Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 8, 2006
Tree revealed image of Mary
Tlaxcala townspeople witness the light of the Virgin Mary's love
Our Lady of Ocotlan – May 18
By TED FITZGERALD
- Photo by Ted Fitzgerald
- Photo by Ted Fitzgerald The people's astonishment is seen in this portrayal of the image of Our Lady of Ocotlan.
Some of the first people encountered by Hernando Cortez and his troops when they landed on the nearby Gulf of Mexico coast a mere 22 years before, had been the Tlaxcalans. From their high homeland in the shadow of imposing Malinche volcano, they became faithful allies of the Conquistadores in the assault on Mexico City that saw the defeat of the Aztec empire in 1521.
Churches in Tlaxcala contain artwork and a baptismal font that memorialize the first conversions to Christianity in Mexico, including those of several local leaders.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Ocotlan is on a hill about 0.6 km from Tlaxcala's city centre. The first half of the walk is a leisurely stroll along busy Av. Juarez. The second half however, is up and up - past the little parish church of the Holy Trinity, through a residential district where no streets are level.
Much later, when the climber reaches a spacious hilltop plaza, the fantastic baroque fa‡ade and twin towers of the Shrine of Our Lady, one of Mexico's most famous pilgrimage sites, loom high overhead. Already a great church when built, it was later honoured with the designation of basilica.
As might be expected, the church interior is spectacularly ornate with several chapels, each displaying intricately-designed retablos dedicated to, for example, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Passion of Christ.
The miraculous image of Our Lady of Ocotlan dominates the main altar reredos. Visitors to the shrine find it a prayerful place with regular Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament taking place between frequent Masses.
Leaving the basilica, the walk back is thankfully downhill, preferably via a long series of stairs that are part of a route for religious processions and that lead to El Pocito, the little chapel. Open daily, this houses a spring created by Our Lady whose waters were used by Juan Diego to cure the town's inhabitants during a plague. It's now enclosed in an attractive little eight-sided building whose inside walls display a series of large paintings depicting events associated with the apparitions and discovery of the image of Our Lady.
The holy water is free and available to all and can be dipped from a deep basin in the centre of the chapel. Outside, a pleasant lady sells a variety of recycled plastic containers for those wishing to take some water home with them.
The people of Tlaxcala celebrate their patron with liturgies and elaborate processions on the first Monday of May each year, with La Bajada followed on the third Monday by La Subita and attribute many miracles and cures to Mary's intercession. Pilgrims leaving the great Shrine of Our Lady of Ocotlan carry a sense of the reverence and devotion of the people with them for a long time.
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