RV 11:19A; 12:1-6A, 10 AB or JUDITH 13: 18 BCDE, 19
LK 1: 26 -38 or LK 1:39-47
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and is also the eve of Gaudete Sunday. This means the merging of two celebrations of absolute joy, and two reminders of the unexpectedness in our expectation.
Tomorrow’s celebration of Gaudete Sunday will mark the halfway point in our waiting, halfway through Advent, halfway to Christ. The day and the pink candle we mark it with are a reminder that we cannot lose our hope in waiting-- that we must not let ourselves be overcome with the anxiety of waiting, but rather that we must be overcome with the joy of expectation.
For those who are not familiar with her story, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego in 1531, an indigenous man living in Mexico during Spanish occupation immediately after the conquest of 1519-1521. In her apparition to Juan, Mother Mary reveals herself in the clothing and skin-coloring an indigenous young woman, speaking to Juan in his native language. Juan brings Our Lady’s request for a church to built at the site of the apparition in her honor to the Archbishop of Mexico City, and brings back the sign of Our Lady’s imprint on his cloak when he is asked to retrieve proof of the apparition.
What does the apparition of Our Lady to an indigenous man in the mid-16th century have to do with our experience of Advent today?
In two weeks we celebrate the Incarnation, God made tangible, God choosing to enter into the human condition, in all of its gritty reality, its beautiful earthy nature. Unlike the common Christian experience of waiting for the second-coming and the Kin-dom of God today, the Jewish people on the whole were anticipating the coming of a concrete human person. From the Book of Zechariah today: “See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day” (Zec 2:14-17). Christ, they believed, would come specifically into their own historical socio-political situation and establish a new, literal kingdom in an earthly context, perhaps through political revolution.
Imagine, then, how unexpected the historical Christ was! Poor, often homeless, Jesus spent time with women, thieves, the terminally ill, and social outcasts. And when he did spend time speaking with and teaching those he would have been expected to come to, the Jewish social elite, he did so by discussing women, thieves, the terminally ill, and social outcasts! Christ was the embodiment of unexpectedness within expectation. He came first through the body of a woman, his Mother, not to stage a political revolution, but to die as an innocent victim of state violence, sentenced to death for the very crime he was expected to, and yet did not, commit. And yet couched in his death, in the waiting for the Resurrection that our waiting in Advent should conjure reminiscence of in our hearts and minds, is joy. Because death does not win, injustice does not win.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, appearing with Jesus in her womb, again embodies the bringing of unexpected joy. The Catholic Spanish would have expected an apparition to themselves, from a Mary who looked rather like themselves. Instead, the message came to them of an image of an indigenous Mary, through a poor, indigenous man. God brought joy, once again, to the people who needed it, rather than those anticipating it. The joy of the Mother was brought to an oppressed people first, empowering them to act as agents of change in a time when they had been robbed of agency, to speak with authority to those who had recently robbed them of their voices. The joy of the coming of Christ rings true in this story as well, and reminds of the story found in our Gospel today, of the annunciation. As Mary responded, “May it be done to me according to your world,” so to should we be open to the unexpected Christ moving within our hearts, as he moved within her womb (Luke 1:26-38).
My hope for each of us at this point in our Advent season is that we refrain from allowing our expectation to become anxiety. Let us, in some ways, shed expectation, embrace the unexpectedness, and leave our hands and hearts open to the humble God reaching out to us in ways and people we could never imagine. This is just where we will find Her. This is where we will find Joy.
Maria Bednar is a senior majoring in Theological Studies and Women's and Gender Studies and is an intern in Campus Ministry.