Our Lady of Guadalupe (Part 2)

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is amazing to me for two reasons. First is the person of Juan Diego. Second, is the image imprinted on the tilma.

Juan Diego was an Indian who recently had converted to Catholicism. Let’s be honest, these weren’t willing conversions.

Juan Diego received a message of divine revelation in his own context.  In Aztec culture you could be assured that the divine was speaking to you if flowers and songs were present. You’ll notice that at the beginning of the story Juan Diego notices the bird singing before Mary appears. The story ends with the flowers he wrapped in his tilma. The songs of the birds and flowers are confirmation that the divine was present.

The appearance of Mary was given to someone outside the power structure of the Catholic Church. God speaks to an Indian, not the Bishop, and tells him to bring a message to the people in power. The Bishop, the one who is perceived to have the authority of God, is now placed in the position of having to listen to God through the ones that he had subjugated. Just when we begin to believe that God only works through the church and the people God has given to those who are in charge, Mary appears to a poor Indian. It’s like the hot lava of divine revelation had to break through the magma that had solidified at the top of the volcano of institutional powers. So, Juan Diego delivers the message to the powers that be that a church must be built at Tepeyac. (Interesting side note: The hill were the appearance took place was previously a temple to the Aztec Mother Goddess Tonantzin)

The image that was imprinted on the tilma is amazing because of the symbolic meanings that it would have given the indigenous of Mexico. The first is that the girl does not look like a Spaniard, but indigenous. She has dark skin signifying she is like them.  As for the image itself, Virgilio Elizondo writes:

“The lady hides the sun but does not extinguish it. This is most important, for the missionaries were trying to destroy everything of the native religions as diabolical. She is greater than the natives’ greatest manifestation of the deity, the sun, but she does not destroy it. She will transcend, but not do away with. This is the assurance that their ancient way of life will continue, but now reinterpreted through something new and greater. she is standing upon the moon and therefore superior to their second greatest manifestation of the deity.

She wears the turquoise mantle. Turquoise was the color reserved for the supreme deity, who alone could bring harmonious unity out of the opposing forces that governed the universe. Her dress was the pale red  of the blood sacrifices. She had assumed the blood sacrifices of her people and was now offering herself to her people. She appears with hands folded over her heart and pointed in the direction of the people.-the native sign of the offering of self to others.

She who was greater than all their divinities was herself not a goddess, for she wore no mask and her eyes were beautiful. In her eyes, the image of  a person is easily discerned. In her eyes, every generation of Mexicans has seen themselves personally accepted, respected, loved, and valued. There is nothing more life giving than to see ourselves reflected, accepted, and valued in the eyes of  an important other. In the very gaze of the eyes there is rebirth.

This beautiful lady who is truly from above and yet very much on of their own is pregnant, for she wears the waist band of maternity. Furthermore, over her womb, one finds the ancient Aztec glyph for the center of the universe. Thus, she, according to ancient Nahuatl cosmology, has assumed the five previous ages-called suns-and is now the sign of the sixth age. What she offers to the world she carries within her womb; the new center of the universe about to be born in the Americas. Through the lady millions would approach the church for Christian instruction and baptism.”

The Future is Mestizo, pg. 63-64

 After taking this class at the Jesuit Seminary, I understood what she means. She is a sign of liberation for a people who had been oppressed. She is a sign that God doesn’t always work through the power structures. Previous forms religion and culture do not need to be demonized or done away with because of oppressive colonial conversions and rule. Our Lady of Guadalupe carries in her new life for the world, Jesus, who would save us all from even from the ways we abuse Christianity.

Virgen_de_guadalupe1

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Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Part 1)

Ourlady

Our Lady of Guadalupe has this special place in Mexican culture that I haven’t always understood. My grandmother, aunts, and uncles, would at one point or another urge me to call on her to pray for me and whatever situation I was going through. Growing up Catholic this is no surprise. But, she didn’t really move me all that much.

It wasn’t until I took a class at the Jesuit Seminary at the Graduate Theological Seminary did I being to appreciate her and what she means.

In this post we will learn the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In the next post we will learn what the story and image means. It’s actually pretty awesome!

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is written down in a tract published in 1649 in Mexico City by Luis Las0 De la Vega. written in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Luis Laso De La Vega was a vicar at the chapel at Tepeyac. Tepeyac is the hill where the appearances took place.

Here is the story in visual form. (unfortunately I am unable to imbed so click on link to go to Youtube to watch video)

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Mixed Race, Tortillas, and #DecolonizeLutheranism

I am mixed race.  My mother’s roots reside in England and my father’s roots are from Mexico.  While my last name is Serrano, I did not inherit my father’s dark hair or features, except the lines that surround  my eyes, a testimony to indegenious peoples, or so my father claims.

While being so white, and benefiting from white privilege in so many ways, I straddle two worlds. I grew up in San Ysidro, California, a thoroughly Mexican community.  I still remember living with my grandmother who always had different women making tortillas  in the kitchen.  These kind ladies were always willing to share one with me.  I even admit that when they were not looking I might have stolen a couple for consumption outside on the back patio (Sorry Señoras!).

I straddle two worlds because I have never really felt part of one culture or ethnicity.  I was never really seen as Mexican-American by people in my community. The kids at school called us Los Guerros. And, later on, when I went to a predominately white school, I didn’t feel like I belonged either. It was an entirely different culture.

