MEXICO: Syriac Maronite community in Chihuahua celebrates Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

CHIHIUAHUA, Mexico – On the occasion of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the American Continent, a communal Syriac Divine Liturgy was held on Sunday, December 12, in praise of the Mother of God in the Syriac Maronite Parish of Saint Sharbel in Chihuahua, Mexico. The Maronite, Armenian, and Melkite communities residing in Chihuahua came together in prayer to invoke the protection of the Mother of God.

The Mass was celebrated in the Maronite rite, according to the Syriac Antiochian tradition, with songs and hymns (ܩ̈ܳܠܶܐ, qole) from Mar Ephrem the Syriac and Mar Balai, but also included a traditional Mexican song in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe known as the “La Guadalupana” hymn.

At the end of the religious ceremony a group of indigenous Mexicans, devotees of the Syriac-Lebanese saint Mar Sharbel Makhlouf, honored Our Lady of Guadalupe in the atrium of the Syriac Maronite Parish with their traditional dances called Matachines.

Mar Ephrem the Syriac (fourth century) wrote many Syriac hymns in honor of the Mother of God, many of which are incorporated in the liturgy of most Syriac churches. The local Mar Charbel Choir sang the hymns of Mar Ephrem to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. According to the local priest, it was a beautiful moment to hear voices sing such ancient Syriac hymns on Mexican soil to praise God through the most venerated devotion in America, the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to the Indian Saint Juan Diego on the mountain of Tepeyac, central Mexico, in December 1531 and left her image on a “tilma” (cloak) worn by Saint Juan. Saint Juan Diego’s tilma has become Mexico’s most popular religious and cultural symbol, and has received widespread ecclesiastical and popular veneration.