19 December 2008

The Virgin stands alongside maddening memorial

In Catholic legend, Our Lady of Guadalupe represents the first appearance of the mother of Christ to indigenous Americans. Villager Juan Diego returned from the Tepeyac Hill after an appearance by the Virgin of Guadalupe with “proof” of the miracle: a bouquet of red roses he picked, despite the fact it was winter. When Juan Diego opened the garment in which he had carried the roses, an image of Our Lady was inexplicably imprinted onto the fabric.

Two events define the holiday season for me: the annual homeless person’s memorial service and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The memorial services are acknowledged nationally on or around the first day of winter, a point in the calendar pregnant with significance. It is the shortest day of the year, the beginning of the return of the light, the peak of the “compassion season,” and a time of year that is often brutal on people living without a roof and warmth.

The eighth annual Albuquerque memorial service was held relatively early this year, on December 9, and featured words, music and poetry, mostly from people who were friends or relatives of the 44 persons, including at least eight women, who died homeless in Albuquerque in 2008. “This is not the world God intended,” said the Rev. Trey Hammond. It is both saddening and maddening that anyone needs to be reminded of that.

The mother of Christ first appeared to Juan Diego in rural Mexico on 9 December 1531. Her appearances as a teen-age girl continued until through the 12th, when the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is recognized throughout the Mexican Diaspora. Mexican-American Catholics also celebrate Las Posadas, “The Inns,” which re-creates over nine days the journey of Joseph and Mary in search for accommodations for the birth of their child I no longer practice the Catholicism in which I was raised, but some of the traditional practices of Hispanics in the southwest remind me of the roots of what has become an conflicted ritual of orgiastic consumption.