Ayudános, Madre, en nuestra hora de necesidad...
These words adorn many shrines found throughout the country.
On October 1st, a large procession of people set out from Buenos Aires to the city of Lujan, almost 80 km away (50 miles.) Over 100,000 people make the pilgrimage from the capital to this religious site in honor of the Virgin of Lujan. According to the legend, the Virgin was in a cart being carried from Peru to Brazil, but the cart mysterious stopped in Lujan and wouldn't go any further until the Virgin was removed. There she stayed, and a belief was built up around her. Six million people visit the catedral in Lujan every year to pay homage to the Virgin.
In a recent posting we talked about the role of Jesus in South America. Jesus is the crucified Savior, but is rarely shown in the glory of the resurrection. Jesus is always shown dead, hanging on the cross with a wound in his side.
More important in Catholicism is the role of Mary. Mary, the Mother of God, the perpetual Virgin, the bearer of God and the bringer of help and care. It is believed that Mary has a special, direct connection to Jesus and God. Hence the "Hail Mary."
Hail Mary, full of grace, the LORD is with Thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.
The text comes from various passages within Luke's Gospel, as well as some final remarks about praying for us. If Mary has a special, direct line to God, then she would be the first person they would want to pray to in order to get their hopes, desires, and wishes fulfilled.
More important, however, is the concept of "The Virgin." It is rare to see Mary's name actually invoked; rather, there are dozens of shrines to "the Virgin." The idea of Mary's perpetual Virginity is an important concept in South American Catholicism. Although not a pronounced in Argentina (as opposed to places like Bolivia, Mexico, etc), the idea of the Virgin is an important aspect of the faith. Many trace the roots of Virgin worship to pre-Columbian religious beliefs in the strength and power of Virginity. Often, virgins were the sacrifice to the gods, because they were pure and without fault. The Virgin cultus provides a bridge that continues even into today.
You see shrines to the Virgin in every subway station. There are shrines on every corner. We pass five between our house and the church building (and there isn't even a Catholic church on the way!) Two are dedicated to the Virgin of Lujan; one is dedicated to the Giving Mother; another is dedicated to the Virgin of Guadeloupe; and the other is simply generic.
All this for a woman who is given very little mention in the Bible. Yes, she is highly regarded in the beginning of Luke, and seems to come to faith after the resurrection. (The tradition states that she remains with John until her death.) However, Jesus also says, "Those who do my Father's will are my mother and brothers..."
Faith rests on Jesus Christ and his Death, Burial, and Resurrection. Let's pray in HIS name, and focus our efforts on being more like Christ. Let's ask him to help us in our hour of need, and focus on moving our lives closer to Him and the Father.
God bless you guys! Thanks for your love and support...