Have you noticed the line that extends across the entire image of Our Lady of Guadalupe?
As discussed in an earlier article, the tilma upon which Our Lady’s image appears was the quintessential garment for Aztec men at the time. Among a variety of practical uses, the tilma also served as an indicator of a man’s social status, in how it was worn, the material of which it was made and the colors and decoration – or lack thereof.
St. Juan Diego was a poor man of the lower classes in Aztec society, which is demonstrated in the humble tilma he wore. Made of the cheapest material available, maguey fiber; St. Juan Diego wove the tilma himself on a small loom in his home. Further emphasizing his lower status, his loom was too small to weave a tilma in a single piece. The line seen so prominently on the image is the seam which St. Juan Diego wove to connect the two strips of woven maguey fiber into a whole tilma.
What can we learn from this?
First, this demonstrates the saint’s humility. Not only is the material cheap, but the seam goes straight down the middle of the garment where it would communicate his poverty in an especially visible way.
Second, this shows a subtler aspect of the miracle of the image of Our Lady. The seam runs just to the right of her face, broach, hands, belt, the quincunx on her gown, and the face of the figure beneath her feet. Each of these key parts of the image would have been disfigured or obscured were they to have appeared dead center on the garment. From this perspective we can almost see our lady’s head not only bowed in prayer but almost moving slightly to the left of the seam.
Finally, as with so many aspects of the image, there is the unity of things divided; Aztec and European, secular and religious, faith and science, humanity and the divine. The humble chore of sewing together two halves of maguey to make a single garment, speaks in a way to the participation of St. Juan Diego as the ambassador of Mary’s invitation to unity, conversion, and peace through her son, Jesus Christ.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more from your friends at Guadalupe Missions!