This year, the liturgical calendar tells us that December 12th is Gaudete Sunday. The popular rhythms emanating from las casas y las calles (houses and streets) tell us, it is also the feast of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.
The third Advent candle is typically colored a dusky rose and roses surround statues of Guadalupe, like those spilling from the tilma of Juan Diego almost five centuries ago.
The spirit of fiesta permeates this day with song. As the sun rises la Virgincita is serenaded by mariachis and las mañanitas. Zephaniah treats us to an image of a troubadour God singing joyfully “as one sings at festivals” (3:17).
Today is a festive day, and the appropriate response is to rejoice! The psalm, drawn from the prophet Isaiah, urges that we “cry out with joy and gladness!” Concheros and matachines process in the streets and dance en las plazas to honor La Morenita.
The convergence of Gaudete Sunday and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe presents us with rich texts to ponder:
· the readings for the 3rd Sunday of Advent;
· the Nican Mopohua, which narrates in Nahuatl, the encounters between Guadalupe and the indigenous Juan Diego.
The rituals of Advent and of the Guadalupan feast are living texts of fiesta. At the intersections of these texts, shared insights emerge.
Each in their own way affirm the accompanying presence of the divine in daily life, acompañando en las luchas (accompanying in the struggles), through trial and suffering, through our worries and burdens, through peace and restoration. Such accompaniment elicits gratitude and rejoicing.
Each set of texts, in their own way, offer reassurance. “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!” Zephaniah encourages (3:16). The nearness of the Lord prompts Paul to urge the Philippians to “Have no anxiety at all” (4:6). “Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy?” Guadalupe asks Juan Diego. “Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you” (Nican Mopohua, 4: 119-120).
Living with the insecurities of the past year we may well have a detailed list in response to Guadalupe’s query “Do you need something more?” The past year of global pandemic, with its waves and surges and almost 800,000 fatalities in the USA alone, make it difficult to let go of legitimate anxieties, the very fears that may have enhanced our chances at survival and protected our loved ones.
“What should we do?” the people asked John the Baptist—and the reply was not complicated. Share your cloak and your food, do what is right and just. “What should we do?” we cried out through these past twenty-two months—and the reply was not complicated. Demonstrate your love of neighbor by wearing a mask. Protect the vulnerable by getting vaccinated. Keep physically distant but not socially apart. Do not promote lies. Resist hate. Agitate for policies and practices that share our national abundance. Watch out for our sick. Mourn our dead. Raise up our children to care about more than only themselves.
“Do you need something more?” “What should we do?”
We need to remember that today is a day of rejoicing, of fiesta—a time to affirm the gift of life, no matter how fragile; a time to confirm that we are indeed accompanied by the divine. Fiestas are not escapes from daily misery, but necessary acts of resistance to suffering, acts of re-membering and restoration en lo cotidiano (in the everyday).
Fiestas are responses of gratitude for the God que nos acompaña (who accompanies us) and rejoicing for the protections offered us wrapped in the embrace of maternal arms.
Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández
Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández
A self-described Hurban@́(Hispanic and urban) theologian, Carmen is Professor of Hispanic Theology and Ministry, and the director of the Hispanic Theology and Ministry Program at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, USA. Her publications include the book Theologizing en Espanglish(Orbis) and numerous chapters and articles on Latin@́theologies, Catholic social teaching, im/migration, sport and theology--with particular attention to béisbol/baseball. She is currently completing ¿El Santo? Baseball and the Canonization of Roberto Clemente, which is under contract with the Sport and Religion series of Mercer University Press. Carmen has presented in a variety of academic and pastoral venues including a conference at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. A past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS), she received their Virgilio Elizondo Award for “distinguished achievement in theology” in 2012. Carmen created Theology en la Plaza column for the National Catholic Reporter. Some of her recent essays are available there as well as in Commonweal. She is also the founding co-editor of the multivolume series Disruptive Cartographers: Doing Theology Latinamente (Orbis).
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