Deans' Note December 12, 2021
This Sunday the Church invites us to rejoice because the Lord is near. This is the week we light the rose or pink colored candle on the Advent wreath.. The traditional name for this Sunday "Gaudate" is the Latin word for rejoice. The ancient chant that begins this liturgy comes from the fourth chapter of Paul's letter to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice!...The Lord is near".
When our choir chants St. Paul's words, as the church has done on this day for over a thousand years, we are really saying something subversive, something we underscore at St. John's as we also celebrate our Lady of Guadalupe on this day.
When Gabriel tells Mary that she will bring forth the savior, she knows how subversive that message is -- "He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly." To say the Lord is near, means that God's Kingdom is on the way, the time when justice will appear, where oppression will end, where the earth and all her people will live in harmony. It may well be a message challenging our comfortability.
Our Lady of Guadalupe appears to Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican peasant who had converted to Christianity. Mary sends her message of joy not to the Spanish religious authorities and the colonizers, but to this lowly one and she gives him a surprising abundance of roses in winter -- fragrant, joyful, beautiful flowers where we would never expect them to emerge. Rejoice!
Although the songs about Guadalupe often refer to her as La Paloma Blanca, the white dove, she appears to Juan Diego as La Virgen Morena, the dark-skinned virgin. She appears herself as one of the dispossessed, not the powerful. So her presence is prophetic. The joy of the Lord's coming challenges us to join her in lifting up the lowly.
As spiritual writer Sara Miles reflects: "Herself mixed and impure, Guadalupe bears and reveals a God uncontainable by religious orthodoxy or national borders; a God who shows up everywhere, showering us with life as unexpected as roses in December, making all things new. Hail Mary. Hoy te vengo a saludar." Yes, Paloma Blanca, La Morena -- we greet you today with joy!