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Since pre-historic times, globally, natives have left traces of the Sacred Feminine: temples, sacred wells, jewelry, amulets, pottery, statues, and so much more—all rendered in precious materials wherever found. Each trace suggests its own story of the encounter with the Sacred Feminine.

This day in 1531, a significant story unfolded outside of Mexico City, told by Juan Diego who was walking to the Franciscan mission station to continue his studies as a recent convert to Catholicism. A simple man, though by no means destitute, he prayed while warming himself within his tilma or cloak, a coarse fabric made from the threads of the maguey cactus. As he rounded the hill at Tepeyac, a pregnant woman attired in the garb of an Aztec princess greeted him. She identified herself as the Mother of God and wanted a church built in her honor, a place of succor for the distressed.

Because the archbishop of Mexico City, Fray Juan de Zumárraga demanded an authentic sign from Juan’s heavenly visitor, the woman instructed Juan to fill his tilma with Castilian roses, growing in the rocky outcropping above him, and show them to the archbishop. However, winter’s rigor had already killed off all vegetation in the area. Only cacti lay dormant.

Yet, Juan did as he was told, and the next day he emptied his tilma of the white roses before the archbishop and his advisors. What remained on the tilma was the imprint of this dark-skinned woman with mysterious eyes, still kept in her Basilica, North of Mexico City.

What’s staggering about this story, though, is the integrity of the tilma, subject to scientific scrutiny since the work of Dr. Jose Ignacio Bartolache in 1789, even up to the present NASA research.

So, we do have an intercessor in the Sacred Feminine, close to us. Over the main entrance of her Basilica are carved the words: Am I not here, I who am your mother?”

I completed the first read of Kathleen Dowling Singh’s The Grace in Dying—How We Are Transformed Spiritually as We Die (1998) and was touched by the Latin treatise Ars Moriendi (The Art of Dying) that she references.

Sixty years of horrific deaths caused by the Black Death in Europe led an anonymous Dominican friar to compose this treatise, the long form in 1410 and the short one in 1450. It offered a template within which to view the “the five attacks of the devil,” integral to the dying process. As harsh as this process was, its outcome was deemed good, safe. Loved ones also received instruction on caring for the dying, together with suitable prayers for their transition. The 1450 treatise also contained twelve woodcuts, easily committed to memory by the illiterate.

Dr. Singh posits a psychological dimension to these “five attacks,” articulated in the Chaos phase: the self’s scouring the mental ego of malignancies buried within the psyche. Her corresponding templates enlarge those of the medieval monk’s: Belief/impatience and irritability; Social Contract/greed and avarice; Ego Sant/pride; Philosopher Charlatan/ moroseness; Disillusionment/desperation and agonizing qualms of consciousness. Never have I seen such purification that bespeaks the mystery of our humanness and ultimate destiny. We are are in good hands.

Dr. Singh also affirms the safety in dying and concludes, “In splendor and peace, we remerge with the luminous Ground of Being from which we once emerged.”

 

 

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