Maybe the “apple” was covered with chocolate?

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Monsignor Charles Pope takes a closer look at the events leading up to The Fall of Man.

Guadalupe “Sister” Site in Spain

Our Lady of Guadalupe (adapted from Seven Days with Mary)

Not far from Genazzano, in Rome itself, on Esquiline Hill, had been the miracle of Our Lady of the Snow, on August 5, where, back in the fourth century, Mary requested a church and indicated where she wanted it by causing snow to fall on the hill one summer morning.

The exact recorded date had been August 5, A.D. 352 and the church that was built, the Basilica of St. Mary Major, was the one where a miraculous Madonna used by Pope Gregory had been kept. If we remember, Gregory had paraded the statue from St. Mary’s through the streets of rubble-strewn Rome to rid that chastised city of an epidemic. The madonna was of unstained Oriental wood that, in its dignified countenance and in its majestic demeanor resembled the Virgin of Saragossa. Like the image at Saragossa, it was thought to have supernatural powers.

Upon proceeding through Rome with the image, an apparition of an angel had been seen above a mausoleum near the current-day site of the Vatican, and the plague stopped. It was a statue of Mary with the Christ Child, as she always holds up Jesus, although this time Mary was staring straight ahead, with great power and directness. Make no mistake: this was Mary full of her Son’s power. And after he used it in Rome, Pope Gregory sent the image as a gift to the Bishop of Seville in Spain, which was soon under assault by Arab invaders.

As was the case at the famous shrine of Montserrat in Spain, the statue had to be hidden from the Moslems, who destroyed all Christian images. And again like Montserrat, the faithful chose to hide the statue in a remote cave, this time under a church bell or in an iron casket (accounts differ) in the province of Caceres on the plain of Estremadura near a river known as “Guadalupe,” which in the local dialect of this Spanish hinterland meant “hidden channel.”

There the statue remained for more than 600 lonely years. Until 1326. That was when Mary appeared in apparition to a humble cowherd named Gil Cordero, who had been searching for a lost cow. Cordero found the cow on a mound of stones, but it was motionless, as if dead. Cordero was ready to cut off its hide when suddenly the cow miraculously sprang up. Cordero was stunned. The animal was alive! But more spectacular still was the apparition of a woman who Cordero spotted coming from the woods.

“Have no fear, for I am the Mother of God, by whom the human race achieved redemption,” the woman told Cordero. “Go to your home and tell the clergy and other people to come to this place where I appear to you and dig here, where they will find a statue.”

This was something the Virgin did across Spain, Italy, and the rest of Europe, appearing at the sites where statues had been lost or hidden and revealing them. Once an image was rediscovered, it was placed in a new chapel, leading to yet hundreds of new churches across Europe.

In this way was much of the Church built. It was one of Mary’s chief purposes in the early centuries, and when Cordero did as he was told, telling the local authorities to dig for a statue, he was initially mocked. After all, he was only a simple shepherd with a wild story. But when Cordero insisted on the apparition and showed them the marks on his cow where he was beginning to strip its hide, the noblemen and clerics began to listen. And soon they were proceeding to the site, where they dug at the designated spot and, removing stones and other debris, found the cave and inside it the casket or bell with an ancient document explaining its origin.

It was the image Gregory the Great had sent to Spain in 711. A chapel was built, and it became a huge center of pilgrimage. Thousands arrived from across Spain and other parts of Europe, including Christopher Columbus, who is said to have prayed in front of the image of Guadalupe before setting out across the Atlantic for the New World. Some accounts say he even carried a replica of the wood statue with him!

Mary was ready to cross the great ocean. She was ready to institute her Son’s Church in the Americas as she had done in Europe. Anyone who reads about Columbus will quickly learn that he was so devout, especially in his invocation of the Virgin, that he could be described as a Marian mystic. His main ship was named the Santa Maria and every evening Columbus and his crew sang the Hail Mary as they crossed the Atlantic.

While our secular scholars tell us little of that, Mary was a crucial part of the journey, and when Columbus got to the New World, he and his men named one island “Montserrat” and another “Guadeloupe.” Yet a third was named “El Salvador” for the Savior.

