Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Meaning Of The Name Of The Blessed Virgin Mary Of Guadalupe

Cuix amo nican nica nimonantzin?
No estoy aqui, que soy tu Madre?
Am I not here, who am your Mother?

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is approaching, when we celebrate the visit and apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Juan Diego in México.

Before the arrival of the True Faith in what is now México, the native people worshipped a multitude of gods. One could make the argument that Satanism is what was being practiced, what with gods who demanded blood sacrifice. Some people may lament that there were codices lost and burned by Franciscan missionaries. Insight into Aztec life might have been useful to historians. However, let us look at some of what has been preserved: bloody scenes of battle, and parents allowing Aztec priests to tears the hearts out of their children. When Hernán Cortés saw this, he was outraged, and saw it as his duty to smash the idols that he saw. Cortés helped to put an end to that, finally, in 1519.

For over a decade, the Franciscans tried their best to convert the Aztecs, but there were very few who came to the Catholic Faith. Paganism was deeply rooted in the Mexican people. One of the few was an Indian by the name of Cuahtlatoátzin (Singing Eagle), and his wife, María Lucía. His wife died in 1529.

Juan Diego would frequently walk from his house in the village of Tolpetlac, to the Franciscan Church at Tlaltelolco. On the Feast of the (Immaculate) Conception of Mary, December 9th (as it was kept in those days by the Franciscans in their calendar) St. Juan Diego was walking to hear Mass. Over the next four days, while walking to church, St. Juan Diego had visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In another post, the entire story, called the Nican Mopohua, will be posted.

Where the visions of the Blessed Virgin happened was on a hill called Tepeyac. This hill, before the arrival of the True Faith, was dedicated to a goddess called Tonantzín. If one looks at the image of Guadalupe, it conveys a great amount of information, almost like an eastern icon. One actually could start with the name. What does Guadalupe mean? Bishop Zumárraga, the Bishop of México, did not speak much Náhuatl, but did have an interpreter, Fr. Juan Gonzales. When Juan Diego and his uncle Bernardino (who also experienced a vision of the Virgin), were asked what the name of the Virgin was, they were astounded to hear the name of Guadalupe, the name of a shrine in the Bishop’s native land of Spain. It is not a name that has any connection with México or the Náhuatl language. Dr. Mariano Rojas of the National Museum of Anthropology of México in 1895 says that the name probably used was “Te Coatlaxopeuh.”

te = stone
coa = serpent
tla = the
xopeuh = crush, stamp out

Her name means that she is the one who will crush the Serpent. She in other words, was identifying herself with the Immaculate Conception, with her name and the date on which she first appeared. Bishop Zumárraga wrote to Cortés on December 24th, 1531, inviting him to the procession taking the image from Tepeyac to the Cathedral of México. In that letter, Bishop Zumárraga refers to the image of Guadalupe as the Immaculate Conception; so he saw that there was a link between the image, the Immaculate Conception, and Genesis 3:15. In her name, we can see that she says she will crush the serpent, and the cruelest serpent to the Aztecs was Quezacóatl, behind whom was Satan. 20.000 people annually were sacrificed to Quezacóatl. In Genesis 3:15, we see that God says that he will put indemnity between he and the woman, and that she will crush his head. In Apocalypse 20:2, the Serpent is specifically identified as Satan.

Our Lady of Guadalupe did have her victory over Satan, as after her visit to México, the greatest mass conversions in history took place, with over 7 million coming to the True Faith in a little over 10 years.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa, or La Giaconda, is probably one of the most famous paintings in the world. It was begun around the year 1503, and was finished by Leonardo Da Vinci in France shortly before his death on May 2nd, 1519. It has stayed in France, mostly, for these past 490 years. After the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre. It was exhibited in Italy for a while after an Italian Patriot stole it, as he felt it should stay in Italy.

