Dark Ribbon

Truths of the Image
It was clear to the indigenous people of Mexico that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared as an expectant mother.

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe imprinted on St. Juan Diego’s humble tilma manifests two of the most important dogmas of Mary: that she is ever-Virgin and, at the same time, that she is the Mother of God. In fact, the encounter that took place in the winter of 1531 is an encounter with God himself, whom Our Lady carried in her immaculate womb. It is a real encounter with Jesus, who has taken the initiative to meet man through his mother.

The Gospel revolves around a central axis — the Incarnation of the Word and Pentecost. This is to say that God takes on our human condition (except for sin), heals us, saves us and gives us the profound promise of resurrection. St. Paul tells us, “If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith” (1 Cor 15:14). Moreover, the only path to the Resurrection is Jesus’ passion and death. By shedding his last drop of blood on the cross, Jesus has opened for us eternal life, where there is no pain, sadness or fear of death. Jesus Christ has vanquished death! This is the utmost joy for man, with whom Jesus has shared his saving plan.

This is ultimately what is revealed through the Guadalupe event, which is why Pope John Paul II called it “a model of a perfectly inculturated evangelization.” Through God, Church teaching is adapted to meet man in conditions so adverse and desperate, so heartbreaking and disastrous, that only his intervention can solve the problem. This marvelous intervention involves his precious mother, the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. Since Our Lady carries the Lord in her womb, she appears as a pregnant woman, an expecting woman, a woman of Advent.

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe depicts a dark ribbon above her womb, indicating that she is a woman anticipating the birth of God’s only Son. In fact, the Spanish expression for “pregnant” is encinta, or literally, “adorned with ribbon.” As such, the Guadalupe event is an inculturated encounter that relies heavily on oral tradition, which in turn reveals historical traits in a very special way. St. Juan Diego’s canonization process has taken this tradition very seriously, since it shows a number of truths that have marked history.

Oral tradition was a very effective technique for indigenous peoples to remember diverse facts and historical events. The objectivity of such ancient methods has been proven. Although native Mexicans kept track of their history, traditions and culture in writing based on pictograms, they also had to memorize the interpretation of these subjects. One oral tradition about the Virgin of Guadalupe is kept in the Veracruz region of Mexico and clearly shows that the indigenous people understood perfectly that she was pregnant (encinta) and expecting her son, Jesus Christ.

Before a priest celebrates Mass on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12, the people tell him: “Focus on the womb of this woman, who dances with the joy of the feast, because she will give us her son. With the harmony of the angel holding heaven and earth [referring to her mantle and gown], a new life is extended. This is what we received from our elders: that our own life does not end, but has a new meaning, and as the Great Book of the Spaniards [the Bible; see Rev. 12:1] says: there was a sign in heaven, a woman dressed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of stars, and she is about to give birth.

“This is what we are celebrating, Father: the arrival of this sign of unity, harmony and a new life.” With Our Lady of Guadalupe, this sign has finally arrived.