Truths of the Image
The golden flowers in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe point toward a civilization of love, founded in Jesus Christ.

In the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on St. Juan Diego’s tilma, nine golden flowers can be seen on Our Lady’s mantle. First, one should bear in mind that the indigenous people of Mexico held a special reverence for flowers, because a beautiful flower signified the continuation of life.

If we carefully examine one of these flowers, we see that there is a small series of blooms that encircle it. Since the indigenous people expressed “truth” as “flower and song,” this image on Our Lady’s mantle would be perceived as a symbol of pure truth. If we take yet a closer look, we can trace the stem of the flower’s root to Our Lady’s mantle full of stars. This means that this beautiful flower represents a truth of celestial origins.

When comparing this flower with the pictographic writing, or glyphs, in indigenous codices, we can better understand the message. The part that would properly be the blossom is drawn in the form of the glyph for “hill,” and the stem part is presented like the glyph for “river.” This combination, “hillwater,” for the indigenous people represented the concept of civilization.

Likewise, this “hill” calls to mind a temple, representing the highest point of encounter between God and man. For the indigenous people, a temple was considered a “sacred hill,” which took the form of a pyramid.

There is yet more to be discovered from this golden flower. It addition to its three-fold meaning as flower, hill and temple, it also takes the form of a heart when the glyph is viewed upside down. And the stem, or river, takes the form of arteries. These symbols — the heart and blood — represent life, which belongs to and has its origin in God. Thus, this image of the flower-hill-temple and stem-river is, at the same time, communicates a message about life, a life connected vitally to God.

If we further observe the interior of this image, we discover a face, complete with eyes, nose and mouth. An indigenous concept of the “wise man” was one who was capable of putting a human face in the heart of another person. In other words, the wise man is capable of humanizing the heart of his fellow man — giving him a heart that knows how to love.

This brings to mind what sacred Scripture tells us about God’s capacity to convert a stony heart into a heart of flesh. The prophet Ezekiel, for instance, writes: “I will give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the stony heart from their bodies, and replace it with a natural heart, so that they will live according to my statutes, and observe and carry out my ordinances; thus they shall be my people and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

We can now assemble the different aspects of this drawing and come a bit closer to its fuller significance in the Christian context. In this gift of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s image, her son Jesus Christ is presented in her immaculate womb surrounded by symbols of a new civilization of love. This civilization consists of a people who are full of God’s truth and full of life, rooted in heaven.

As a “people with a mission,” we become aware of our true vocation, our calling from God, to build through Christ and for Christ a culture of life and a civilization of love.