The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a marvelous masterpiece of cultural synthesis that presents the Catholic Faith in a way that it was immediately understood and accepted by the native Mexican Indians. It is impossible to describe in few pages the rich symbolism contained on the Tilma of Juna Diego because every detail of color and of form carries a theological message:
Face. The face of Our Lady is that of a mestiza girl; an ethnic anticipation, since at that time there were no mestizos of that age in Mexico. Mary thus assumes the sorrows of thousands of children, the first of a new race, which at that time were rejected both by the Indians and by the Spanish conquerors.
Bowed Head. Indian culture gods and goddesses looked straight in the eye to show their power and were often depicted with large eyes. Our Lady, with her head bowed, showed she was neither a god nor a goddess, that there was a higher power above her.
Hair. For the Aztecs, a woman who does not have a tied up hair means that she is pregnant. However, hair that is parted in the middle of the head means that she is a virgin. In the form Our Lady has her hair means that she is a pregnant virgin.
Eyes. Our Lady's eyes are looking down, a position and a sign of humility, revealing that, as great as she is, she is not a god. Indian gods never looked down; they looked straight ahead.
Hands. Her hands are joined in prayer of supplication, poised in an Indian manner of offering, indicating that something is being offered, that something is to come from her. She is not God, but clearly there is one greater than Her. She points her finger to the cross on her brooch.
Grayish Skin. Her skin is grayish signifying intermarriage of the Spaniards with the Indians of the Americas. Her right hand is whiter and delicate. The left hand is darker and stouter. They symbolize the union of two different races; that we are neither Indian, Spanish, or American, etc ... but all ONE people in the eyes of God.
Brooch with Black Cross. Recalls the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross for the salvation of all mankind. The gold brooch under her neck also represents sanctity.
Heart on the back of the Hand. Sacred Heart as we depict it with flames above it. Only in Guadalupe and Fatima apparitions have this sign on the hand appeared which shows they are related.
The Dress. The Image depicts a Jewish dress of two thousand years ago as Mary is Jewish. Her clothing also has special significance. The rose color of Our Lady’s dress has two interpretations: either as a symbol of the dawn of a new era, or as sign of martyrdom for the faith.
Gold Thread Design in Dress. It has been discovered that superimposing a topographical map of central Mexico on Our Lady's dress, the mountains, rivers, and principal lakes accurately match with the decoration on the dress.
Blue Mantle. The predominant color in the Image's mantle is turquoise; a sign of royalty, a sign of virginity. The blue star sprinkled cloak is the "Tilma de Turquesa" (turquoise tilma) used by the nobles that denoted the rank and importance of the bearer.
The Stars. The stars on the mantle are a sign that a new civilization, or era, is beginning. Indians lived by the stars and here Our Lady wore them showing her God is more powerful than the stars of the heavens which the Indians worshiped. The stars on her mantle indicate that she comes from Heaven, as Queen and loving Mother for Virgo rests over her womb and the northern crown upon her head.
The sky of the winter solstice, which took place on a Tuesday, December 12, 1531, at 10:30, Mexico City time, is represented very accurately on the Virgin's mantle. The Indian tradition recognized the end and the beginning of different eras throughout the ages, and the destruction of a particular civilization or era was always accompanied by a comet, or a body of stars.
Interestingly, the research of Father Mario Sanches and Dr. Juan Hernandez Illescas in 1981, attests that the stars on the mantle appear exactly as they would have in the sky at the moment Juan Diego opened his tilma before Bishop Zumárraga on December 12, 1531. The main constellations of the Northern sky can be seen on the right of the mantle. On the left, the Southern ones, which can be seen from the Tepeyac in winter at dawn. The East is situated in the upper part and the West in the lower part. The mantle is opened and there are other groups of stars, which are not marked in the Image, but they are present in the sky. The Boreal Crown is located above the Virgin's head; Virgo is on her chest, in the region of her hands. Leo on Her womb, precisely above the sign of Nahui Ollin, with his main star Regulo, the small king. Gemini, the twins, is found in the region of the knees and Orion is located where the Angel is. The main stars of the winter constellations can be identified on the Virgin's mantle.
Black Sash. Our Lady wearing the Aztec black maternity lace around her waist is a sign of a pregnant woman, a mother who is about to give birth (new life), a sign to the Indians that someone is yet to come. The ends of the bow, in the Aztec word represented the end of a cycle and the starting of a new age.
Gynecological measurements have determined that Our Lady in the Image has the physical dimensions of a woman who is pregnant. Under the black sash that holds the dress in place, at the very location of the embryo, a flower with four petals (Nahui Ollin) stands out.
In 2001, the late Reverend Mario Rojas Sánchez published the results of his own studies on the Tilma where he witnessed the luminous aureole surrounding her which "emanates from her continuously." And when photographed, "The brilliance and changing colors of the image impede an exact photo or film of the image. [And the light between the gold rays] becomes more intense closest to her image and reaches the greatest intensity at the level of her womb." It is here that the Nahui Ollin, a four-petalled flower appears, the only four-petalled flower on her tunic.
