it. The Virgin has been an important symbol of indigenous Mexican identity over the years, an object of faith and piety, and a symbol of hope to many hopeless people. Today 6 million people have made the pilgrimage to Mexico City to the Basilica where the cloak and other relics are kept. Last night was full of rockets, fireworks, masses and parties in her honor, and today we hear rockets exploding at least every minute all around the area. About 10% of the students showed up at the elementary school today, so there were no classes.

So what’s our take?

Here are some thoughts:
1. People are intensely spiritual beings. We are made to worship something, and we are made with a sense of the spiritual. There will be something to fill the gap. The Virgin filled a spiritual gap that the Catholic church was not filling after the destruction of the Nahuatl (that is, Aztec, and many other indigenous peoples) society and religion. There is strong evidence that she simply filled in for the Nahuatl godess Tonantzin. the Virgin fills in a spiritual gap today, as people have religion, but no one to pray to. I wouldn’t be surprise if she receives more prayers in Mexico than God does. Just a guess. We know there is an unseen, we are made to worship something bigger than we are and that gap will be filled.

2. Tradition is powerful. I doubt that a) the virgin appeared b) Juan Diego existed c) the origins are exactly 480 years ago. But people who really don’t believe in anything participate in pilgrimages, parties, days off school (!) because it’s part of the tradition of their family and thus their identity.

3. Jesus is so important. I listened to our home church’s pastor preach on 1 Peter 2:4-10 this morning, about Jesus as the foundation, the chief corner stone, on whom everything rests. How sad it is when we see an entire society built on something else. How tragic for people to be traveling hundreds of miles and spending money they don’t have on parties for a false hope. Yet I often do the same thing in little ways in my life, hoping, finding identity, satisfaction in things that aren’t meant for that. Jesus is the only Truth that can really fill that spiritual need, that is worthy of a Tradition that will give life instead of wasting it. I need that, this community needs that. How sad, that a real Virgin would point people to Jesus, but Mexico’s draws them away.

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