by Donal Anthony Foley –
As we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Sunday, Dec. 12, we will also commemorate the third Sunday of Advent, also known as “Gaudete Sunday.”
Gaudete is Latin for “Rejoice” and the entrance antiphon for the Mass of the day reminds us that we are called to rejoice in the expectation of the coming of the Lord on Christmas Day: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand.” (Phil 4:4-5)
This year, we can also rejoice in the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego in 1531, which were of such marvelous efficacy in promoting the evangelization of the New World. As we progress toward Christmas, our thoughts naturally turn to the Blessed Mother; and indeed, the whole theme of her motherhood is inseparable from the Christmas story. At Guadalupe, she put great emphasis on her motherhood, to the God-Man in a physical sense and to humanity in a spiritual sense, but also to Juan Diego in a highly personal way.
This is clear from the way she addressed him, that is, as her “dearest and youngest son.” She went on to say: “Know, know for sure, my dearest, littlest and youngest son, that I am the perfect and ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the God of truth through Whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near us, the Lord of heaven and earth.”
She also said that she was his “merciful Mother” and promised to heal all the sorrows, hardships and sufferings of the people of the land.
Later on, when Juan Diego was experiencing difficulties in convincing the local bishop about the mission Our Lady had given him, she again appeared and said that she was the ever Virgin, Holy Mary, the Mother of God, and that he should return to the bishop and emphasize this point, and also that she would provide the sign that Bishop Zumárraga was seeking.
Following this, Juan Diego again encountered Our Lady, but he was in a state of anxiety over the illness of his uncle. She reassured him, telling him not to be disturbed or fearful, then gave these beautiful words emphasizing her motherly concern for Juan and his uncle.
“Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you. Do not let your uncle’s illness worry you, because he will not die now. You may be certain that he is already well.”
The Blessed Mother’s words can also be applied to all of us who are likewise her spiritual children, in the sure knowledge that she acts as the perfect mother for each and every one of us, as if we were her only spiritual child.
They are, thus, a great encouragement for us to not be unduly worried or disturbed about anything – since as Our Lady is the perfect spiritual mother, if we allow her to carry us in her arms, in her mantle, then we can be assured that, ultimately, everything will work out for the best.
A DECEMBER MIRACLE
After saying these things, she revealed to Juan Diego the sign he should take to the bishop. At a nearby hilltop, he found, on a December morning, beautiful heavenly flowers, including roses, which were blooming completely out of season. He gathered them up in his tilma and presented them to Our Lady, who rearranged them with her own hands – a beautiful touch of motherly concern. The sequel to this was the revelation to the bishop of the image of the Blessed Virgin on the rough cactus fiber garment, which has now been venerated in Mexico for nearly five centuries.
But we should not forget the initial sign, that of the beautiful flowers, including roses, which were perhaps a subtle heavenly pointer to the importance of the Rosary in Marian devotion. Traditionally, the word rosary is seen as being derived from the Latin rosarium, that is a rose garden, or garland or bouquet of roses.
Nor should we forget that at Fatima, too, we can see aspects of the motherly concern for her spiritual children in some of the things the Blessed Virgin said to the young seers.
During the June 1917 apparition, after referring to Lucia as her daughter, and thus as her spiritual mother, she said. “Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”
Here we can see the motherly consolation she provided to Lucia, after she told her that Jacinta and Francisco would be going to heaven soon, but Lucia would remain on earth.
As Christmas approaches, we need to remember the words of the Blessed Virgin to Lucia and Juan Diego, and particularly remember that they also apply to us.
When Our Lady gave birth to the Child Jesus on that cold December night in Bethlehem, despite the bleak and poor surroundings, the angel who appeared to the shepherds said, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
And so, this Gaudete Sunday, which is also the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we can rejoice that we too are the children of Mary, knowing that this motherhood is a source of incalculable spiritual blessing for all believers.
Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk. His updated book on the above topic, Medjugorje Complete, has recently been published by Angelico Press. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published shortly – details can be seen at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk,