The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe 2012
Homily by Deacon Owen Cummings: 12-12-2012
“In a word: what Mary is,
that we are
This year, 2012, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the inception of Vatican II, the greatest Christian transforming event of the 20th century and perhaps of the last 500 years. Today we are celebrating the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe. They may both be understood as coming together. In Vatican II’s “Constitution on the Church”, there is no separate treatment of our Blessed Lady. Rather, she is treated at the end of the “Constitution on the Church”, the very last chapter in that document. That is particularly significant not only for the Council but also for us here this morning. The point is really quite straightforward: “The mother of Christ did not and does not exist in splendid
isolation, raised by her prerogatives above the common herd. Quite the contrary: Mary’s meaning for the Christian lies in this, that in her God has realized first and perfectly his design for the whole church and for each individual Christian. In a word: what Mary is, that we are destined to be. When we are talking about Mary, therefore, we are ultimately saying something about ourselves…” 1
There is nothing new in that affirmation. The great 14th-century Dominican theologian and mystic, Meister Eckhart, OP, once said: “The Incarnation of the Word in Jesus of Nazareth long ago is of no interest and importance unless that same Word becomes incarnate in us today.” 2 We may say something similar about this patronal feast of our Lady of Guadalupe: there is no point in celebrating our Lady of Guadalupe unless our Lady Mary typifies for us what it means to be church, and really what it means to be human. When we are talking about our Lady of Guadalupe, we are also saying something about ourselves. What are we saying?
First, we’re saying that God comes to us in order to transform us into his own communion of Divine Love. That is the message of our first reading from the prophet Zechariah: “See, I am coming to dwell among you.” God has never been absent from his creation, from the first moment of the Big Bang right to this point in time, there has been and is no created entity from which God has been absent. To be is to be presenced in God. In the Incarnation, however, in and through the “Yes” of the Virgin of Guadalupe God comes to dwell among us. His presence, always there in his creation, becomes the fullest presence possible, a person, the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. God comes to dwell among us personally in order to bring us to dwell interpersonally within himself.
the church. God saves from the margins. This way of thinking coincides with our feast today. “For the first quarter of the 16th century, the relationship between the conquerors and the Indians was tense. Exploitation and slavery of Indians made communication impossible. For Indians everything from Spain was hostile, even Christianity… The Spanish were building churches over the ruins of Aztec temples. The tearing down and the building up was symbolic of the deeper struggle to destroy a people, even if the intention was to rebuild it.” 3 The indigenous natives, Juan Diego and his compatriots, were the margins. If we have any genuine self-knowledge, self-awareness, then we know we too are the margins. Money, position, power, influence ultimately count for nothing. Receptivity to the indwelling God counts for everything. Mary was entirely receptive. Am I receptive? Are you?
In the third place we have that beautiful reading from the Gospel of St. Luke about the Visitation of Mary to her kinswoman, Elizabeth. The narrative is patterned after King David’s dancing before the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6:5-14: “David and all the house of Israel danced before the Lord with all their might…. David said, ‘How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?’” The Ark of the Covenant was the most powerful symbolic focus of God’s presence in the Old Testament. Just as King David acknowledged that presence by dancing before it, so John the Baptist in utero dances before the presence of God in utero in the Ark of the New Covenant, Mary. But, as we have noted, what is said of our Blessed Lady is appropriately to be said of us, the church. We too are to be Arks of the New Covenant. Through the Incarnation the eternal Word is fleshed forth in Mary. Through the Eucharist that same eternal Word is fleshed forth in us. The Scottish poet Edwin Muir (1887-1959), while journeying in Italy, had been moved by an image of the Annunciation. This is his recollection: “I remember stopping for a long time one day to look at a little plaque in the wall of a house in the Via degli Artisti, representing the Annunciation. An angel and a young girl, their bodies inclined towards each other, their knees bent as if they were overcome by love, ‘tutto tremante’, gazed upon each other like Dante’s pair; and that representation of a human love so intense that it could not reach further, seemed the perfect earthly symbol of the love that passes understanding.” 4 This encounter led to his magnificent poem, “The Annunciation,” which says far better than I can what Guadalupe is all about, what our devotion to Mary is all about:
See, they have come together, see
While the destroying minutes flow
Each reflects the other’s face
Till heaven in hers, and earth in his
Shine steady there…
This wonderful patronal feast-day and the Marian understanding of Vatican II invites us all to consider precisely this: As the destroying minutes of my brief life flow past, is my face reflecting the face of Mary as she reflects the face of the Incarnation within herself? Is heaven shining steadily in me?
1. Walter J. Burghardt, SJ, Tell the Next Generation (New York/Ramsey: Paulist Press, 1980), 199.
2. Sermon 22, in Bernard McGinn, ed., Meister Eckhart (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), 193.
3. Alberto Pereyra, in Maxwell Johnson, ed., American Magnificat: Protestants on Mary of Guadalupe (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2010), 20-23.
4. P. H. Butter, ed., Selected Letters of Edwin Muir (London: The Hogarth Press, 1974), 278.