Thursday, November 8, 2012

Before Guadalupe: False Gods & the Culture of Death

Reposted for new Sky View readers:

Sacrificing Innocence:

I once read that “false gods demand innocent blood.” The truth of that statement is undeniable. The innocent suffer under false religions and godless ideologies. Whether it be the cult of human sacrifices in ancient world or the cult of the State which oppressed and liquidated its citizens in modern times, there is a false god demanding innocent blood.

But when Jesus Christ dethrones these false gods by being accepted into the hearts of the people, His Holy Sacrifice to the Father, perpetuated throughout time and manifested on every Catholic altar, quenches and appeases this animal-like blood thirst. This craving for the shedding of innocent blood is not just the trait of barbaric and uncivilized people. No. It is to be found in the most civilized parts of the world wherever the true God was not worshiped. No doubt, it is a perverse but ever so common desire which is the result of sin and fallen human nature. But the truth is that human guilt longs for its own expiation through the shedding of innocent blood.

Perhaps this is why Catholics receive the Innocent Blood of Christ from the consecrated hands of priests. From the altar comes atonement for sin and healing for the soul. For those who receive the Eucharist with faith, human dignity shines all the brighter in their hearts of minds. When a people benefit from the blessings of this Holy Sacrament, the innocence of every life becomes more self-evident, sacred and inviolable. And because the blood of the Lamb expiates our human guilt, no other “innocent blood” is needed. But unbelievers and pagans have to find it elsewhere. They look for it in abortion clinics, in the destruction of human embryos, in Hollywood’s glorification of violence and death, in inner-city crime, in the practice of euthanasia in hospitals, in Islamic jihad and the list goes on. Outside of God, the search for atonement always comes at the expense of the innocent.

As we shall see, religious doctrine and ritual do have social and political consequences. Even for those who claim to reject all forms of religion, something or someone is held up as supreme. And that which is supreme, whether it be the State or self, demands obedience. In either case, the master to be obeyed quite often turns out to be cruel and authoritarian. So you see, the choice is never between the belief in God or not believing in God at all. Rather, people must choose between the true God who is the Father of all and the false gods, whatever these gods may be. One thing for sure: The worship of these false gods will inevitably involve human cruelty.

Mexico is a fine illustration of how a false religion- both in its ritual and political form -exploited people. Its history also shows that through God’s intervention a people can be saved from the misery of false religions and oppressive rulers. And it further reminds us how sanctity, civility and progress can be squandered. Indeed, once demons have been driven out of a nation and the Holy Spirit ushered in, more demons than before will return if moral and spiritual defenses are relaxed. As our Lord said, "When an unclean spirit goes out of a person it roams through arid regions searching for rest but finds none. Then it says, 'I will return to my home from which I came.' But upon returning, it finds it empty, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and brings back with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they move in and dwell there; and the last condition of that person is worse than the first. Thus it will be with this evil generation." (Matthew 12:43-45)

A World Without Christ:

Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance to St. Juan Diego in December of 1531 transpired ten years after the Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes and the Spanish Conquistadors conquered the Aztecs in 1521. The Aztec civilization was probably the most advanced in the Western hemisphere during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Yet, it was plagued by the culture of death.

Upon arriving in the New World (i.e. Caribbean Islands, Cuba and Mexico), what the Spanish explorers found absolutely shocked their Christian sensibilities. Pyramids and temples were set up everywhere for human sacrifices. For instance, Huitzilopochtle, the Aztec god of war, demanded human sacrifices; this, according to the natives. On Tepeyac Hill, where our Lady eventually appeared to St. Juan Diego, there was once a great devotion to the goddess Tonantzin. Her cult too demanded innocent blood.

According to one source, Cortez learned that surrounding but smaller Indian nations were ruled by the Aztec emperor Montezuma II. Captives from the wars waged against these smaller nations were offered for human sacrifice. According to Dianna Cary, author of Cortes and the Valiant Little Ladies, in one community of conquered Indians there was a blood tribute of 25,000 human sacrifices a year. They would even fatten these captives for a more worthy sacrifice. The author went to say that in each town there were temples or pyramids made of stone topped with small wooden apartments, housing hideous idols of the Indians’ blood thirsty gods. However, “when Cortes [devoted to the Blessed Virgin] discovered the purpose of these caged captives, he ordered their release; he then had temples cleansed, the images cast down and a crucifix and a Madonna placed on an altar atop each pyramid.”

Bernal Diaz: An Eye Witness

One of the more trustworthy eye witness sources of what the Spaniards discovered was Spanish historian Bernal Diaz. He accompanied Cortes and chronicled the events as the Spanish expedition traveled from territory to territory. Upon meeting Montezuma II, the emperor of the Aztec Empire, a team of Spaniards were taken on a tour to the inner chamber of palaces and temples. Some of the places, like the other conquered nations, had hideous idols with human blood splashed on the walls in order to appease the gods and idols. Two such idols were Huichilobos and Tezcatepuca. Bernal Diaz reports the following gruesome details:

“They had offered to this idol five hearts from that day’s sacrifices. In the highest part of the Cue…both walls and altar, and the stench was such that we could hardly wait the moment to get out of it.”  Elsewhere he reported that just how cruel the ritual of human sacrifice was:

When they sacrifice a wretched Indian they saw open the chest with stone knives and hasten to tear out the palpitating heart and blood, and offer it to their Idols in whose name the sacrifice is made. Then they cut off the thighs, arms and head and eat the former at feasts and banquets, and the head they hang up on some beams, and the body of the man sacrificed is not eaten but given to these fierce animals.”

