Have a “Mary Guadalupan” Christmas

This article was posted on: December 19, 2023

As we approach Advent and Christmas again this year, the Church calls us to reflect upon the amazing ways that God has intervened into human history. We would not know God if He had not revealed Himself. We would not hope for salvation if not for the sending of His Son into the world. It is at this time that we recall and commemorate Jesus’ birth. This singular event changed the course of human history! By His birth, we come to know the depths of His love and mercy. 

I believe we have so commercialized, and even simplified, the story of Christmas that we miss out on the real meaning of Christmas. We succumb to the temptation of focusing on ourselves, our family gatherings and giving and receiving presents more than what Jesus has done. We put more effort into our own celebrations than into a real living relationship with the one who is born unto us. Yet, Jesus knows this, which is why he sent His mother to us throughout the centuries to remind us of who He is so that we may know who we are. 

The apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe are among some of the most profound visits from Mary in the history of the Church.  

It is no accident that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared right before Christmas from Dec. 9-12. Her message, in part, was to offer humanity a gift. Through her messenger, St. Juan Diego, she asked the bishop for a Church to be built on Tepeyac Hill. Her singular request shows us the greatest gift of all is Jesus Himself in the Sacraments of the Church. In fact, she said, “I want very much that they build my sacred little house here, in which I will show Him, I will exalt Him upon making Him manifest, I will give Him to all people in all my personal love, Him that is my compassionate gaze, Him that is my help, Him that is my salvation.”   

Mary makes it clear that in her personal and motherly love for us, she wants us to give us the greatest gift of all: Jesus in the sacraments of the Church. She wants all her children to come “home” and to be together as the Body of Christ. She later stated why this gift is so important: “Because there [at my sacred house] truly will I hear their cry, their sadness, in order to remedy, to cure all their various troubles, their miseries, their pains.” This is the gift that keeps on giving, that Jesus comes to cure us of all afflictions and fears. Jesus is not only the “reason for the season,” but Jesus is also the giver and the gift of healing, joy, and salvation.

“Rocks of the Riverbed”

The Knights of Columbus rightly proclaim each year that we need to “Keep Christ in Christmas.” This is only possible if we remember Mary and her extraordinary and unfailing faithfulness and selflessness. In her message at Tepeyac, Mary tells us why she said yes. She knew that by choosing to be the Mother of Jesus, she was embracing all humanity as Mother. In fact, the last revelation of the apparitions at Tepeyac was her name. 

She told St. Juan Diego’s uncle, who was miraculously cured of a mortal illness, that she is the “Perfect Virgin, Saint Mary of Guadalupe.” This short phrase affirms the four dogmas, or essential beliefs about Mary. We firmly believe that Mary is ever virgin, conceived without original sin to be the Mother of God through the Holy Spirit, the “Perfect Virgin.” We hold Mary as a “Saint” who was assumed body and soul into Heaven by Jesus and is now Queen of Heaven.   

Why, then, does she call herself Guadalupe, which is not found in the Bible nor the Church’s tradition? Guadalupe is an Arabic term that means the “rocks of the riverbed.” It is a title for Mary’s womb, which, like the rocks of a riverbed, brought forth the life-giving water—Jesus. Mary uses this Arabic term as she is the mother of all Catholics, Muslims, Jewish people, nonbelievers and, in reality, everyone. She told St. Juan Diego, “Truly I am honored to be your compassionate mother, yours and that of all the people that live together in this land, and also of all the other various lineages of men; those who love me, those who cry to me, those who seek me, those who trust in me.”  

Thus, according to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the true meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus, who is given to us in the Church. She shows us that her role in Christmas is not just to give birth to Jesus but to inspire and form us that true faith in Jesus may be born in us. Just as Mary showed Jesus to the shepherds who heard the angels singing, Mary now sings the song of salvation to us in her motherly love so that we may come to behold Him.  

Each year, we recall the story of Christmas in so many ways. I invite you to make this year a Guadalupan Christmas by reading the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mary is calling each of us to be her Marian messengers to all. Like St. Juan Diego, she calls us to encounter her in our devotions so that we may share her message with the world. We are blessed to have St. Juan Diego’s account of the apparitions faithfully preserved in a document called the “Nican Mopohua” or the “Apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe.” Take some time to read this inspired testimony with your family. 

This year, Mary is not only calling us to have a Merry Christmas—Our Lady is calling each of us to have a Mary Guadalupan Christmas. 

God Bless You!

Father Tim Oudenhoven
Pastor of St. Bernard Parish in Abbotsford and St. Louis Parish in Dorchester
Published in the November/December 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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