In a book by Jean-Pierre Mohen, Mona Lisa: inside the Painting, one can read that all through its history, the Mona Lisa has received exceptional and restrained care. An international commission in 1952 deemed that the care it has received has helped to conserve one of the most famous paintings in the world. This commission recommended that it be restored to remove some layers of varnish, and for some special treatment. It has also been treated with carbon tetrachloride, and later with an ethylene oxide treatment to preserve the painting from an insect infestation. In 1985, the painting was again treated with carbon tetrachloride as a measure to prevent further insect damage. To help with any warping, a crosspiece was installed in 1977.

In 2005, it was moved to a purpose-built, climate-controlled enclosure behind bullet-proof glass in the Salle des États in the Louvre.
Despite all of this work, and experts from around the world, the Mona Lisa will need further work in the next 15 years to fix cracking in the varnish that had been applied in the past century. Without this fixing of the varnish and further preservation, the Mona Lisa could face irreparable damage in the next few decades.

In December of 1531, 12 years after the Mona Lisa was finished, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego in present day Mexico City. She left her image to us, and she is known under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is contemporaneous with the Mona Lisa.
The image of Guadalupe is on a Tilma, an outer garment that was worn by Aztec males, like a cloak, with a long front to it like an apron, and used as a carry all. At the time, and as is the case with the Tilma of St. Juan Diego, it is made of the ayate fibers of the Maguey plant. The normal life span of such a garment is around 20 years. As of 2009, it has been 479 years since the Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe appeared in 1531.
For roughly the first 160 years, the Tilma of St. Juan Diego hung in damp air and before the emissions of numerous candles in the Chapel of Tepeyac. There was no glass to cover the image. No soot appears to have ever damaged the Tilma. Dr. Phillip Callahan of the University of Florida studied the image in 1979. He records that a single votive candle can put out in its life over 600 microwatts of ultraviolet light. If you multiply this over hundreds of thousands of candles over centuries, and it is an intolerable environment for a painting. That much ultraviolet light should destroy any painting. It is not a painting though, at least by human hands. Numerous people also touched the image.
In 1791, roughly when the French Revolution happened and the Mona Lisa was moved to the Louvre, the Gold and Silver Frame around the Image of Guadalupe was being cleaned. The image was miraculously preserved when Nitric Acid used to clean the Gold and Silver spilled onto the image. The only trace of this disaster is what appears to be a watermark.
The image is 479 years old, yet the image cannot be reproduced. The colours are as vibrant today as 79 years ago, as vibrant as they were 479 years ago. The fibers of the Tilma are as pliable now as a new Tilma, despite its age.

On Monday the 14th of November 1921, in the midst of Government Anti-Catholic activity, Mass was being said in the Basilica of Guadalupe. at 10:30 AM a bomb, placed by a Mexican government agent, Luciano Perez, went off right below the Image of Guadalupe. The bomb had been hidden in a wreath of flowers, and heavily damaged a nearby Altar, and much of the surrounding masonry.

A Bronze and Iron Cross right underneath the Image was bent over by the explosion, so powerful was the blast, as can be seen above. The image of Guadalupe was untouched, with even the thin glass that was in front of the image undamaged. Miraculously, none of the faithful who were present at the Mass were injured either. As a side note, After having ascertained that everyone was alright, Father Juan Bautista Rangel Avila had a Server summon the police, and then continued to say Holy Mass.
This is just a brief, very brief history of the Mona Lisa, and the Image of Guadalupe. They are both roughly the same age. One is one of the most famous paintings in the world, having received the attention of the world's Art experts, and roughly 20 million dollars worth of restoration.
The other, we Catholics hold to be the image of Our Blessed Lady, is an image that is on Ayate fibers from the Maguey plant. The Tilma should have disintegrated about 460 years ago, had been exposed to the Salt Marshes of Mexico City, had countless people touch it, was exposed for 160 years without protection, had acid spilled on it, and survived a Terrorist Bomb.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Feast of St. John the Baptist, 2013

June 24th is the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

Normally, we as Catholics celebrate the dies natalis, or birthday in Heaven of a Saint, Meaning the day of their death.  There are two notable exceptions in the Calendar of the Catholic Church.  One is the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord, and St. John the Baptist.  June 24th is the day we commemorate his birth.  The day we observe his beheading and martyrdom is the 29th of August. If we add in various other days in the Eastern Catholic Calendar, St. John the Baptist has 6 days dedicated to him, one of the few Saints to have multiple Feast days.

Why so many days for St. John the Baptist? What is so special?

From these here on out, the days are beginning to grow shorter. This feast day is in a sense, a midsummer's Christmas Eve. This day holds so much promise, the birth of a babe to barren parents. The true prodigy is still yet to come, a babe born of a Virgin, indeed the Saviour of the world on Christmas Day.

From the very beginning, God and Holy Mother Church bring about with thoughtful care many such parallels between the two Solemnities of the birth of St. John and the birth of the Lord. Just as the Angel announced to barren parents that they would conceive, the Angel also announces to Mary that she would bear a child.  St. John, just like in many statues in our Churches, is always pointing to the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, "Behold, this is he! The one whose sandalstraps, I am not worthy to loosen!"

Ut Queant Laxis is the first line of a hymn in honor of St. John the Baptist. The Roman Breviary divides it into three parts and assigns the first, "Ut queant laxis" to Vespers. The second, "Antra deserti teneris sub annis", to Matins, the early morning prayer. The third, "O nimis felix, meritique celsi", to Lauds. Authorship of the hymn is generally credited to Paulus Diaconus, a Benedictine monk who lived in Lombardy during the 8th Century. A popular story amongst the Benedictines is that Paul the Deacon was to chant the Exsultet for Easter, but had a hoarse voice. Being as the Father of the Baptist lost his voice for disbelief with the birth of his son, Paul the Deacon prayed to St. John the Baptist that his voice be restored enough to chant for the Easter Vigil.

The hymn is written in Sapphic stanzas, meaning a type of poetry written over four lines. This first line is famous in the history of music for the reason that the notes of the melody correspond with the first six notes of the diatonic scale of C. This fact led to the syllabic naming of the notes as Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, as may be shown by capitalizing the initial syllables of the lines:

UT queant laxis
REsonare fibris
MIra gestorum
FAmuli tuorum,
SOLve polluti
LAbii reatum, Sancte Ioannes.

The UT has been replaced by DO as that has an open sound that is easier. So even is you have not heard much of this hymn to the Baptist, you know something of it, as we now have Do Re Mi from it.

Here is a Slide Show of images of Mission San Juan Bautista in California set to Ut Queant Laxis as chanted by the Schola Sanctae Sunnivae & Hartkeriana.

Ut queant laxis resonare fibris
Mira gestorum famuli tuorum,
Solve polluti labii reatum,
Sancte Iohannes!

Nuntius celso veniens Olympo
te patri magnum fore nasciturum,
nomen et vitae seriem gerendae
ordine promit.

Ille promissi dubius superni
perdidit promptae modulos loquelae;
sed reformasti genitus peremptae
organa vocis.

Ventris abstruso positus cubili
senseras regem thalamo manentem,
hinc parens nati meritis uterque
abdita pandit.

Laudibus cives celebrant superni
te, Deus simplex pariterque trine,
supplices ac nos veniam precamur:
parce redemptis! Amen.

So that these your servants can,
with all their voice, to sing your wonderful feats,
clean the blemish of our spotted lips.
O Saint John!

An angel came from the heavens
to announce your father
the greatness of your birth,
dictating your name and destination.

He (Zacarias) doubted of these divine promises
and was deprived of the use of the speech;
but when you were born it recovered
the voice that had lost.

Still locked in your mother's breast,
you felt the King's presence housed in the vestal womb.
And prophet, before being born,
you revealed this mystery to your parents.

Now as the Angels celebrate thy praises,
Godhead essential, Trinity co-equal ;
Spare thy redeemed ones, as they bow before thee,
Pardon imploring. Amen.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Visit to Fifi, The World's Only Flying B-29

Edwin Duty was a mechanic in Salinas, CA in the 1940’s.  He was newly married with the outset of World War II.  With a skill set that was highly sought after, he was drafted into military service even though his age at the time would have normally excluded him. 

Through many trials, including basic training in Florida, he was eventually assigned to the Army Air Force, where he worked on the Boeing B-29, the Super fortress as a mechanic.  He achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant in the Army Air Force, serving in the 10th Maintenance Battalion.  The 769th Bombing Squadron, 462nd Group was stationed in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, British India.  They flew over “The Hump,” the Himalayas, to China. 

I have heard a few stories about Edwin Duty and the time he spent in India and China.  Although he never spoke much about his time there, there are little bits and pieces that can be placed together about this mechanic who serviced one particular B-29.

There is now only one flying, operational B-29 left in the world, and she is called “Fifi.”  After World War II, she eventually made her way to the China Lakes Range in California, where she was used as a bombing target.  In 2010, she was fitted with engines form another type of airplane, and now she goes on two month tours of the country.

On the Vigil of the Feast of St. Joseph, our family was blessed with the opportunity to see Fifi fly and land at Camarillo Airport, about an hour north of Los Ángeles.  After Holy Mass for Passion Sunday, we got ready, and made our way down to Camarillo, about a four drive.  Camarillo is the Southern California base for the Commemorative Air Force, a group that has as its mission to preserve antique aircraft.  Fifi surely is an antique, as she will turn 68 years old this year.  She rolled off the assembly line on the 31st of July, 1945.

It was a nice pleasant drive on over to Camarillo, home to the Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of Los Ángeles, and nearby in Simi Valley is the Ronald Reagan Library. 

From about Camarillo on, it seems like it is all strip malls and auto dealers until you reach San Clemente two hours later.  We had a room with a balcony, and it had a nice view  of the very busy Highway 101.  Traffic just seemed to be going on all day and night. 

Monday came, and we got ready for Fifi.  The CAF website said that Fifi would be getting in around Noon, and that it would be ready for viewing around 1400hr.  We had a quick lunch at Costco, and then made our way on over to Camarillo Airport.  We got a spot on a side street by the runway and waited for Fifi.

And waited.

And waited. 

And waited. 

We called the CAF at the airport, and they informed us that Fifi was indeed running late, about 2 and a half hours late.  It was like waiting for a regular flight.  We had a laptop, so we watched Rifftrax shorts to pass the time.  People who knew Fifi would be coming were milling about, some with rather nice lenses on their cameras.

Just about everyone in our family has sharp eyesight.  At around 1438hrs. they could spot this HUGE plane with several smaller planes surrounding it. 

It was Fifi!

Then we could hear the roar of the engines.   Gradually, we could see that Fifi has an escort of various fighter planes like British Spitfires, and American P-51 Mustangs. 

It was a magnificent sight!  It overflew us going west, and then circled off in the distance.  About 20 minutes later, the escorts started to land, and then it was Fifi’s turn. 

Here is a video we shot of Fifi landing.  For some reason or another, it does not want to embed within this post, so here is the link to it at youTube:

After waiting for two and a half hours, it was time to freshen up a bit, and then head on over to the airport.  There was a bit of a line to see Fifi, but it moved along at a nice clip.

Here are some pictures of Fifi when we took our tour.  As I am not familiar with the intricacies of this or any type of plane, I will just post some pictures here.  I would probably make errors in identifying the various parts anyways.

It was a good experience to witness a part of American military history, especially to see this plane fly.

I never got to meet Edwin Duty, which is my loss.  I would like to think that we would have gotten along well, and I would have loved hearing some of his stories from China and India.  I believe that he would have enjoyed seeing the four great-grandchildren his granddaughter had.

Thank you for your service to our country, Mr. Duty.  Thank you as well for the beautiful granddaughter you gave me as a wife, for I love her very much.  We will meet in the next life.

Requiem  aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

 Edwin “Ed” Duty
(Back row, furthest right)