Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Byzantine Rite

The churches of the Byzantine Rite are, unsurprisingly, almost as cautious about adding new feasts (very rarely) as they are about suppressing old ones (never.) Nevertheless, after Pope St John Paul II declared Our Lady of Guadalupe Patroness of the Americas in 1999, the Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic Church added Her feast to its liturgical calendar. This represents a wonderful opportunity for the Byzantine churches to share the riches of their liturgical tradition with their fellow Catholics of Hispanic descent, all of whom are of course of the Roman Rite.

An icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe, painted by Christine Uveges of Eikona Studios of Cleveland, for St Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Churh in Whiting, Indiana, a church of the Eparchy of Parma, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Laura Ieraci. Notice that the Greek letters ΜΡ ΘΥ have been added to either side of the Virgin’s head; these are the abbreviations of the Greek words for Mother of God.
The Byzantine Rite does not have Advent as a formally delineated liturgical season, but it does traditonally keep a fast in preparation for Christmas, which begins after the feast of St Philip the Apostle on November 14. (This is very close to the beginning of Advent in the Ambrosian and Mozarabic Rites.) However, there are many liturgical texts used in the period which refer to the approach of Christmas, and the troparion of the feast, the first of the two proper hymns sung at the Divine Liturgy, refers to this tradition. (From the website of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh; h/t to Fr James Rooney OP.)

Tropar When you appeared in the New World, O Theotokos, you fixed your image on Juan Diego’s rose-laden tilma. All the poor, hungry, and oppressed seek you, Lady of Guadalupe. We gaze upon your miraculous icon and find hope, crying out to your Son concealed in your womb: Hear our plea for justice, O most merciful Lord.

The second hymn, the Kontakion, speaks of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s role in the evangelization of the New World and the victory of Christianity over the native pagan religions. (The cathedral of Mexico City, which is also dedicated to Our Lady, is built over the site of the principal temple of the Aztecs’ capital, in which they practiced human sacrifice on an unimaginable scale.)

Kontakion No longer shall the New World lie wounded in useless blood-sacrifice, for she who is clothed with the sun has revealed the Son to us. O Mother of the Americas, imprint his name upon our hearts, just as you wove your image into the cactus cloth. Teach your children to cry out: O Christ God, our hope, glory to you!

The website linked above also provides a complete set of proper texts for the celebration of Vespers. The last of these beautifully unites the words spoken by the Virgin to St Juan Diego in the original apparition on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531 to some of the classic rhetorical phrases of the Byzantine tradition.

Aposticha “Listen, my most beloved children; the things that afflict you are nothing! For I have given birth to the Conqueror of Hades, the Lord who removes the sting of Death. Let not your faces be abashed, let not your hearts be disturbed. Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Then return to the Lord and He will make all things new!”

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