After the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, a child asked us "where is the baby Jesus?!" which stands to reason, as all depictions (it seems) show the Virgin holding the Christ-child. Lupita, does not.
The simple answer, of course, is that Jesus remains in her belly! Which at a certain age, it is still as paradoxical as Shroedinger's Cat to many an adult. So many questions followed.... but the humorous anecdotes we shall leave for another day.
The Virgin of Guadelupe is almost an anomaly... for Catholics after the sixteenth-century Tridentine Council. But She is an embodiment of the expectant virgin which since AD 656, is celebrated in the rites canonized by the Councils of Toledo.
The date falling within Advent is quite telling. The feast of the pregnant virgin is instituted for the 18th of December (which begins on the eve, at sunset of the 17th). This ancient feast was declared in order to honor the pregnant Virgin since the March-25th date fell during Lent, when no other feasts, solemnities nor memories of saints was allowed in the national rite of the Goths and those under their rule from Toledo. Most apparitions between March 25th and December 25th, show The Virgin as pregnant, in our tradition.
Guadalupe is not an anomaly. The Virgin of Lourdes appeared in similar guise in what today is France.
So did the Virgin of Fatima, in present day Portugal.
The virgin in the loose robe, with nothing but a bow around her high-waist is not an anomaly. It is part of our symbolic language, tradition and culture as manifested directly from heaven. The baby is inside. The iconography is not accidental.
Actually, before Trent, it was not just in present day Portugal, Spain, France and their respective colonies that one saw a pregnant virgin.
Even the eastern rites maintain their version.
The orthodox have Her as The Virgin of the Sign. The Holy Fetus is depicted fully formed inside a luminous circle which references the "blessed is thy womb" of our Hail Mary.
Such imagery, were it current still... perhaps would help dissuade the Christians who favor abortion? An image of literal love even inside the womb, versus the graphic ones of dismembered fetuses outside of them? (Just rhetorical).
Here are a few examples of the pregnant Virgin (Maria Gravida) from Germany:
And even Italy before the Tridentine Reforms:
And from France:
And of course, Spain:
It is a shame that eventually it became taboo to be pregnant. Even for The Virgin who never showed such a scruple when appearing to her blessed devotees... from antiquity to recent times.
We call her Maria de la O (in reference to the O antiphons intoned in her octave leading to the Feast of The Nativity: Christmas) but also call her Our Lady of the Expectation (she is, after all, expecting child) and also as Maria de la Esperanza: for it is in her uterus that The Savior is gestated... the source of all Hope-Esperanza.
But being enceinte-encintas, that euphemism which references the high-waisted girdle of the pregnant virgin, also remained ingrained in the words we speak. It is still the polite way to refer to any pregnant lady.
Whether the holy fetus in her belly is clearly exposed, or not, she is ripe with child: The Virgin of Advent. And this is Advent. We remember, and thank Her for accepting the task of carrying the baby to term, her labours and the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus...
...sometimes even with a baisemains-besamanos-beija-mão but we'll explore that on another post. Happy Advent!