One author writes about the experience of straddling two worlds.  Virgilio Elizondo writes, “Being a Jew in Galilee was very much like being a Mexican-American in Texas. As the Jews in Galilee were too Jewish to be accepted by the gentile population and too contaminated with pagan ways to be accepted by the pure-minded Jews of Jerusalem, so have the Mexican-Americans in the southwest been rejected by two groups.”

Jesus understands fully what it means to stand in two worlds. Elizondo writes, “The fact that Jesus had been conceived by the Holy Spirit means that the people did not know how he had been conceived. According to human standards, he was of doubtful origins, and thus by reason of his very birth he entered into solidarity with the masses whose origins are questioned by those in power.”

By the very nature of the incarnation Jesus understands what it means to be in two worlds. He is able to fully identify with the Galileans. Jesus understands what it means for me (a White-Mexican) to be a person who doesn’t fully feel at home in any culture by the nature of my birth.

It’s interesting that I ended up being Lutheran. There is something by the nature of theology that draws me ever so closely into the primacy of God’s grace. And yet, once again, I sometimes find myself straddling two worlds.

One the one side is the beautiful Lutheran theology that I have come to love. On the other side is the culture from which Lutheran theology  has is roots.

Recently there has been a movement within Lutheranism that has sought to show that one doesn’t have to be of Scandinavian or German decent to be Lutheran. So there have been Memes that say, “You might be a Lutheran if…”


This is not lutefisk.

I think these memes should be listened to. I think people should reflect on their own understanding of what it means to be a Lutheran and show that the primary language of Lutheransim need only be theology not the culture from which it came.

Lutherans, stop and listen to those who are involved in #decolonizelutheranism. They have something valuable to say.

Also check these two people out who have written in this…

Jeremy Serrano This is What a Lutheran Looks Like

Tuhina Rasche DecolonizeLutheranism

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Grandma, Blessing, and My Children

One of my earliest memories of spirituality practiced comes from my Grandma Mary.  Before my family would leave for a trip she would bless my brother and I in Spanish.

When she said the blessing she would first trace a small cross on my forehead, my mouth, and then give me the sign of the cross that Catholics normal do to themselves; forehead, chest and each shoulder. I would then have to kiss the hand that she was blessing me with. I remember my parents blessing me as well as my aunts and uncles.

So, here’s the blessing.

Por la Senal de la Santa Cruz de nuestro enimigos libranos Senor, Dios nuestro. En el nombre del Padre, y del Hijo, y  del Spiritu Santu.

Here it is in English

By the sign of the holy cross deliver us from our enemies Lord, our God. In the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Blessing is a tradition that I have done with my children.

When I put my children to bed I trace the cross on their forehead and say, “Remember that you are beloved child of God.”  I then ask my children to bless me.  My youngest usually traces two crosses on my forehead and says says, “You are a beloved daddy of God.” My old traces one cross and says, “I love you daddy.”  These are blessings I carry with me to bed.

Andy Root writes about prayer, “Prayer forces us to see others as persons; it unleashes the metal claw of individualism to see personhood.” I would say that this goes for blessing as well.

Blessing forces me to see my children not as objects but as subjects. It forces me to recognize their personhood.  During the day when have I sinned against my children, I must apologize to them before I can bless them. I must acknowledge that I acted out of line. I have to acknowledge that the sacred space between us has been violated. I have to acknowledge it and restore it before I bless them.  And, then, we are able to share that sacred space again in a blessing.

Even if you are not spiritual or religious, it might be a good idea to bless your children. Tell them that they matter each night, not only to you, but to the divine, and the universe.

 

 

 

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Mexican Repatriation

The more you know…

Campaigns of mass deportations took place of many Mexicans and Mexican Americans during the 1930s.

After 1931, government agencies undertook well planned deportation campaigns, feeling it was more economical to deport people than have them drain relief sources indefinitely. Coordinators for such initiatives used a variety of approaches. Locally, relief agencies might offer to subsidize the return home for those willing to accept repatriation (or they might threaten others with deportation if they resided in the country illegally; if agreed, officials organized train convoys and escorted the repatriates to the border. Church groups, associations such as the Red Cross, Mexican-American mutual aid societies, and pro-repatriation committees having as the object the humane expulsion of Mexican nationals under their own campaigns, underwrote the cost of the trek to Mexico.

Castillo and De Leon, North To Aztlan (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996), pg 87.

Unfortunately, what this quotes does not tell you is that legal residents of this country were “repatriated” due to the color of their skin. Some think that up to 60% of those who were deported where American citizens.

Here is a more info to read.

America’s forgotten History of Mexican-American ‘Repatriation’

Here is a scene from a movie I love called Mi Familia/My Family that describes what happened.

 

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CWOB: Reimaging and Revisting

A few years ago I posted a few blogs about Communion with out Baptism (CWOB).  In those posts I took a stance against it. You can read earlier posts in the categories section on the right hand side.

I have been rethinking this position lately. Epistemological humility should be paramount to the pastor/theologian. So, I have decided to reevaluate previously held positions and ask some questions.

Questions I have to answer.

  1. Have the sacraments always been viewed in the same way? We do have two thousand years of history of theological development that has come from the church.
  2. Once Lutheran theology developed it’s understanding of the sacraments, does that mean it can’t be further analyzed and readjusted according to culture, context, and history?  When I think of the atonement and how much we have moved from certain models to the current ones, it makes me think that this could be the case for the sacraments.
  3. Could the church, being led by the Spirit, be moved to re-imagine the connections between the sacraments?
  4. Can all of these questions be answered that is faithful to the witness of the scriptures?

So there…

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Sermon Mark 12:28-44

Mark 12:28-44

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

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