We have entered the season where Santa Maria and Santa Claus have their grand smack down.
You can see the contenders in the left corner. The WWF would be thrilled.
Because this is Mexico, you would think that Our Lady of Guadalupe with her magic cape would be the hands down favorite. And she is. Even though the Turkish Saint has his big supporters.
For the last few days my village has hosted nightly parades where the neighbors take the spirit of Our Lady from home to home. I always know when the spiritual moving van is ready to move on. Our village band does it best impression of a cross between a Klezmer combo and an Italian-German polka group.
Whoever is not alerted by the band will get a heads up with the repeated "pow" "pow" "pow" of the town crier cohetes.
These processions are always a joy to watch. Dancing clubs of men and women, dressed as Indians (owing their costumes more to Las Vegas than to tradition) and dancing dances that are every bit as invented as "traditional" Scottish dances, march beside mainly women and children from the neighborhood.
Some of them dressed in their Revolution Day outfits left over from last month, that also serve as their Independence Day garb. Think of it as recycling of fiesta wear.
But it is not merely a spectacle. Our Lady is the patron saint of Mexico. A fortuitous mystical event that allowed the Catholic Church to incorporate a very popular Aztec goddess into its sub-trinity. What we would now call a hostile corporate takeover.
She is beloved over almost everything else in this country. Her Feast Day on the 12th is sacrosanct. Mexico's secular constitution has no place for her. The day is not an official holiday. However, her place of honor is in the hearts of Mexicans. And nothing will get done today or tomorrow. Holiday or not.
Last night, Our Lady had taken up spiritual residence a block from my house. In this shot, Mass is in progress.
The house where her spirit resided that night was my neighbor Rosie's. I met Rosie when she was a cook at Rickie's place. We took language classes together. English for her. Spanish for me. I see her every day at her lunch stand on the intersection in the photograph.
Here, she is standing in the background. Looking as proud as any young woman can that the virgin has come to stay with them briefly and that she can share that spirit with her neighbors.
Mary is not a big tradition amongst the protestant sects where I have worshiped. So, the connection to this ceremony does not touch me in the same way it touches my neighbors.
When the priest delivered his homily, I could understand a large part of it -- because we share the same theology. Christ's incarnation. Forgiveness of our sins. How God uses regular people like Mary to do extraordinary things.
During The Troubles in Northern Ireland, the composer Graham Kendrick wrote a song to be sung by multi-denominational marchers as they walked through the troubled streets.
Peace be to these streets! (x 3)I have often wondered what would happen if our local church joined with the two Catholic churches and other clergy to hold a similar walk. Nothing political. Just a prayer that peace could come to our streets.
In the name of Jesus
Peace be to these streets (x 3)
In the name of Jesus
Walk here Lord
Draw near Lord
Pass through these streets today
Bring healing, forgiveness
Here let your living waters flow
Tonight it hit me. That is exactly the message each of these processions carries. A prayer that, as we celebrate God's incarnation, we should live up to the peace that He offers.
That is the Christmas gift I got last night. And I share it with you.
I suspect Santa Claus is going to get pinned in the first twenty seconds of the first round.