By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published December 8, 2011
During the past couple of Advents, our Holy Father has launched several new liturgical traditions in his public schedule. A few years ago, he changed the time of the midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica to 10 p.m., thus making it a little more convenient for people—especially for families with little ones or those with special needs—to attend this venerable celebration of the Birth of the Lord because of the earlier hour.
Now this year he has introduced a Vatican celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, bringing this magnificent feast from Mexico to the heart of the city of Peter and Paul. His decision to observe this feast in Rome is a clear recognition of the special place that this devotion has attained well beyond its Mexican origin.
The Mother of God under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a jewel, not only for the Mexican people but for people the world over. Like the traditions associated through her many other titles that were generated over the centuries in various other places and cultures, she belongs, not simply to the people who received her miraculous maternal presence, but to all people, whom she always loves as her own children. Many of those otherwise local devotions have become almost universal in their appeal and presence.
Our Lady of Guadalupe annually shares the same Advent week with the celebration of the Immaculate Conception. Thus within a matter of a few days the Church honors the Mother of God under two different titles, and they sometimes may appear to compete for our attention and perchance even for prominence. In truth during the first part of Advent, Mary is given special recognition as the singular Woman of Faith who carries within her womb the Lord who is coming into the world—both in history and at the end of time. She is uniquely the Daughter of Advent because of her patient anticipation of the promises of God to be fulfilled in her.
On the eighth of December the Church solemnly honors her for the unique privilege that she enjoys in having been preserved from all sin from the very first moment of her conception. She received that grace in anticipation of the redemption that her Son would gain for all creation through His death on the cross.
On the twelfth of December we honor her because of her missionary love for and mystical outreach to the indigenous peoples of Mexico and indeed for all of her children.
On one day of the week we recognize that she is absolutely unique in her sinlessness, and then we acknowledge her for reminding all other people that we are also unique in God’s own heart, which tenderly embraces all of us in our own individual cultures, languages and races. She is special, and she came to tell the people of Mexico that they too remain special in her affection.
Often the Marian feasts may begin in a specific nation or culture, yet they repeatedly manage to migrate to lands well beyond the places of their origin because the Mother of God—like every mother—is always seeking to find ways to communicate with all of her children.
The Pope’s expansion of the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Vatican is but another indication of his desire to recognize the great treasure that the Mexican people received in the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary and now gladly share with all of their brothers and sisters throughout the world. This apparition signaled a major successful evangelization outreach to the people of Mexico, and it holds the possibility of reminding all contemporary men and women of the message of Life and Redemption made possible in Christ that she announced on Tepeyac Mount.