By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published December 6, 2018 | En Español
Our Blessed Mother is celebrated in a particular fashion during several different months of the calendar year. May invites us to crown her as our Queen and the Mother of the Church with many of our youngsters participating in May crowning ceremonies. October is the month of the holy Rosary and therefore we focus on the prayer that refers uniquely to Mary’s intercessory activities within the life of the Church. December brings the Blessed Mother into the heart of Advent under her titles of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
While these three different months are not the only times during the year when we honor Mary, they do present us with special opportunities of bringing her into the prayer life of the Church.
Our love for and devotion to Mary coalesce in the month of December with two special moments. As Americans, we honor her—along with the entire Church—on the solemn Feast of her Immaculate Conception where she also serves as our national patroness. However, her title as Our Lady of Guadalupe has joined us in faith and deep affection with our Mexican Catholic brothers and sisters with a special moment of jubilee honoring Mary, the Mother of God, only four days later. With so many Mexican-Americans blessing and energizing the life of the Church in the United States of America and worldwide, these two celebrations sometimes may seem to compete with each other for our affection for and attention to Mary during December. These two occasions may sometimes even seem to overwhelm the season of Advent in which they both reside. Nonetheless, both celebrations highlight the deepest meaning of Advent.
Mary is an Advent woman. She has given her life over completely to the One who was promised and who entered humanity within her womb as her Baby. She is the woman of patient expectation, which is the enduring theme of Advent. Her Immaculate Conception was God’s gift to her in preparation for the unique role that she would play in salvation history. God arranged for an innocent maiden to receive the Word Incarnate. She who never knew sin was the vessel that God had chosen to give His Son the gift of humanity.
When Mary appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico, she did so in the appearance of a pregnant indigenous native of that land. The Lord of creation was to be born as one of the Mexican people whose faith has energized and sanctified all of the Americas. Guadalupe is another expression of the Incarnation—God becoming one with the people He has chosen. The expectant Mary appeared not as a foreigner, but as one with the inhabitants of that land.
With these two feasts coming so close to one another in the Advent season, we might be tempted to try to combine them. Each one has a special meaning for the Church in Advent. Mary is the chosen one who is preserved from sin in order to welcome the Lord of creation. Mary is also one with each one of us in our unique racial and cultural identities. She presents herself, not as a stranger, but as one of us through the wonderful example of the Mexican people among whom she chose to appear. Guadalupe is now a Vatican celebration, begun by Pope Benedict XVI, bringing this Immaculate Mexican Virgin into St. Peter’s Basilica—so often depicted as the central worship space of the Church universal.
Advent culminates in the Christmas mystery in which God becomes one with the human race. An Infant born in Bethlehem, but belonging to every nation and people, transcends time and culture. The two Marian celebrations of Advent help the Church realize anew that the Incarnation is not limited to any one people or era, but brings God close to everyone.