It was December 12, 1531. On the day of the solstice of winter for the northern hemisphere when the Julian Calendar was still in use, a humble man named Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, of the Chichimeca tribe was swiftly moving towards Mexico with a mission. He was a native Mexican, a witness to the fall of the Aztec Empire and the Spanish conquest. He was also a convert to the faith of the conquerors patiently preached to him by the priests sent from Spain by King Charles V.
In a day like today, the Speaking Eagle was on his way to see Don Luis Zumárraga, the Catholic Bishop sent by the king with extraordinary temporal powers. Mexico was a tinderbox ready to ignite in a civil war. Don Luis Zumárraga was struggling to see how he could preserve his faithful from the opposing parties: the natives that refused to convert to the faith, and the avaricious party of Spaniards who wanted to keep the natives ignorant and pagan, with the intention of exploiting them at will.
Poor Don Zumárraga had spent the previous night praying and asking God for help. The task he had been assigned was overwhelming, impossible. Recently he had sent a sad but sincere assessment of the situation in a secret message to King Charles:
“Unless there is supernatural help, the country is lost.”
He prayed on his knees until late, begging for God’s help. He was at the end of his wits, running out of time as the social forces at play prepared for a violent clash. About the time the Bishop finished his prayers and went to sleep, the Speaking Eagle was beginning his descent from Tepeyac Hill.
The Eagle descends on the lake
Juan Diego carried a message from Heaven: fresh, fragrant Castilian roses wrapped in his tilma. He was not walking but running with that steady indian trot that devours mile after mile. He had learned the secret coordination of moving and breathing from his ancestors who had crossed the high plains of Mexico since times immemorial. The morning star was rising over the city still asleep when he saw the bridges and the lake in the distance, reflecting the moon on the quiet waters. He went through the gates with the first light of day and marched to the Bishop’s residence through the silent streets.
There he waited patiently several hours until late morning. The guards and the Bishop’s attendants abused poor Juan by letting him wait in the cold for hours while Don Zumárraga went through his daily routine. After the morning Mass ended, the Bishop was approached by a native family — we know all these details by deduction. The young couple came to greet him after presenting their newborn for baptism. Their friends were there, the godfather and godmother of the baby, their other child, and a man who played music. Music was not meant merely to entertain. Mexicans always associate music with all kinds of events: arrivals, departures, birthdays, funerals, marriages. The natives understood that music was a connection with the world beyond, a sound with the mysterious power to lift or soothe the soul. Remember that the first contact of Juan Diego with Our Lady was through the song of birds. Our Lady of Guadalupe was thus introducing herself in a very Mexican way, with music.
The party of thirteen people were gathering behind the heavy entrance doors. Right outside, still in waiting after five or six hours of patiently enduring the cold temperature, was our man Juan Diego. He had no intention to quit. He was perfectly quiet, like the eagle guarding the nest endures the cold wind while perched on a high peak. Juan Diego’s eyes were fixed on the eternal, much like the eagle’s eyes scanning the deep valley from the inaccesible mountain heights.
Two of the servants decided to question Juan Diego. They did not want that low macehualtin there. They had not informed the Bishop that a man was waiting for him outside in the cold. They approached Juan Diego and demanded to see what he was carrying. As he refused they tried to grab the edge of his cloak. Juan Diego could see that he could not keep his precious cargo from the two annoying men, so he decided to allow them to take a peek at the flowers. Of course the two men were amazed that such precious flowers could be in bloom during winter. They tried to grab one rose but every time they tried, it disappeared into the fabric and they could not hold it.
After three tries they panicked. Was this man a sorcerer? He could be the devil himself, or a demon! Scared out of their minds they busted into the chamber where the Bishop was receiving a family … One of them dragged Juan Diego before the Bishop. Everything happened so fast that Juan Diego did not have a chance to take off his hat. There he was before all those important people, still with his hat on, like a crowned king holding court. Our Lady had promised him: “I will grant you honor and glory” and this was the moment for that. Juan Diego was entering history. The Speaking Eagle had landed just like the old Mexican Eagle of the Aztec legend had touched down on the nopal. There he was in the city — located in the middle of the lake — standing before the most powerful man in Mexico, Bishop Zumárraga, the official envoy of King Charles V of Spain, the Ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.
