The Scent of Roses in December

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We will be keeping the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe on Saturday, 11 December this year.

December 12
Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe

A Visitation

Four-hundred-seventy-nine years ago, on December 9, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary "set out and traveled to the hill country" (Lk 1:39) this time not of Judah, but of Mexico. Her visitation was not to her kinswoman Elizabeth but to Juan Diego. "How does this happen to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Lk 1:43).

The Music of Silence

The first accounts of Juan Diego's experience relate that when he was called to the heights of Mount Tepeyac, he felt something compelling within, an urgent summons. He experienced it as a kind of heavenly music, the music of silence, strange and beautiful all at once. "Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the Lord! For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling" (Za 2:17). Juan Diego's music of silence is not at all unlike the "still small voice"(1 K 19:12) that Elijah heard on Horeb. By following the sound of his inner music, Juan Diego was led to the vision of "a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child" (Rev 12:1). What was this if not a kind of heavenly inbreaking, a theophany, a momentary pulling back of the veil? "God's temple in heaven was opened, and the Ark of the Covenant could be seen in the temple" (Rev 11:19).

Queen of God’s Faithful Poor

The woman clothed with the sun spoke to Juan Diego. She comforted him as she always comforts the poor, the lowly, the afflicted, the outcast, and the oppressed. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the queen of the anawim, God's trusting faithful poor. Nothing, I think, is more moving than her message to Juan Diego:

Know for certain that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God. I am your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who have confidence in me. Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection, in the folds of my mantle and the crossing of my arms?

The Flesh, Hinge of Salvation

And so there was music for the ear and the vision for the eye. The plan of God revealed in the enfleshment of his Word is that all things created should be restored to holiness, and that our physical senses themselves should be graced and opened to the mysteries of God. "The flesh," said Tertullian, "is the hinge of salvation." The Virgin chose two other signs before giving that of her miraculous image. The first involves touch. She touched Juan Diego. With an exquisitely maternal tenderness, she arranged roses, marvelous roses picked on a bare and windy hillside in December, in his cloak. The second sign concerns the roses themselves; they were fragrant. They must have been to Juan Diego like this second great feast of the Virgin in December is to us -- surprising like roses blooming in the snow. The third sign is the image, a portrait that is radiantly beautiful. A piece of heaven printed on the poor cloak of a poor man. It is this image that continues to surprise us, to delight us, to be for us a kind of visitation of the Mother of the Lord.

Bearers of the Hidden Christ

If we have come to Holy Mass today, it is because we, like Juan Diego, are trying to follow the music. In a few moments you will come to the altar to touch and to be touched. You will receive, not roses arranged close to your hearts, but Jesus Christ himself in the mysteries of his Body and Blood. The fragrance of Christ will cling to you, a fragrance sweeter than that of roses in December. Then, the image. Having partaken of the Eucharist, you will become the bearer, not of a miraculous image, but of a far greater miracle. You will bear within you the same Jesus whom Mary bore in her womb. Caryll Houselander called it being a bearer of the hidden Christ. You and I will carry Christ today into places and situations where, in very real sense, he has never been before.

Follow the Music

Like Saint Juan Diego, follow the music. Let yourself be touched. Smell the scent of roses. "See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord" (Za 2:14).

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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