There’s a lovely aroma filling the sanctuary at our church today—the sweet smell of roses.
I noticed the fragrance even before I saw the flowers themselves…dozens and dozens of roses, arranged in a temporary shrine honoring Mary, in her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Virgin of Guadalupe holds a special place in the hearts of many of our fellow parishioners at St. Joe’s who celebrate liturgy and the sacraments in Spanish.
How special a place? Well, the roses are proof: They’d been placed there last night during Las Mañanitas – a vigil and fiesta that began at 11 p.m., long after I’d gone to bed!
Still, I was grateful for the roses they left behind…because they reminded me to reflect on the story that gave rise to the feast we celebrate today: The story of Juan Diego, a peasant farmer who in 1531 on a hill outside of Mexico City was stopped in his tracks by the vision of a beautiful young maiden. She had a message for Juan: ‘Go tell the bishop to construct a church on this site.’
Not surprisingly, the bishop didn’t pay much attention to the peasant and his message at first. But the woman continued to appear to Juan, identifying herself as the Mother of God…and asking him to persist in the quest. On one of those occasions, she instructed Juan to gather the roses growing at her feet—and bring them to the bishop. When Juan returned the bishop and opened his cape, the two men saw to their amazement that a colorful image of the Virgin had been imprinted on the coarse fabric.
The shrine did come to be built, of course—and today attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Mexico City.
But this morning, I found myself reflecting less on the cult that has grown up around the miraculous image imprinted on Juan Diego’s tilma…and more on the action of grace in his life.
I’m guessing Juan had something other than ‘go bug the bishop’ on his to-do list when he first encountered the Virgin on that December morning in 1531. For that matter, the bishop also probably had a busy schedule to keep—plans that did not include raising money for a shrine.
And as I thought about those two men, I found myself thinking about the young woman, too: Mary herself. In the gospel passage we heard at Mass today, Luke reports that Mary ‘was greatly troubled at what was said’ – that she was to become the mother of God. Presumably, she had envisioned her life as taking a somewhat different path.
But today we celebrate her ‘yes’…as well as the ‘yeses’ she evoked in the lives of Juan Diego and his bishop many centuries later.
And in this Advent season of 2013, perhaps the aroma of roses is gently reminding us to ask, ‘What is it, Lord, that You wish to conceive in me?’