“Modern man is a Cosmic Orphan because he has lost God”, declares William Craig in his opening chapter Knowing the Truth About the Resurrection. An orphan is a child without parents. Without knowing that God exists precisely as Father, man does not know his parentage, the source from whence he gets his life and the goal towards which he journeys. Laplace famously quipped, “man has no need for that hypothesis.” Man’s discarding of God causes him to become disoriented, lost in a forest of confusion and ad hoc ideas much like a hermit crab.
But God in His great love for man does not let him remain in his misery of abandonment. The inclusio, the summary point for the Gospel of Matthew, is that God is with us, Emmanuel. He is a Father who loves His children. As a good father realizing the needs of his children, He also provides for a good mother. In our marriage preparation for our couples, we would ask them “Would you want Jane for a mother or John for a father, because that is what you are giving to your children”. Who you marry is whom you are bequeathing to your children as a parent.
God, as the premier pattern for all fatherhood, also bequeaths to His children a mother. At the foot of the cross John, the only Apostle who stayed with our Lord through His agony, was the one who received Mary as his mother. John represents the faithful disciple who was so close to out Lord that he could lay his head on the Lord’s breast with peace. Mary’s motherhood is an essential part of God’s plan of salvation for us. God is a generous giver, not a meager miser.
Our Lady of Guadalupe’s encounter with Juan Diego highlights the tenderness of Mary’s love, set within the ongoing history of God’s salvific work. Juan Diego was “one of the macehualtin, the despised poor of the Aztec empire”. He would not have been required to watch the immense number of human sacrifices as the nobility, the Pipiltin, of the Aztec nation were commanded to do. However, it is reasonable to conclude that Juan Diego would have seen the massive killings.
The Spaniards themselves did not respect the dignity of the indigenous people. Though Cortes found ready allies to defeat the Aztecs, in large part because of the brutality of the subjugated people being ritually killed, the Franciscan missionaries often wrote to the king complaining against the ill treatment of the inhabitants. The Franciscans did not confine their work to the Pipiltin but often worked among the macehualtin. Juan Diego, a maker of reed mats, encountered the Franciscans.
Finally, Europe was in the midst of the Reformation. Luther nailed his 95 Theses in November 1517. Our Lady appears in Mexico in December 1531. Millions of Europeans left the Catholic Church, plunging the Continent into a 100 years war. Confusion of faith, persecution, and abuses were rampant. There were many saints that revealed the way to authentic reform, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross to name but a few. But in a providentially maternal way, to a poor man of very humble origins, Divine Providence sent a portrait on a most unlikely coarse medium.
The encounter crosses three significant cultures. The indigenous people of the New World, Europe in the Spanish, and Christianity. It is significant the Juan Diego’s native name is Cuauhtlatoatzin, which means “eagle that speaks”. For the Aztecs the eagle symbolized both their civilization and the patron deity of the sun-god. “Aztecs would place the hearts of sacrificial victims in a cuauhxicalli or eagle-gourd vessel, sometimes shaped like the head of an eagle; it was from these eagle vessels that the Aztecs believed the sun would be nourished.”  Juan Diego would thus become a bridge between three significant cultures. He would be a missionary for a God who wants to sustain His people by His offering of His life. Not requiring the lives of His children.
With this brief historical context, consideration of the five dialogues the beautiful Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego have will each be considered. Following my reflections on these conversations, an overview of the symbolism impressed on the Tilma will be considered. The questions to be considered are: What does an event five hundred years ago mean for the Cosmic Orphan today? How does one aspire to be the beloved disciple of Christ who received his mother under his care? Finally, how does having both a heavenly father and a human mother strengthen our fidelity?
To be continued….