Our Lady Of Guadalupe
One of the most extraordinary series of events in the history of Marian apparitions occurred in Mexico in December 1531, when Our Blessed Lady appeared four times from December 9th to December 12th, on the Hill of Tepeyac, outside Mexico City, to an Aztec Indian Juan Diego. What he saw was a young woman clothed in a light brighter than the sun and dressed in the robes of a royal Aztec princess. She was, She said, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of the One, True God.
On December 12th She also appeared to his uncle Juan Benardino at his home at Tulpetlac. In the Aztec tongue She proclaimed Herself to him as the one who crushes the serpent. The word She used sounded like, in translation, to the Franciscan Bishop Juan De Zumarraga, the name of the Shrine of Guadalupe in the Extremadura of Spain. Ever since She has been known in Mexico and throughout the world as Santa Maria De Guadalupe, Holy Mary of Guadalupe.
Our Blessed Lady requested Juan Diego to go to the Bishop and ask him to have a sanctuary built at Tepeyac and in it She promised She would give all Her love, compassion, help and protection to the people. Prior to the conquest of Mexico by Cortez and his small Spanish army with their Indian allies, Tepeyac had been the site of a temple of the Aztec pagan mother of the earth, Tonantzin, the goddess Coatlicue.
On Her last appearance the Blessed Virgin sent Juan Diego to gather flowers on the barren hillside, a sign for the Bishop who had asked for confirmation of Her appearance. What he found were Castilian roses, flowers not known in Mexico at that time. She arranged them in his cloak and off he went to the Bishop. When he was finally admitted and the roses spilt out, the Bishop was amazed at what he saw on the cactus-fiber cloak itself. For the overwhelming sign proved not to be the roses, which in themselves were remarkable, but something much more beautiful and heavenly, which caused him to fall to his knees lost in admiration.
For here was revealed a life size image of the Lady of Tepeyac the Blessed Virgin Mary, surrounded by the rays of the sun, cloaked in a blue green mantle emblazoned with the 46 stars configured in the sky for December 12th, in an attitude of prayer - not a goddess, but a Servant of God. An Archangel floating on clouds holds up Her mantle and Her gown, on which the flower decoration is of gold filigree, a work for which the Indians were renowned. A sash around Her waist is a sign that She is pregnant - and honored condition amongst Aztec women.
The Tilma of Juan Diego comprises two straight lengths of fiber sewn together in the center and woven so coarsely, that it appears almost transparent. After 460 years it shows not the slightest sign of decay. The colors of the sacred image remain as fresh and vibrant as when first seen by the Bishop, even though it had been hanging unprotected in a damp, open windowed chapel for over a century, exposed to the elements, smoke, incense and millions of candles flickering beneath it.
The Virgin's head, is inclined, slightly to the right, so avoiding the seam which otherwise would have disfigured Her face. Her eyes are downcast, but the pupils are clearly visible and seemingly full of life; Her whole expression is one of tenderness and love, for those, on whom She looks. No one at the time saw what photographs revealed in the 1950's. On close examination multiple images in the cornea of both eyes were identified as reflection of Juan Diego, and two other figures, one of whom later, was recognized as the interpreter. These reflections, seen as they would be in any normal eyes acting as a mirror reflection whatever is before them, show that this discovery is clearly a phenomenon which seems to defy explanation.
In May, 1979, two distinguished scholars, one a world renowned research physicist and authority in the field of infra-red radiation, subjected the image to special photographic techniques in the hope of determining how the image came to be there and how it had survived so long - whether it was painted by a special technique, whether there was a drawing beneath or a preservative on the surface. These tests concluded positively that no human artifact was responsible - there was no evidence of under drawing, or varnish, or fading or cracking, and there is no sizing present in or on the image - without sizing it would have rotted centuries ago. The weave of the fiber seems to embrace the depth of the face as though the image has sprung mysteriously out of the fabric itself. The image quite simply cannot be explained. For over four and a half centuries, it has remained as it is, a beacon of hope and light for all to see and experience.
In the 8 years that followed the apparitions it is said that about 8 million Indians were converted to Christianity. The Shrine of Santa Maria De Guadalupe, built near the site of the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Juan Diego in 1531, is a place now visited by an estimated 14 million pilgrims annually. Our Lady in Her image on the Tilma is seen as the pregnant Mother of god. This is the only time in recorded Marian history that She has left a true image of Herself and the only time we are truly privileged to see Her carrying Jesus in Her womb. In as much as She did not suffer corruption of Her body in the grave, being assumed into heaven, body and soul so She is truly alive in Her image, as She was, us and always will be. In the same way the unborn child in Her womb, Jesus, is also truly alive - The Light Of The World - (Guadalupe means River of Light.)
Popes have described the image as the work of angels. it is truly an on-going miracle. Our Lady came to offer faith, hope and consolation to the oppressed Indians and to put an end to the practice of bloody human sacrifice. To the Indians past and present the image was much more than a mere portrait - it is a pictograph which they are able to read and understand. The heart of the message in 1531 was "Leave your pagan gods and turn to the One, True God" a message which is just as relevant today!
Our Lady is surrounded by the rays of the Sun, the Light of the Holy Trinity. She stands on the moon, a sign that God has given Her power over all of nature. Her dress of flowers, a symbol of the earth, and Her mantle of stars, a symbol of the heavens, are held up by the Archangel, a sign that he is the angel of heaven and earth, the leader of Her army. Her mantle is of blue/green, the colors of royalty. The neck and sleeves of Her gown are laced with fur - another sign of royalty. Her hands are joined over Her heart and point to a brooch at Her neck in which there is a black cross - through Her heart to Jesus.
Her right foot which is visible, stands on the head of a serpent - confirmation of Her title and the promise given to Juan Bernardino that she will crush the serpent.
Source: Our lady help of Christians.