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A self-portrait: Lady of Guadalupe

JUAN DIEGO stood in amazement. All eyes were focused on him. Before him was Fray Juan de Zumarraga, bishop of Mexico, on his knees, with his household. A few minutes ago, some of them were driving him out of the gate, but stopped when the smell of perfume tickled their noses. He knew they came from the flowers he gathered on the iced rocks on the mountain.

He remembered so well the instruction of the Lady while she arranged them in his ayate, a stiff woven blanket or overcoat: “Do not let anyone but him [Bishop Zumarraga] see what you are carrying.”

So, he held on tightly to his ayate when the lady servants jostled that made him to let go of his grip. And some of them succeeded to touch a rose or two, only to find out they were just painted roses on his cream colored ayate or tilma.

Utterly surprised while they were looking at him, he looked at the Castillan roses on the floor and followed their gaze.

On his ayate, which hung ankle-length, was an exact replica of the Lady with overpowering brilliance and beauty who introduced herself as “Ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God, who gives life and maintains it in existence…created all things in all places…Lord of heaven and earth,” A Woman Clothed With The Sun by John J. Delaney says.

He heard the bishop ask forgiveness from the Lady, then untied the ayate from his neck, brought it to the chapel where they all knelt and prayed.

The news about the incident spread and the next day, the tilma was carried in a solemn procession to the cathedral.

After 14 days another impressive and joyous ceremony occurred, attended by church officials, Spanish administrators of the city, Mexican lords and noblemen and townspeople to enthrone the image of the Lady, Nican Motecpana to the Aztecs in a chapel on top of Tepeyac Hill as She requested.

On this wasteland, 5 miles North of Mexico, once stood a temple to the Mother Goddess of the Aztecs.

 

The apparitions

DIEGO, his wife, Ma. Luisa, from the village of Cuantitlan and his uncle, Juan Bernardino, were among the first Christian converts of Franciscan Missionaries in 1521.

When his wife died, Diego moved to live with his aged uncle in Tolpetlac and became a farmer.

On the morning of December 9, 1531, the Feast of Immaculate Concepcion, Diego woke early to attend Mass at Tialteloko, 9 miles away.

While traversing the barren, stony hills of Tepeyac, he heard heavenly music which intoxicated his senses.

Trying to decipher where it came from, he gazed at the dark hillsides and was drawn on the summit where a young and beautiful Mexican girl called him in his mother tongue.

“Nopiltzin Campa Tiauh? [Juan, smallest and dearest of my little, children, where are you going?]”

Diego, who was already 57, saw someone, young enough to be his granddaughter, said:  “My Lady and my child, hurrying to Tialteloco to see the Mass and hear the Gospel explained.”

The Lady, after introducing herself as the Mother of God, told him to see the bishop and tell him of her desire to build a chapel on Tepeyac hill.

Although Diego was afraid, frightened and uncertain on how to find his way to the bishop’s house in Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) he managed to locate the place.

He felt humiliated at the scornful glances and, after a long wait, the bishop listened to his story, shook his head, saying he would think about the Lady’s request but told Diego he could come again.

Tired and very hungry he told the Lady who was waiting for him what happened.

Asking forgiveness for his boldness in advising her, Diego said: “Please send someone more suitable, for I am a nobody.  I am not worthy of your trusting me with so important a message.”

The Lady told him, she has many servants and messengers to deliver the message but it is through him that she wished the task accomplished.

The next day after attending the Sunday Mass, he set off to the bishop’s place to reiterate the Lady’s request. As he expected, the servants grudgingly ushered him after a longer wait.

Bishop Zumarraga was startled to see him and listened as he knelt before the prelate. With tears in his eyes, he pleaded with clasped hands for the bishop to heed the request.

The bishop in embarrassment asked questions, impressed with his sincerity but nevertheless asked for a sign from the Lady.

The bishop ordered two of his trusted aids to follow Diego, but along a ravine on the hill they lost sight of him.

Francis Johnston, in Our Lady of Guadalupe, citing Helen Behrens’s studies, wrote that Juan upon arriving on Sunday evening found his uncle missing, searched the hills, found Juan Bernardino fatally wounded by an arrow.

Bernardino, a Christian was harmed because he is collaborating with the Spanish missionaries.  So Diego took care of him and did not report to the Lady on the hill on Monday.

On Tuesday his uncle requested him to get a priest to administer the last sacraments.

To avoid the Lady on the west side of the hill, Diego skirted the hill and took the east side only to be intercepted, “What is the matter my little son, where are you going?

Embarrassed, he told the Lady about his sick uncle, and asked forgiveness. The Lady assured him, his uncle is healed that very moment then told him to climb the summit of Tepeyac hill, gather flowers and bring them to Her.

Just as the Lady said, roses bloomed on frozen soil in a stony terrain of the hill. These were the roses Diego brought to the bishop on his tilma.

 

The tilma and its miraculous image

THE ayate of Diego was made from Agave potute zaac, a variety of maguey cloth that do not last for 20 years.

Paintings are usually drawn on canvass. But the image of the Lady was painted on a rough, loosely woven maguey cloth which is more of a net. And a painting on such a material “was anything else but a miracle.”

A chemist certifies that the colorings used in the image are neither vegetable, animal, mineral or synthetic—and do not exist on Earth.

An infra-red light study on the Lady’s image on the tilma revealed that the artist did not make any sketch before finalizing the image, a procedure that artists do not do, not even Leonardo da Vinci, Goya, El Greco, Rubens, etc.

Thus, all the lines were formed from the imperfections of the coarse, maguey cloth, its openings, stains, holes, thick threads and rough edges, “an eminent technical superiority over any human painting.”

The stars that adorn the Lady’s mantle are the exact configuration and positions of the stars in heaven—constellations Libra, Scorpio, Hydra, Taurus, Southern Cross among others—that could be seen in the sky of Mexico City on the day the miracle happened—December 12, 1531, at 10:37 a.m.

Fr. Emmanuel Mansford, CFR, discovered that the tilma “maintains a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a living human body.”

In 1791 the silversmith who was cleaning the frame dropped nitric acid over the cloth. The yellowish watermark disappeared through time.

A bouquet that camouflaged a heavy load of dynamite was placed by Luciano Perez on November 14, 1921, at the feet of the image.

When it exploded, the marble steps were destroyed, candlesticks and metallic objects on the altar were bent and twisted, crystal panes broke but the glass protecting the Lady remained intact without even a trace of a scratch.

Aste Tonsman, a PhD in Environmental Systems Engineering, divided the photograph of the Virgin in 1600, 2,778 squares depending on the enlargement to be made which is 30 to 2,000 times the original size.

After two years of research, he wrote an exhaustive report about the “Eyes of the Virgin of Guadalupe” in October 1981.

“Even with the present technology it would be practically impossible to paint so many images, with details so minute as those that have been discovered in the irises of the eyes of the Virgin in the ayate of the Tepeyac…considering that these irises are less than 7 or 8 millimeters…printed in a coarse material.”

The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is a supernatural fact and the “scene of the miracle appears as a whole inside the irises.  She was there at the Bishop’s palace.”

The Virgin of Guadalupe wears a black band on her waist which symbolizes pregnancy, thus the Patroness of Unborn children.

Father Mansford wrote that one of the doctors who analyzed the tilma placed his stethoscope below her black band. Rhytmic beats at 115 pulses per minute was detected, the same as a baby’s in the womb of a mother.

The first glass cover of the image was installed in 1647. Thus, for more than a century, the ayate was unprotected from humid and salty waters, marsh insects and black smoke of lighted candles.

Too, pious people rub medals, cards, rosaries, hands and kissed the tilma.  Yet, “the image and the cloth look as good as new.”

 

Miracles and conversions

BERNARDINO was healed as the Lady promised on that Tuesday morning when Diego was to fetch a priest to give his uncle the last rites, the first recipient of miraculous healing.

When the Sacred Image was carried in a procession to Tepeyac Hill, an archer shot an arrow into the air. It landed in the throat of a man who immediately died. He was laid before the Virgin and the arrow was removed. He got up, the wound healed, leaving only a scar.

The Catholic religion, which the Aztecs embraced, according to Francis Anson in Guadalupe What Her Eyes Say, “freed the Aztecs once and for all from the oppressive bloody sacrifices required by their former gods.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico by Ethel Cook Eliot noted that between 1532 and 1538 8 million natives were baptized. Friar Toribio de Benavente anointed 14,500 with oil in chrism in five days and married 1,000 couples in a day.

Annually, the descendants of the Aztecs dance and sing Teote Inantzin (God’s Mother) and sing “She freed us from great evil, She crushed the serpent.”

On Easter 1540, 12 different tribes from as far as 150 miles assembled peacefully as a signal of unity.

 

Saint Juan Diego

NICAN Mopohua (Herein We Relate) tells the story of the Lady of Tlecuauhtlacupeuh (Guadalupe) in classic Nahuatl language.

Written by Antonio Valeriano, an Indian himself, it narrates the historical events with Diego as the source of information himself. Valeriano was 11 years old when the miracle happened.

Dignified and childlike in simplicity, Diego became the custodian of the Sacred Image. He never tired repeating the story to convert his fellow Aztecs and to everyone who went to pray to the Lady of Guadalupe until his death on May 30, 1548, at the age of 74.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1990 and canonized on July 31, 2002.


In Photo: The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, December 12, 1531, Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Tepeyac Hill, Mexico City, Mexico. (Wikimedia Commons)


 

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