The story goes that in 1531 a Christian Indian man just outside the budding capital city of New Spain in what is now Mexico, was going to church at dawn on the ninth of December when he met a lady who told him that she was our lady of Guadalupe. Over three days’ time the story unfolds and ends with the bishop finally excepting the miracle of the apparition and agreeing to build a church on a site sacred to the Aztec goddess of heart and home. Understood in context, one must note that the story ends with the Spanish bishop taking orders from a conquered Indigenous man, a total reversal of the power structures of the day. Tonantzin, the goddess, takes precedence over Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and of war that demanded daily human sacrifice. Life wins over death, the oppressed command the powerful, society is upended.
The image of Guadalupe is central to that story and has been a symbol of an indigenous Christian faith in Latin America. In the United States, her image is an inspiration to empowerment among powerless people, especially Hispanic women.1 There are those who quibble with the historicity of the story. I think they missed the point. The story is a universal human story of revelation of divine love that turns society back right side up and establishes justice for all. Granted, her image has been used to inflict violence and to oppress, but that is a misunderstanding of the story and a misuse of the image. This evening at 6:00 p.m., La Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurrección in Mount Vernon, Washington will celebrate a Eucharistic service in honor of our Lady of Guadalupe. We will do so with pride, claiming the best of the story as a source of liberating love. Come one, come all.
1Rodriguez, Jeanette. Our lady of Guadalupe: Faith and empowerment among Mexican-American women. University of Texas Press, 2010.