12 December 2013

'A Visit to Tepeyac' on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the feast of La Virgen de Guadalupe, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Under that title Mary is a Secondary Patroness of the Philippines. Ten years after Ferdinand Magellan, the Portugues explorer, landed in the Philippines - 1521 - Our Blessed Mother appeared to San Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac, near Mexico City. (I think it is now part of the city). At the time the Church in the Philippines was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Mexico, which was set up in 1530. The Diocese of Manila, the first in the Philippines, wasn't erected until 1579, as a suffragan of the by now Archdiocese of Mexico. So there are long, historical links between the Church in the Philippines and the Church in Mexico.
The official website of the shrine, in Spanish, is here.
Below is an article we published in the May-June 2013 issue of Misyon, the Columban online magazine I edit here in the Philippines. The author lives and works in Metro Manila.

By Vissia Hernandez
We celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the secondary Patroness of the Philippines and Protectress of Unborn Children, on December 12. Tepeyac, or the Hill of Tepeyac, Mexico, is where the Blessed Virgin appeared to San Juan Diego in 1531. The shrine of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Our Lady of Guadalupe, is one of the most visited in the world. Vissia Hernandez has written previously for Misyon.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Detail of the face
‘It’s like Baclaran’,was my first impression, as I got off the city bus. Stores and stalls selling everything from recuerdos y zapatos (souvenirs and shoes) to comidas y bebidas (food and drink) line both sides of a pedestrian area leading to La Villa(‘the town’, referring to the Basilica compound). A brisk five-minute walk away, behind a tall fence, towers an ancient brick church – the old Basilica, with its imposing yellow dome, twin bell-towers and ornate facade.
As more and more people were streaming towards the gates, I qualified my first impression, ‘It’s like Baclaran on a first Wednesday!’ Excitement mounted with each step until I finally reached the gates of La Villa. Inside, folk dancers with tall headdresses and fierce masks were performing a ritual dance. As I surveyed the wide expanse of Plaza Mariana with its many churches and chapels, a baptistery and a small hill, I was reminded of the Marian shrine complexes in Lourdes and Fatima, only this time, the hordes of pilgrims were predominantly Mexican, and the atmosphere familiarly ‘fiesta’. People were carrying around big and small images, even altars and carrozas of their beloved patroness, reminiscent of Filipino devotees cradling treasured Sto Niños in their arms during the January processions. Instantly, I felt at home!

Plaza Mariana with the New Basilica, the Old Basilica and the Temple of the Capuchin Nuns

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Main entrance to the New Basilica
Our Lady of Guadalupe
The original tilma, above the altar in the New Basilica
As I turned around, there it was, the new Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe! My eyes were immediately drawn to the large Spanish inscription above the main door ‘No Estoy Yo Aqui, Que Soy tu Madre?’ (Am I, who is your Mother, not here?)
Misty-eyed, I whispered in gratitude, ‘Mama Maria, yourperegrina (pilgrim) is finally here, a week late, but as promised, estoy aqui!’ I hurried into the ‘new’ Basilica shaped like a ‘giant'ssalakot [2], and was astounded for inside it was huge, cavernous, yet packed to its ‘SRO’ capacity of about 10,000. In a prominent place of honor above the altar, hangs San Juan Diego’s famous tilma (mantle) miraculously preserved through the centuries with its imprint of the Blessed Mother’s image (her only known photograph – developed in color in some celestial darkroom).
Thanks to my phone’s missal app, and remnants of college Spanish, I managed to participate in the lauds and Masses, and even joined in the rousing cheers of ‘Viva El Cristo Rey, Viva Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Viva!’ which reverberated throughout La Villa that day. It was the Feast of Christ the King. I later learned that this very Feast was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, to fight anticlericalism in Mexico which soon escalated to outright anti-Catholicism triggering the massive rebellion led by theCristeros.. From 1926-1929, tens of thousands were tortured and killed for the Faith, including the 25 Mexican Martyrs canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. ‘Viva El Cristo Rey, Viva Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe!’ was their battle cry, then and now, fiery and full-bodied like their tequila. How providential that I was delayed for a week, or I would have missed all this.
Las Manañitas a La Virgen , 12 December 2007, sung in the Basilica after the early morning Mass. Las Mañanitas is a traditional Mexican birthday song, also known in the Philippines, sung to the celebrant very early in the morning.

I spent the rest of the day praying and meditating in the many churches and chapels ofLa Villa de Guadalupe, gazing awestruck at the beloved image on the tilma while standing on walkalators hidden beneath the new Basilica’s sanctuary, and on the side, shopping for recuerdos, taking gigabytes of pictures, and finally, huffing and puffing my way to the top of Tepeyac Hill where a small church stands where the Blessed Virgin first appeared in 1531 to the peasant, Juan Diego. By sundown, while taking in the magnificent view of the Basilicas of Guadalupe, this tired yet extremely blissfulperegrina couldn’t thank her gracious Hosts enough for the sense of peace, joy and love which had enfolded her like a tilma throughout her pilgrimage. ¡Gracias, El Cristo Rey. Gracias, Madre mía de Guadalupe!
‘Hear me and understand well that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.’
Message of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Himno a la Humildad, sung by Marco Antonio Solís:
Con que gusto venimos con gran emoción
a decirte lo que hay en nuestro corazón;
hoy es dia de fiesta hasta en el mas pequeño rincon;
hoy se muere el rancor y florece el perdon.
How we love to come with great feeling
to tell you what is in our heart;
today is a festive day even in the most remote corner;
today hatred dies and forgiveness blossoms.

Virgencita . . . milagrosa,
eres tú la estrella mas hermosa de la creación.
Beloved Virgin . . . miraculous,
you are the most beautiful star in all creation.

Virgen morena, Reyna de la esperanza,
hoy te cantamos el himno a la humildad.
Eres la tierra donde la fe sembramos
y cosechamos siempre de tu bondad.
Dark Virgin, Queen of hope,
Today we sing to you a hymn to humility.
You are the soil where we sow faith
and always harvest from your kindness.

(Hablado) Aqui venimos, madrecita, con nuestros cuerpos mas cansados que la ultima ocasión, 

pero con un amor tan grande para ti que no nos cabe en el corazon, 
por que eres consuelo divino, luz de todos los caminos. 
Gracias por quedarte siempre con tus fieles peregrines.
(Spoken) We come here, beloved Mother, with our bodies more tired that the last time,
but with a great love for you that our hearts can’t contain,
for you are the divine consolation, the light of all roads.
Thank you for always being with your faithful pilgrims.
Virgencita adorada, no me puedo ir
sin decirte mil gracias, tu sabes por que,
y teniendo el momento, te quiero pedir
por los que por justicia se mueren de sed.
Dear Blessed Virgin, I cannot leave
without thanking you a thousand times, you know what for,
and taking this opportunity, I want to petition you
on behalf of those who have given their lives in the cause of justice.

Virgen morena, Reyna de la speeranza,
hoy te cantamos el himno a la humildad;
eres la tierra donde la fe sembramos
y cosechamos siempre de tu bondad.
Dark Virgin, Queen of hope,
Today we sing to you a hymn to humility.
You are the soil where we sow faith
and always harvest from your kindness.
[Thanks to Fr Jovito Dales for help with the translation.]

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