The Virgin was thus at the very foundation of our hemisphere, and the first Christian prayer ever said in our part of the world was the Salve Regina, which was also recited by Columbus.

There were many ways Mary was involved with establishment of the New World. America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, was founded on the feast of her nativity, and when the Chesapeake Bay was discovered it was originally known as the “Bay of St. Mary.”

Indeed, the land surrounding our nation’s capital — Virginia and Maryland — can be tied together as “Virgin-Mary-Land.” Most astonishing is the fact that French explorers who found the Mississippi River originally called this great waterway not the “Mississippi” but the “River of the Immaculate Conception.”

Soon after Columbus arrived in America had been a most astonishing event. It is an event that is connected to the Spanish image of Guadalupe and is our main focus this day. It is one of the major apparitions of all time. It occurred in 1531, in the midst of the Protestant rebellion, the same year Henry VIII took the Church of England away from Rome, and the same year, curiously enough, that the great comet known as Halley’s made a major appearance.

The Church in Europe was under assault, but as if to offset the division, Mary appeared on December 9 of that uproarious year to an Aztec convert whom many of you know as Juan Diego. Like the cowherd in Spain, and like so many previous and subsequent seers, Diego was a man of lowly position, at least in the eyes of the world. He lived in a hut with a dirt floor. He was a caring man, a widower who looked after his aging uncle. Juan was about 50 years old, and had been converted to Christianity by the missionaries who came with the Spanish soldiers. In his youth Juan had no doubt been aware of the awesome paganism prevalent in this part of the world, for like the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians, the Aztecs revered nature spirits, worshipped reptilian idols like the snake, and offered human sacrifices to the various gods and goddesses who seemed like nothing more than evil spirits in disguise.

In fact when Juan was a teenager more than 80,000 were killed in a horrible sacrifice during dedication of the massive temple of Tenochitlan near what is today the sprawling metropolis of Mexico City.

At Tenochitlan they worshipped Quetzalcoatl, the “plumed serpent,” while at a local hill that Juan happened to be walking by on December 9, 1531, they revered a goddess called Tonantzin, the Aztec “mother goddess.”

Just as Mary had appeared at Saragossa to dispel paganism, just as she had established Good Counsel to dispel Venus, so too was she now in the New World to begin ridding it of its harmful idols. For as Juan passed the hill, known as Tepeyac, he encountered the sounds of birds singing, which was very strange because it was now winter and most birds did not stay in these parts during the winter months.

When Juan looked up he saw a bright light and climbing there a woman in a radiant gold mist, beckoning him and explaining, “I am the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God. I wish that a temple be erected here without delay.”

Juan Diego

Juan was instructed to tell the local bishop of this request just as Cordero was told to summon authorities and just as Mary indicated hundreds of times that she wanted shrines and churches. But this time it was in the New World, and this series of apparitions was to have monumental effects of Christian conversion. Many of you know the story: Juan went to Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, who was initially very skeptical, as bishops, in their prudence, tend to be. On his way home from the chancery Juan related the disbelief to Mary and she told him to try to convince the bishop again. This Juan did the next day, and seeing the Indian return so soon, the bishop indeed listened with greater interest. But Bishop Zumarraga wanted proof. He wanted a sign from heaven. Juan related this request to the Virgin and she told him she would provide such a proof the next day.

But there was one hitch: the next day, December 11, Juan’s uncle, Juan Bernardino, was desperately ill. The old man had been stricken with cocolistle, a contagious and often fatal fever. Juan feared he was dying. He wanted a priest to hear his uncle’s last Confession, and so the next day, on December 12, the poor Aztec set about that task instead of going to the top of Tepeyac to visit the Virgin.

As Juan was circumventing the hill, the unexpected happened. Mary descended to intercept him and ask where he was going.

