“Am I not here who am your Mother?” The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe

A sermon for the Feast of
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Patroness and Mother of the Americas

Preached at Trinity Episcopal Church
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
December 11, 2019

“Am I not here who am your Mother?
Are you not under
my shadow and protection?

Am I not the fountain of your joy?
Are you not in the fold of my mantle,
in the cradle of my arms?
 

 

Some Children See Him
by James Taylor

Some children see Him lily white,
The baby Jesus born this night.
Some children see Him lily white,
With tresses soft and fair.

Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
The Lord of heav’n to earth come down.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
With dark and heavy hair.

Some children see Him almond-eyed,
This Savior whom we kneel beside.
Some children see Him almond-eyed,
With skin of yellow hue.

Some children see Him dark as they,
Sweet Mary’s Son to whom we pray.
Some children see him dark as they,
And, ah! they love Him, too!

The children in each different place
Will see the baby Jesus’ face
Like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,
And filled with holy light.
O lay aside each earthly thing
And with thy heart as offering,
Come worship now the infant King.
‘Tis love that’s born tonight!

The beautiful Christmas song by James Taylor reminds us of the universal message of Jesus the Christ. The joy of inculturation is that each culture tells the age-old story in ways that are meaningful and transformative in their own unique context.

Certainly, the historical Jesus could not have been Caucasian, blond and blue-eyed. Images do matter! Unless each person is able to see their own humanity reflected in the divinity of Emmanuel, the “good news” of the incarnation will be something that matters to others—and not something which evokes in them the sense of love and connection which Taylor sings about so eloquently.

In the season of Advent, a season in which we recall the mystery of the Incarnation as lived first by the Virgin Mary, we could easily modify those lyrics . . . “Some children see her “lily white,  or bronzed and brown, or with yellow hue,  or dark as they . . . Mary of Nazareth.”

This seems especially appropriate on the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe—a day in which we celebrate the mystery of the Mother of God as seen through the eyes of a faithful Nahuatl-speaking Aztec peasant. He claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared to him, as an Aztec maiden, and had told him that she was his Mother, and that he was in the cradle of her arms, and beneath the fold of her mantle. Her message gave him the courage which was necessary to approach the powerful Franciscan Bishop of Mexico City and to deliver to him the tilma which convinced Bishop Juan de Zumárraga of the authenticity of the apparition.

I do not like the word, “Protestant.” It seems to be a pejorative term applied to people who were really “Reformers.” They were not so much protesting, as calling for a return, as they understood it, to the essentials of Holy Scripture and of the lived-experience of the primitive Church. Of course, both of those building blocks were viewed through a certain lens. Consequently, they reacted against what they considered to be “abuses,” and “distortions.” Among those, was what they perceived to be an erroneous perception of the role, importance, and significance of the Virgin Mary.

Well-educated, and benefiting from the new and heady scholarship of the Renaissance, they looked disdainfully on the popular piety of the common folk. One target was the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham—until the Reformation, it was the single most popular Marian pilgrimage site in Europe—and was only surpassed by the numbers of Pilgrims travelling to Rome and to Santiago de Compostela. In their zeal, they burned the image of Our Lady of Walsingham and tore down the Holy House—England’s Nazareth.

Sadly, the English reformers “threw out Our Lady with the waters of renewal.” There was a dark side to their teaching—women often came out “on the short end of the stick.” And the Mother of God was especially suspect. They chose to ignore the Annunciation, the Magnificat, the Visitation, and Mary’s role at the Wedding at Cana—or else only viewed them through distorting Christocentric lenses. And they chose to highlight—and in some cases misinterpret—other texts which downplayed the importance of the biological family of Jesus.

If Jesus did not have a real human family, though, he was not truly human. Mary and Joseph, as a traditional baptismal prayer reminds us, were “the first teachers” of Our Lord. In their home, he grew in wisdom, faith and understanding. They lovingly prepared him to answer the call to ministry when it came to him. They supported him in his ministry to the best of their ability. His mother walked with him thorough his Passion, stayed with him at the cross, and took his lifeless body into her arms as he was taken down from that cross.

Today we celebrate a Feast which is both meaningful and painful to many at the same time. For many of our Latino Siblings it is a day of immense joy. It is a celebration of their importance, significance and beauty as beloved children of God. It is the powerful assertion that their culture and their language are capable of transmitting the saving good news of God’s revelation.

For many of our Anglican Siblings in Mexico, though, it is a sad day—a day in which they are reminded of past persecution by others in the name of Guadalupe. On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the last decade of the Nineteenth Century, Mexican Anglicans were attacked at worship in Atzala, and some twenty were martyred. The mob which attacked the Church in Atzala claimed to be serving “true Christianity,” and “Our Blessed Mother.” They forgot that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Mother of all—and not just of a few. All are comforted in her arms and are beneath the protection of her mantle.

On this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe may we truly see “him,” may we truly see “her,” as our own—and yet celebrate that every human person is invited to do the same.

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