For approximately 3,000 years before Our Lady’s apparition to St. Juan Diego at Tepeyac Hill outside of Mexico City from December 9-12, 1531, the Aztecs and other peoples of Mexico, Central America, and (what later became) the Southwest USA told 'song-poems' about a 'paradise lost' and the desire to regain it.
The oldest of these and considered to be the 'origin song’ of the genre bears a striking similarity to the Nican Mopohua, the official Aztec account of the Guadalupe Apparition. In it, the singer-hero does the same thing that St. Juan Diego later did. Of course, there was no apparition of the Virgin; instead, the singer-hero speaks with hummingbirds and other exotic tropical birds.
He enters a 'paradise' full of flowers that glow and emits light and he hears ethereal, otherworldly music and is told to gather the flowers up in his tilma and bring them back to his lords to make them happy. As it happens, he only imagines it and concludes that he isn't 'worthy' to enter this place, which is called the 'Flower World Paradise.'
The song turns into a lament, and song-poems over the next few millennia express a desire to regain paradise and how to become worthy to enter this 'Flower World Paradise.'
When Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego, the entire event played out exactly like the 'origin song,' except that the ‘singer-hero' (St. Juan Diego) was successful. He did enter a paradisal realm and successfully retrieved the flowers in his tilma and returned them to his lords and made them happy (the Bishop and Friars.) The Nican Mopohua account is like a sequel to or the conclusion of the ‘origin song.’ The first singer-hero failed in his quest, but in the final chapter, another, and more worthy than he, takes his place and saves the day.
The Aztecs discover the answer to their paradise lost song-poems. Paradise can be regained, and access to it is through the Blessed Virgin Mary to her Son, Jesus Christ. And they need to be baptized to achieve that.
The entire symbolism of the Apparition drew heavily on Aztec symbolism and archetypes, linking Christianity to their old beliefs (without being syncretic,) excepting that Baptism and accepting Jesus as the Saviour is the only way to enter this 'Flower World Paradise.' This was important, as the Aztecs had an aversion to anything ‘new.’ New ideas, new religions, new (to them) ‘anything’ hasn’t been tested and therefore is likely false as it lacks credibility. (The root of which means ‘believable.’) But, the entire story of the Apparition, along with the vocabulary choices of Our Lady and the Miraculous Image of her on St. Juan Diego’s tilma demonstrated that the Gospel wasn’t ‘new,’ but instead had roots in the Aztec’s mythos and brings their unfulfilled hopes and yearnings to completion. And so, it is ‘true.’
This is the subject of “Guadalupe and the Flower World Prophecy: How God Prepared the Americas for Conversion Before the Lady Appeared” by Joseph Julián González and Monique González and published by Sophia Institute Press. This book answers a lot of questions as to why conversions went from almost nil in the first decade of Spanish rule to nearly 10 million souls within a few years of the Apparition. Other books describe the symbolism of the Guadalupe Image on the tilma and go into detail about all that, including Mary’s words to St. Juan Diego. But “Guadalupe and the Flower World Prophecy” goes deeper into Mesoamerican history and anthropology to explicate all of that symbolic imagery and language. This is not the fault of the scholars of other Guadalupe books; the Flower World Paradise song-poems have only recently been understood.
It should answer any remaining skepticism as to the reality and validity of the Apparition.
If you are a devotee of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego, then you must have this book. It puts the Apparition in its proper historical context.
The authors are not professional historians or anthropologists and this brings them down to our level; they worked hard to understand all this arcane history and they convey this understanding quite well since they ‘speak our language.’ “Guadalupe and the Flower World Prophecy” is accessible, and well-written with clarity. They carefully walk the reader through the unfamiliar cultural and anthropological landscape so that we can adequately grasp the full implications of the account and the image of Our Lady on the tilma.
You come away with an appreciation and awe for God’s Divine Providence in planting seeds of truth in pagan cultures that enable them to recognize the Gospel as their own and as not some foreign Semitic or European import. This concept has a name: “Praeparatio Evangelica,” or, “evangelical preparation.” It is not new, it originated in the Early Church as the Church Fathers began identifying the foreshadowing of the Gospel in pagan Greek thought. In pagan cultures, God’s Praeparatio Evangelica prepares them so that when Catholicism arrives, even after millennia, the people will see something recognizable in it; a ‘bridge,’ so to speak, that connects them with the Gospel. Without any syncretism, the Gospel of Christ Jesus is proven to be universal as it incorporates indigenous signs and symbols that point to Jesus as the One True God and Our Lady as His Mother.