“A servant of yours is very sick,” replied Juan. “My uncle. He has contracted the plague, and is near death. I am hurrying to your house (church) to call one of your priests, beloved by Our Lord, to hear his Confession and absolve him, because, since we were born, we came to guard the work of our death. But if I go, I shall return here soon, so I may go to deliver your message. Lady… forgive me, be patient with me for the time being. I will not deceive you… Tomorrow I will come in haste.”

To this the Most Holy Virgin replied, “Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything. Do not be afflicted by the illness of your uncle, who will not die now of it. Be assured that he is now cured.”

Indeed, at that very same time, the Virgin was appearing to Juan’s uncle and healing him. Today there is a sanctuary dedicated to this other apparition at Tulpetlac.

When Juan heard the assurance, he was greatly relieved. The Virgin told him to go to the top of the hill and gather some unusual flowers at the site of her previous apparition. Now remember: this was winter and there were usually no flowers in bloom. Remember too that on such a stony hill, only weeds — thorns and thistles — could be expected.

Yet when Juan Diego got there he was amazed to find many varieties of exquisite roses — rosas de Castilla — in bloom! The flowers were extremely fragrant and covered with pearl-like drops of dew. Juan cut them near the petals, placed them in his tilma (a burlap-like cloak draped in front of his body), and folded it up to form a large pouch. He then returned to Mary, who asked to see what he had gathered and who rearranged them one by one.

“My son the least, this diversity of roses is the proof and the sign which you will take to the bishop. You will tell him in my name that he will see in them my wish and that he will have to comply to it. You are my ambassador, most worthy of all confidence. Rigorously I command you that only before the presence of the bishop will you unfold your mantle and disclose what you are carrying. You will relate all and well; you will tell that I ordered you to climb to the hilltop, to go and cut flowers; and all that you saw and admired, so you can induce the prelate to give his support, with the aim that a temple be built and erected as I have asked.”

In the Aztec language her words were more eloquent. All we have are rough translations. When Juan got back to the chancery, the bishop’s assistants, detecting a mysterious and beautiful fragrance around Juan, demanded a look at what he had in his tilma and were amazed to see fresh flowers. But when they tried to take the roses out, the flowers suddenly seemed painted or stamped on Juan’s cloth.

The bishop’s men were perplexed, mystified. They took Juan to the prelate’s inner office, and that’s when Juan knelt before Bishop Zumarraga, unfolded his cloak, and let the roses fall.

The flowers scattered onto the floor, but more amazing was the image Zumarraga saw on the cactus cloak. There on the coarse tilma was an exquisitely detailed painting of the Virgin Mary, so very humble-looking, her complexion like wheat, her delicate fingers formed in an aspect of prayer, her nose somewhat slender and long, brows arched and dark, her eyes looking down just as they looked down in the image of Good Counsel, but this time to her right, and this time with no Child visible.

Instead she was dressed in a sash, which to Aztecs indicated she was with child.

Mary was portrayed in vivid color and unlike a pagan goddess, she wore a cross. Once more, like Good Counsel, there was an expression of gentle concern. She wore a mantle of deep turquoise studded with stars, and there was a fleur-de-lils pattern. Her robe was like the robes worn by women in ancient Palestine, and her complexion, as well as the fleur-de-lils, reminded scholars of several paintings said to have been done by Saint Luke, including the famous one at Czestochowa!

Most fascinating was the name. The image quickly became known as “Guadalupe,” which many believe was because it was immediately connected to the earlier miracle in Guadalupe, Spain, which was well-known not only by Columbus but surely also by subsequent missionaries. “Guadalupe” may have been synonymous with “apparition.”

Others say that “Guadalupe” is a phonetic version of the Aztec Nahuatl words for “coatlaxopeuh,” which is what the Virgin is reported to have said in identifying herself to Juan’s uncle. “Coatlaxopeuh” is pronounced “quatlasupe” and sounds remarkably like the Spanish word “Guadalupe.” “Coa” means serpent, “tla” stands for “the,” and “xopeuh” means to crush or stamp out!

Thus Mary had identified herself to Juan’s uncle as “coatlaxopeuh,” the “one who crushes the serpent.”

womanserpent.jpg

Submitted by Doria2