Apparitions of Mary
Mary Approaches Us As A Loving Mother
This account of the appearances of the Mother of God in Mexico begins in the year 1492, when Christopher Columbus claimed the New World for Spain. Soon, explorers and soldiers accompanied by missionaries set out to establish the presence of Spain and Christ in their new land. For this reason Hernando Cortex, with a force of about 600 soldiers, 16 horses, and 10 cannon came to the shores of Lake Texcoco on which Tenochtitlan, the capital city of the Aztec nation, had been built. This large and beautiful city consisted of more than 60,000 homes, and was the center of a nation of about 9 million Indians.
The Aztec Empire under Montezuma worshipped many gods. He and his countrymen were superstitious, believing in omens, and witchcraft. The most prominent god was the feathered flying snake god of war to whom the Aztecs and the nations they conquered, sacrificed more than 20,000 young men and women each year. They placed great importance upon dreams and especially the one told by Montezuma’s sister. She said that she saw a fleet of great ships marked with black crosses come to her country, conquer it, and then spread knowledge of the True God among the people. When the Spaniards did arrive ten years later as her dream foretold, the emperor chose to negotiate with Cortex, and not to fight him. But Montezuma died suddenly, and his successors did battle with the Spaniards. After fierce fighting, they were defeated by the Spanish who were aided by other sympathetic natives.
But after the Spanish victory in 1521, there were few converts to Christianity, and to make matters worse, those Aztecs who were still loyal to their pagan gods were starting to talk of revolt.
In the year 1,529, the wife of a farmer named Juan Diego died, and when he was 57, he moved near to his elderly uncle to better help him. On the morning of the 9th of December in 1531, which was the feast of the Immaculate Conception, he set out early to attend Mass at the nearest church which was nine miles away. As he was going around the hill called Tepeyac, a beautiful young girl appeared to him, and said that she was the Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God. She gave him a message to deliver to the bishop of Mexico, saying that she wished a church to be built on that very spot. The skeptical bishop told Juan to ask the Lady for a sign to prove that she was really the Virgin Mary. Later, the Virgin Mary appeared again to Juan, and told him to go to a certain barren spot on the hill where he should pick the roses he found, and take them to the bishop. Even though the ground was rocky and December was not the month for flowers to bloom, he found the most beautiful Castilian roses growing. He picked them, and after Mary arranged them, carried them in his tilma, or cloak, to show to the bishop. As Juan brought the flowers to the bishop, he opened his tilma, and not only did the bishop see the beautiful roses, but also a picture made by God of His Mother, the beautiful young girl, imprinted on the fabric.
The bishop was convinced, and within two weeks, a chapel was completed at the foot of Tepeyac Hill which housed Juan Diego and his tilma. For the next 17 years, until his death, he explained over and over to thousands of people the story of the visit by the Mother of God.
To the native Aztecs, this image on Juan’s tilma had deep meanings. Their writing at that time used pictures to convey ideas, and Mary’s picture brought promises of a new life. The fur trim of her dress, the bright greenish blue of her mantle, its stars, and golden border told them that she was a queen.
She stood on a black crescent which represented evil which meaning that she had destroyed the power of the feathered stone serpent of war. At her neck was a brooch bearing a black cross – the sign of the Spaniard’s religion, and from behind her streamed the rays of the sun meaning that she was greater than even the sun. She overshadowed its light, and therefore was more powerful than any Aztec god.
The impact of this picture message upon the Aztecs was immediate and almost unbelievable. Instead of rising up in hatred to destroy the Spanish, they found a heavenly mother who loved them so much that she even gave them her picture.
Her name, which she gave in the original Aztec language meant, “The Immaculate Virgin, Holy Mary, who will drive out the stone serpent.” When this was translated into Spanish, the Aztec words were confused with the similar sounding word, Guadalupe, which was a Spanish shrine honoring the Blessed Virgin, and so this apparition was named and known today in honor of Mary of Guadalupe.
By the name which she gave herself, she claimed as her children, not only the Aztec people, but announced that she was the mother of all the people of the Americas, and would help them in their struggle with the evil serpent – Satan. The Indians accepted her message, and converted by the thousands in a single day, until, after seven years, more than eight million had accepted Christianity.
The tilma of Jan Diego may be seen today n a new basilica in Mexico City which is near to the spot where Mary first appeared to him on Tepeyac hill. It is still unblemished and perfectly preserved, and visited by thousands of people each day.
Mary’s words to Juan Diego are for us also. “Listen well my child, you have no cause to be frightened and worried. Are you not here in the shelter of my loving shadow? Am I not your health? Are you not safe here within my loving heart? You have need of nothing else."