Thursday, December 09, 2021

Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Byzantine Rite

Today is the feast of St Juan Diego, to whom the Virgin Mary appeared on the hill of Tepeyac for the first of four times on this day in 1531. Three days from today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which coincides this year with Gaudete Sunday, and should in theory be translated to Monday, but as also happens with the Immaculate Conception, will likely be celebrated by formal or informal indult on its proper day.
The churches of the Byzantine Rite are, unsurprisingly, almost as cautious about adding new feasts (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, for whom the Roman Rite would be their ancestral tradition.

An icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe, painted by Christine Uveges of Eikona Studios of Cleveland, for St Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church 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 traditionally 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, is formed by this tradition. (From the website of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh.)

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 the aposticha beautifully unites the words spoken by the Virgin to St Juan Diego in the original apparition 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!”

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: