When Trinity of Manhattan [N.Y.] Lutheran Church started celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe, it was both early in the day and at a Spanish-speaking worship service nearest that day (Dec. 12).
Several years ago, Spanish-speaking worshipers decided to move their Guadalupe service to a morning bilingual worship to share the tradition with Anglos and African-Americans, who also make up Trinity’s congregation.The day commemorates the vision and miracle when a girl appeared to peasant Juan Diego on a hill outside of Mexico City with instructions to build a temple on the site. When he delivered the message to the local bishop, roses not native to the area fell from Diego’s cloak and an image of the Virgin Mary was impressed on the simple garment.
The first part of Trinity’s celebration, Las Mananitas, occurs at 6 a.m. on Dec. 12. Worshipers leave roses at the altar. They sing songs to Mary, enjoy Mexican sweetbread and a rice drink, and go on to work or school.
The full worship service with flowers and lighting candles often falls on the third Sunday of Advent, said Heidi Neumark, pastor—perfect for the Isaiah 35 reading regarding flowers blooming in the desert. Because mariachi bands are in great demand (and of great expense) on that day, members put together their own group for “lots of music, food and dancing,” she said. Last year the children acted out the Virgin of Guadalupe story.
“The ‘ignorant’ peasant layman was given a word to evangelize the church … like the shepherds of the Christmas story who the angels entrusted with the message of Jesus’ birth,” Neumark said in her explanation of why Lutherans can, and do, celebrate this day. “The Guadalupe is a biblical message. As such it belongs to all Christians.”