Juan Diego entered the room and knelt before the Prelate telling him once again the marvels that he had seen: “Dear Bishop, I have done what you asked me to do. I told the Lady from Heaven, my Lady, my Heavenly beloved, Holy Mary, the Mother of God, that you have asked her for a sign so you could believe my message: that a little house is built in the place where she asked it to be erected. I also told her that I have promised you to come back with a sign, a proof of her will, just as you asked. She listened to your insistence, to your words, and she was pleased to receive your request for a sign so that her precious will might be accomplished. Early today when it was still dark she told me to come here to see you. I reminded her that she had promised to give me a sign that I could bring to you.
She immediately fulfilled her word. She sent me to the hilltop where I had seen her before, to cut various kinds of roses and once I cut them I presented a bunch to her. She took them in her holy hands and arranged them in the fold of my ayate so that I could bring them and give them to you in person. I knew very well that the top of the Tepeyac was not a place to find flowers in bloom since that is a place where nothing ever grows except thorny bushes, prickly pears, and mesquites in the midst of crags and rocks; I did not hesitate to go. When I climbed to the top of the hill I found a Paradise. There were all kinds of beautiful flowers, the finest flowers, covered with dewdrops, blooming splendidly, so I proceeded to cut a bunch. She instructed me to give you these flowers on her behalf so her precious will might be accomplished once you see the proof you have asked for. Now, believe the truth of my words. Here you have them, please accept them.”
Then Juan Diego opened the fold of his tilma where the flowers were placed. As he allowed the beautiful flowers to cascade to the ground they were changed into a sign: the beloved image of the Perfect Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God, suddenly appeared in the same figure that we now behold in her precious little house, her holy little place in Tepeyac that is called Guadalupe. And when the Bishop and all who were there saw her, they fell to their knees and marveled greatly at her. (Taken from the book Guadalupe; A River of Light quoting the Nican Mopohua by Antonio Valeriano.)
Our Lady had promised him: “I will give you honor and glory” and there was Juan Diego, standing in the middle of a circle of people, his betters kneeling before him, honoring him like a king. The image of Our Lady had materialized on Juan’s tilma in an awesome display of God’s power.
Think of the scene: the family represents the people of Mexico, the Spanish men represent the race that came from across the sea, Don Zumárraga represents the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor… but Juan Diego, called by Our Lady as “Juan Diegotzin, my little one” represents the Mother of the King of Kings. God Himself had sent his ambassador to Mexico, the Speaking Eagle.
[God] says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6.
He has not dealt thus with any other nation
The Law given to Israel carries in itself the proof of its divine origin. The Gospel of Jesus Christ given to his Church is a marvel of obvious supernatural origin. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is also a miraculous communication, and a sign. The time, the people involved, the manner in which all happened, everything around the events of 1531 in Mexico are nothing but a huge parable set up by the unfathomable power of God to teach us something akin to the Law and the Gospel. This message of salvation is a call to action. The Americas were a world much like our own global civilization: completely controlled by the spiritual forces of evil. Through a miracle of communication that surpasses any of the modern technological achievements of man, Our Lady of Guadalupe gave birth to a new Christian nation using that impossible canvas, the tilma. Imprinted on that humble cloak there was a message for Mexico and the world that still resonates even in our age.
Today, the Americas are reverting to the darkness of error and paganism. The old abominable practices are returning like weeds growing on a tilled field. Even the Church is infected with the practices of the ancient American religions: ritual homosexuality, widespread fornication, human sacrifice in the form of abortion, and worse. This is the time to pray like Don Juan Zumárraga did on the eve of December 12, 1531:
“Unless there is supernatural intervention, the country is lost.”
On your day, dear Mother we pray. Please obtain for us the grace of purifying and saving our world and our Church. Teach us to follow the example of your favorite son, St Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin and help us speak your pure word of salvation to this age lost in darkness.
“God comes … before him goes pestilence, and the plague follows in his steps. He pauses to survey the earth; his look makes the nations tremble. The eternal mountains are shattered, the age-old hills bow low along his ancient ways … in wrath you bestride the earth; in fury, you trample the nations. You come forth to save your people, to save your anointed one. You crush the heads of the wicked, you lay bare their bases at the neck. You pierce with your shafts the heads of their princes whose boast would be of devouring the wretched in their lair. You tread the sea with your steeds amid the churning of the deep waters …” Habbakkuk 3.