The Miraculous Image of Guadalupe
3rd Sunday of Advent
December 12, 2010
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most extraordinary of all signs God has ever given the world. It is literally infused with the miraculous. It is almost as if God opened the heavens and extended his hand so we could literally see him. This image is truly a gift from eternity, the world of the future that we are all preparing to enter. Here are a few interesting facts:
The image was imprinted on the tilma of Juan Diego
a cloth made of fibers from a cactus plant called an Agave. Fabric of this time normally deteriorates after 20-40 years. There is no explanation as to how this cloth has endured 500 years. No other garment like it exists from that period and no one in our own era has been able to make a similar cloth that does not rapidly deteriorate.
The image is not painted. No one knows how the image was created. The cloth itself has the characteristic of burlap rough overlapping fibers. Each individual fiber has its own color. From a distance, this gives the image a three-dimensional quality.
When one sees the image in person, it appears to grow larger as one moves away from it. It generates a kind of optical illusion that has no explanation. I have seen this myself.
When the tilma was examined microscopically, it was discovered that the eyes have a unique quality shared by no other image or painting prior to the advent of photography. When a photograph is taken of the human eye, one can see an upside-down distorted reflection on the curve of the cornea of whatever the eye is focused on. This same phenomenon is very clearly present in the eyes of Our Lady of Guadalupe and is entirely inexplicable. One can discern several images, including the Bishop and his Indian translator reflected in Our Ladys eye.
The cloth is actually composed of two separate pieces, held together down the middle by one thread. You will notice that Our Lady bows her head in the image. In this way, her face avoids the thread that would otherwise mar the beauty of it. The cloth itself hung for centuries unprotected, while candles burned underneath, yet there is no sign of smoke damage and that one thread held this fragile cloth together!
MIn the 1920s, a bomb was planted underneath the image in some flowers by the radically anti-Catholic government which at that time was in power in Mexico. Their aim, of course, was to destroy this miraculous image. When the bomb went off, it shattered the windows of the cathedral and bent a large brass crucifix on the altar under the image backwards by the force of the blast. The glass covering the image (which was hung right over the bomb) did not even break and the tilma was completely undamaged! Here is a picture of the crucifix which remains at the shrine as a testimony of this incident.
Our Lady of Guadalupe speaks to us on many levels. Each detail has meaning. The black sash she is wearing around her waist indicates that she is with child she is 9 months pregnant and about to give birth. In other words, Mary is bringing Christ to us. This is why she is the image of the pro-life position personified.
When the Spaniards conquered Mexico, they found converts few and far between, and yet, after this image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared, 7 million Indians were converted within the span of 10 years. Saint Juan Diego spent the remainder of his life recounting his story and tending the shrine. So in the image, Mary was speaking without words to these conquered peoples in pictures. What was she saying?
Mary is wearing the color of royalty blue so she is a queen. Around her neck is the cross of the conquistadors, so she comes representing the God of the conquerors. Behind her are the rays of the sun, which she overshadows; below her is the false god Quetzalcoatl, whom she is standing on. The message here is that the Lord whom she represents has conquered these false gods. At the same time, she indicates clearly that she is not a god because she bows her head to another in humility. While this may seem subtle to us, it would have been very clear to the Indians 500 years ago!
Her garment is covered with Aztec symbols that remain mysterious to us today. The stars on her garment are arranged in the pattern of the night sky on the night of the apparition. The night sky was very significant to the Aztecs.
Mary has many Indian features, yet all indications are that she is appearing not as an Aztec, but as a girl of middle-eastern origin. Many features are the same among these separate peoples, but one can see in the hands and other areas that she is not Indian. Therefore, we may be looking at a picture of the face of Mary as she looked 2000 years ago!
There are so many lessons we can learn from Our Lady of Guadalupe. God has done everything but literally open the door to indicate that he is real and eternity awaits us. She still speaks powerfully to our often skeptical world even today.