The Spaniards, in good conscience, did not pretend in any way that the Aztec religion was worthy of respect nor did they hesitate to condemn it as evil. In fact, when Cortes and his men convened with Montezuma II, they told the emperor upfront just how evil the false gods and idols were. The Spanish historian describes the meeting:

“Our Captain said to Montezuma through our interpreter, half laughing: ‘Senor Montezuma, l do not understand how such a great Prince and wise man as you are has not come to the conclusion, in your mind, that these idols of yours are not gods, but evil things that are called devils, and so that you may know it and all your priests may see it clearly, do me the favor to approve of my placing a cross here on the top of this lower, and that in one part of these oratories where your Huichilobos and Tezcatepuca stand we may divide off a space where we can set up an image of Our lady (an image which Montezuma had already seen) and you will see by the fear in which these Idols hold it that they are deceiving you.’”

Needless to say, the Aztec emperor took great offense to what was said by the captain. He defended his gods as good and worthy of respect. Montezuma even felt compelled to pray and offer sacrifices on behalf of the “blasphemy” against the gods. Nevertheless, during his visits with the Aztecs, Cortes, on many occasions, explained the Christian Faith to them. Although he had to denounce the evil of human sacrifices, there were commendable aspects of the Aztec religion.

To make a long story short, the Aztec Empire was eventually conquered in two short years (1519-1521) by the Spaniards. They managed to develop allies with the other conquered Indian nations and eventually Montezuma himself was killed by his own Indians in a battle. And probably the most welcomed result of this conquest was that majority of human sacrifices had ceased.

A Prophesy: The One True God

There is something else which lent itself to the pacification of Montezuma II and his Aztec Indians. There is a reason why the Aztec Indians were not decisive in defeating the Spanish Conquistadors when the opportunity presented itself. Although the Spaniards had superior arsenal for battle, they were outnumbered a thousand to one (at the very least). They should have been defeated by these odds.

Dr. Charles Wahlig wrote a piece entitled, The Aztec Empire and Civilization. In it he makes reference to a prophesy by an Indian named Quetzalcoatl. He was the king of the Toltecs in the 800’s (about six hundred years before Columbus sailed for the New World) and he “taught the Toltecs of the existence of a Supreme Being, the Creator of all things, whose help and blessings they were to seek through worship and adoration that did not involve human sacrifice.” However, around 890 A.D. Quetzalcoatl was forced to leave his throne and he promised to return in 1519 to rule Mexico again. Dr. Wahlig adds that “his teaching about the true God was revived by the king of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl, in the middle of the fifteenth century…just a hundred years before the arrival of the Spanish explorers and missionaries. It was in 1519, as you recall, that Cortes and the Conquistadors brought the Catholic Faith the America’s.

Kindness from Heaven:

For the next ten years after the Aztec Empire had been subdued by the Spaniards. During this time period the Aztec Indians felt defeated and as such, they were resistant to the Gospel. The Franciscan missionaries enjoyed little success in making converts.

However, that all changed when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a native of the region, in December of 1531. Juan Diego had converted to Catholicism in 1525 and had received instructions on the Faith for six years. On Tepeyac Hill where the goddess Tonantzin was worshiped and human sacrifices performed, a new beginning dawned for the Indians.

The Blessed Virgin had come to bring the light of the Gospel to America herself. In contradistinction to the goddess Tonantzin, the “ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God” came to bring healing and consolation…not death. As a compassionate Mother who wants the best for her children, she came to give to the Aztec Indians the greatest gift she could give, namely, her Son. Cortes tore down the cult that demanded scores of human sacrifice. Our Lady of Guadalupe, on the other hand, came to build-up a confused and downtrodden people by leading them to the clean oblation of her Son at the Mass. And she further promised to heal the infirmed uncle of Juan, not to have him sacrificed on some pyramid. With affection, therefore, she spoke to Juan Deigo, not as a subject, but as a son. She said to him:

“Know and understand well, you the most humble of my son, that I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows… Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything. Do not be afflicted by the illness of your uncle, who will not die now of it. Be assured that he is now cured.”

On the spot where she appeared, Our Lady of Guadalupe requested that church be built in her honor so that the downtrodden Indians could participate in her Son’s Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, one that is life-giving and supremely pleasing to God. From there, the cultural prosperity of Mexico soon rivaled that of America and Europe.

Please read the conclusion: "After Guadalupe: Rise and Fall of a Catholic Culture."