Nahui Ollin. This is the main symbol of the Image: Sun Flower (flower with four petals), the most familiar of Aztec hieroglyphs, and which symbolized for them divinity, the center of the earth, heaven, time, and space.; a symbol which represents the presence of God. Our Lady has it on her belly which shows that she is the mother of God because the flower with four petal is a special symbol of life, movement and deity. The center of the universe. She is marking the place where her baby is located. To the Indians, Nahui Ollin is a symbol of plenitude, fecundity, and new life.
Sun Rays. Our Lady's Image surrounded by luminous light, standing on the moon, and with stars on her mantle fits exactly the description found in the Bible:
"A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars"
These bright rays symbolizes divine victory over the pagan religion. Sun rays were symbolic of the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli. Therefore, our Blessed Mother, standing before the rays, shows that she proclaims the true God who is greater than Huitzilopochtli and who eclipses his power. She is the Mother of Light, Mother of the Child-Son, Mother of the True God. She makes Him descend to the "center of the moon" (Mexico in Nahuatl) to born, to illuminate and to give life.
Standing on Crested Moon. Our Lady’s standing on the moon which the Indians worshiped as Tezcatlipoca, god of night represented as a crested moon, indicates that she is greater than the god of night, the moon god; a sign that divine triumphs over evil. She has clearly crushed Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god.
Our Lady used the Aztec Nahuatl word of "coatlaxopeuh" which is pronounced "quatlasupe" and sounds remarkably similar to the Spanish word "Guadalupe" which means to "crush the head of the serpent". "Coa" meaning serpent, and "tla" being the noun ending which can be interpreted as "the", while "xopeuh" means to crush or stamp out. So Our Lady clearly calls herself the one "who crushes the serpent." This recalls the prophecy of Genesis 3:15:
"I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
She will crush your head, and you will strike at his heel."
Recorded history tells that the Aztecs offered annually at least 20,000 men, women, and children in human sacrifice to their gods. In 1487, in just a single 4 days long ceremony for the dedication of a new temple in Tenochtitlan, some 80,000 captives were killed in human sacrifice. Certainly, in this case Mary, the conqueror of evil, crushed the serpent, and only a few years later 9 million (out of 10 million) of the Indian natives converted to Christianity.
Cherub (Angel). The presence of an angel shows that Our Lady is a heavenly being. An angel, a symbol of royalty for the Indians, supports her: the angel holding the rose color dress represents earth; and the blue mantle represents heaven, meaning Heaven and earth are witnesses to the truth of the apparition and its messages.
The angel wings are like eagle wings. They are asymmetrical and colorful. The tones are very similar to the colors of the Mexican bird tzinitzcan. This was the bird that Juan Diego heard to announce him the apparition.
The phenomenal conversion immediately following the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico is unprecedented in the history of Christianity. At that time, about 5 million Catholics were lost from the Church due to the Protestant Revolt in Europe, but their numbers were more than replaced within 10 years by over 9 million Aztec converts to Catholicism. There is no other explanation for this phenomenon.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is considered the Patroness of Mexico and the Continental Americas. She is also venerated by Native Americans on the account of the devotion calling for the conversion of the Americas. Replicas of the tilma can be found in thousands of churches throughout the world, and numerous parishes bear her name. Due to her black girdle which indicates pregnancy on the Image, Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, under this title is popularly invoked as Patroness of the Unborn and a common image for the Pro-Life movement.
Guadalupe is now the most frequented Marian shrine in the whole world. Every year up to 20 million pilgrims come to Mexico's capital from all over the world. Every December 12, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, more than 3 million pilgrims from all over the world visit Guadalupe shrine. In 2004, 6.5 million people attended between December 9 and 12; pilgrimage groups came in buses, bicycles, or on foot to the capital.
Perhaps one of the most important messages that Our Lady gave to Juan Diego is contained in these famous phrases:
" . . . I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows . . . . 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."
The Blessed Virgin Mary is simply telling all of us, that:
1. God is the only God and Creator of everything. Mary is not God. She is only His creature and He has given her a great mission.
2. We should not live sad and anguish because Mary helps us and she answers our prayers.
3. Mary wants us to follow and live God's commandments and should take first place in our lives.
4. The only source of our happiness is God.
5. Mary takes us to Jesus.
7. Mary only wants you to know Jesus, to love Him, and that you live for Him.
HOW TO SEND PETITIONS TO OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE IN A MASS AT THE BASILICA
You may write your petitions to Our Lady of Guadalupe through its official website, and your petitions will be offered in the 9:00 AM Mass at the Basilica: www.virgendeguadalupe.org.mx
If you need a Spanish version, you may E-mail Ms. Ana Hernandez at email@example.com
Si necesita una versión en Español, por favor contacte a Ana Lilia Hernández Torres firstname.lastname@example.org