During the last few months, I was very busy researching the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I learned a lot about the origins of that particular advocation but I learned even more about Our Blessed Mother and how she fits perfectly in God’s plan to correct the ways of this world.
I was personally blessed with a series of small miracles. I learned to read at a very early age, perhaps I was four years old when to my great delight I deciphered the words on the cover of a box of chocolates, that is one of my earliest memories, possibly dating back to 1958. After that, I never stopped reading everything in sight and I was greatly intrigued by foreign words. I think I was about ten years old when my parents purchased a pretty serious encyclopedia. The sixteen volumes came with a beautifully illustrated Catholic Bible translated by Monsignor Johann Straubinger, a German priest who took refuge in Argentina after escaping Nazi Germany. The Gestapo was looking for him. The Nazis had plans to imprison him in a camp reserved for religious and political dissidents. Once in Argentina he dedicated himself to the study of Semitic languages and produced one of the finest Spanish translations of the Holy Scriptures. What I liked the most was the reverential tone of that Bible, the “extra” books that were not on other Bibles we had at home, and most of all the footnotes. The abundant and erudite footnotes were simply astonishing. That was my first contact with the truly Catholic way to read and interpret Scripture. That early training never left me. That seed was going to produce fruit many decades later leading me to the doors of the Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in London, where I was received in the Church on Assumption Day, 2001 in what today seems a different time and a different planet. It was a sunny and breezy August day when my life was forever changed.
Fast forward to this 2017, I just finished publishing Guadalupe, A River of Light after many months of research on the subject. The book follows the route of an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, carved by St Luke in the first century, all the way to the events at Tepeyac Hill in 1531 and beyond to our own troubled days. While I was studying the subject the methods learn from Monsignor Straubinger matured in my mind. There is a lot more to Scripture than holy words and commandments. Our Bible is filled with images hidden in the story, designed to show the depths of wisdom to those who humbly approach it in prayer and study.
Our Blessed Mother loved the Bible. We know that because the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) is inspired in the Song of Hanna (1 Samuel 2:1-10). The two songs are part of a beautiful counterpoint, Hanna and Mary sing about two babies about to come into the world, the great Prophet Samuel and Jesus the Messiah, both of them conceived after a miraculous divine intervention.
I often meditate about a different counterpoint of images involving Our Blessed Mother and Eve, our mother according to the flesh. Over the years that meditation has fruitfully grown in my mind as I was allowed to discover many hidden treasures.
Mary and Eve have many things in common, they are both women conceived without sin. Both were moved to action by the counsel of an angel, an evil angel tempted Eve but a holy angel placed before Mary a divine offer: to be the mother of the Messiah. Both women answered affirmatively.
The devil tempted Eve to envy the wisdom of God. She was a young and innocent creature. Everything she knew she had learned from Adam, her husband. When she was told that she could acquire some of the wisdom of God by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, she began to covet that fruit as a way to have some wisdom of her own. As a consequence, the human race still in her bosom was enslaved to sin. Once Adam had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were justly condemned to death and expelled from the Garden of Eden. Here is a shocking image: the English word for ‘abortion’ has Latin roots: abortus, that is ab (of, off, from) and hortus (garden) but it may also be related to ortus, the setting of the sun. The first humans were aborted from the Garden of Eden and condemned to a dark existence of toil and death.
Opposite to that tragic image, Mary was also young and innocent when a holy angel visited her. She accepted to be the mother of the Messiah in spite of having very little information about how that would be accomplished. Mary trusted God was telling her the truth and she was willing to obey. She accepted her God-given station in life. Her humble acceptance prepared her to be the mother of all mankind through the Savior she was going to conceive. Many years after her own Son was going to be taken violently from the Garden of Gethsemane, and unjustly condemned to death on a Roman cross. It is remarkable that the Greek word for “tree” used in Genesis in the Ptolemaic Septuagint is xylon, the same word that was later used for the Cross in the New Testament.
Blessed Mary was present at Calvary, watching the tortured body of her beloved Son nailed to a cross. He was there to pay for the sin of Adam but Mary was there to revert the sin of Eve. In her pure and perfect maternal heart, Mary did the inconceivable: she saintly coveted for herself the sufferings of her Son. If Mary could have exchanged places with Jesus at that time, she would have not hesitated one second. Doing that she completed our Redemption even to the smallest detail and took from Eve the right to be the Mother of mankind. Mary was given the wisdom of the Cross that leads to Heaven, to the company of God, and life everlasting. She was made Mother and Queen forever.