La Cinta

      On this page is a simplified drawing of Our Lady of Guadalupe with her mantle set apart from her gown and the ribbonlike part of clothing called la cinta1.
      Years ago I had gone to a church in Mexico City known as San Francisco El Grande, and spoke with a priest from there, Pbro. Alejandro Molina Luque, and made notes of what he said.  In reference to the ribbonlike part of her clothing, I wrote down: "Este parte en la Virgen de Guadalupe significa que ella esta encinta, una mujer gravida." (This part of the Virgin of Guadalupe signifies that she is with child)
      The word "encinta" is important in meaning, as it signifies that Jesus is within her womb.  The words "una mujer gravida" means a woman (una mujer) in the same maternal condition (gravida).  Gravida also means heavy or weighty, so it could also signify the stage of her condition and that the coming birth of her Child was near.  Her appearance to Juan Diego on December 12th, 1531, when the image was imprinted, was less than two weeks before the anniversary of Christmas, which of course recalls the Nativity of Christ centuries before.          
       To show an idea of how la cinta would look more fully, it was necessary to not only set the mantle apart, but to move her arms from their positions on the tilma, as it appeared they would still cover the rest of the maternal band, as is shown at the right With one arm moved up and the other dropped to the side, the band was made visible going around.   An assumption was made that the loose ends were hanging down from a bow.  On a close examination of the image, there appears to be six or seven of these ends.  The drawing shows six.  It's curious as to why there are more than two ends are falling free.  Were there several bands?  Or was it one band with several ends to be decorative and to beautify.  Of the two,  I would choose the latter possibility.  It doesn't seem very practical to have several pieces wrapping around and I would opt for beauty, as this is fitting for her personage.
       In the simple drawing shown below, the gown is sketched in freely and loosely with color, without all the detail of the original, as is true of the one to the above right. 
       In this same depiction below, Mary is seen standing on a crescent moon, but one that is white, differing from the dark one in the Guadalupan image.  In notes written down, it says the original silver of the tilma turned black.  From this, one could conclude that the moon was not dark in the beginning.  In a large copy of the image, one can see some lighter areas, and on the right side, even a suggestion of a smaller crescent within the larger one.              


      With regard to the undarkened moon, there are differing ways of looking at the moon for symbolism or significance.   If the moon is an element to go with Mary, say as an emblem of her, then a white moon is appropriate to her holiness.  If the moon  is considered as something apart from her as a person, something that she must deal with in regard to others, then darkness could be symbolic of that.   
       Grace comes from God, and we only have what He imparts to us.  Here a comparison I think would help one see the reality of this: the sun shines and its light reflects off the moon, having no light of its own.  In this analogy, think of God being like the sun and each of us being like a moon . We are illumined by the grace of God, but without His "rays" beaming upon us, we won't shine in the universe. 
        Mary has always been full of grace.   I don't know how widely held the following symbolism is, but a crescent moon does stand for her Immaculate Conception. An instance of it is found in the Coat of Arms of Archbishop Myers, who has not one but two crescents honoring Mary under this title.  Another instance of it is in the heraldry of DePaul University, which has a crescent symbolizing Mary, the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of our country.    
       The 17th Century Spanish painter Bartolome Esteban Murillo used the crescent in more than one of his works on the subject of the Immaculate Conception.  Perhaps the best known of these paintings, is the Immaculate Conception of the Venerable Ones or of Soult.
(c. 1678).   In the painting, it's as if she's being drawn toward heaven, dressed in blue and white, gazing upward and surrounded by little angels.
        In the image of Guadalupe, her foot is upon the moon and her portrait here expresses her motherhood of Christ.   So her foot upon the "immaculate moon" fits her very well, as this is her footing for being the Mother of God.   We might think of it as her heavenly pedestal, bestowed on her by God.
        It might be that someone "silvered over" the moon in the original image in a mistaken effort to embellish it.  And what happens to silver?  It tarnishes and turns black; it even stains fingers, necks and clothing, which may account for the way the Guadalupan moon appears today. 
        After I wrote the preceding, I found something on the subject on the website CATHOLICISM.
ORG, an online journal edited by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart (New Hampshire):  The writer said that those who decided to improve on God's work displeased Mary, and "that she permitted the moon, which they had painted silver, to turn black."
         But even a "stained and darkened moon" serves a purpose.  Adam's fateful decision to disobey, left all of us marked with the stain of original sin, which was instigated by what came forth from the head and tongue of the devil.   The darkened moon can signify this stain of original sin and its cause.  Mary's foot upon the Guadalupan moon, can be seen as her stepping upon the work of the devil who tempted and deceived humankind.   Genesis 3:15 says, "...she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel."  
        With the weight of her Son in her womb, she not only steps upon the diabolical, but also upon the shadow of original sin itself
and through her, her Son crushes the effort of the devil for the ruin of souls, if the soul avails itself of the benefit of grace.  Through her instrumentality in His Redemptive work, He vanquishes the darkness of fallen mankind in its most important respect, and opens the way for the brightness of eternal life, on earth and in heaven.

                                                                                          John Riedell

.1La cinta in Spanish is the term for the band of material around her waistThe word cinta also means "ribbon."   Encinta is a word meaning "pregnant", and a mujer encinta is an "expectant mother."   The verb encintar means "to ribbon, to adorn with ribbons." 

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