Third Thursday of Advent: Las Posadas
Rosa G. Manriquez
December 17, 2020
“Holy Cards and Piñatas”
I am a cradle to grave Roman Catholic. And my upbringing in the faith is like everything else in the mestizaje that is my life. My beliefs are the strands of a duality that are tightly woven inviting me to walk a tightrope of morality and mysticism.
My 16 years of education in Catholic schools has made me adept in a Catholicism that is authoritarian, hierarchical, legalistic sometimes to the point of combative and, definitely, Eurocentric. I have been fortunate to have the Immaculate Heart sisters/community to temper the shadow that sometimes threatens this system. They have been the maternal figures supplied with coveted holy cards that guided me through the institutional church and freed me to pick the best of it.
At the same time, I am raised in the embrace of indigenous practices and rituals. It has been a training based on oral narratives, stories, consejos and a daily, lived mysticism. It is a mysticism that acknowledges that time and reality are a blending of the past, present and future. A core principal of life is Familia. Familia is the rock upon which my Church is built and only God comes before Familia. Familia is a reflection of the relationship and community that is God. Where the Eurocentric church emphasizes the kingdom of God, I have been taught the importance of the kinship of God. Thank you, Greg Boyle, SJ.
Familia has been reinforced daily through rituals like blessings administered to us by our parents and grandparents before every notable occasion in life, before travel anywhere from our home and every night before sleep. It has been reinforced through our celebrations like baptisms that create life ties of godparents committed to raising the next generation together. It is reinforced through joyous quinceañeras that celebrate girls entering their Familia and community as young women who will soon guide and nurture the next generation. It is reinforced in the celebration of Dia de los Muertos when we assure that Death will never have the last word as long as we remember those who loved us into being. And there is the celebration of Las Posadas.
My family has a business in the heart of Los Angeles. Olvera Street was the vision of Christine Sterling, a civic leader, who believed a blighted, crime-infested alley could become a showcase of Mexican culture. During the Great Depression, the opportunity to open a small business was a life-saver for my family. In addition to selling authentic Mexican handicrafts, the merchants staged special events showcasing Mexican holidays.
Las Posadas is celebrated from December 16th to December 24th. The merchants dress as angels, shepherds, Joseph or Mary and walk in a musical procession from shop to shop asking for shelter and being refused every night until December 24th when they are recognized as the Holy Family that will soon birth the Divine Verb. Every night the group enters one shop where everyone recites prayers. Then there is a party with music, food and a piñata breaking. Every member of the generations of my family have participated.
Although as children we eagerly anticipated a visit from Santa Claus, in Las Posadas, we lived the true story of Advent and Christmas. We learned that God is with us, but we don’t recognize the Divine when God knocks on our door asking for entrance. We experience the sadness of the most vulnerable, the anawim, being vilified and refused the minimum of humanity and help. We have learned that sometimes we are too preoccupied and fearful to embrace the unconditional love offered to us. Las Posadas demonstrates that we are called to the kinship of God that recognizes our shared membership in Familia, not the Eurocentric, authoritarian, hierarchical kingdom of God.
As long as immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers leave their homes in search of shelter, we will be part of Las Posadas. What part will we perform? In the United States at our borders, we have Mary and Joseph begging for any place to birth a new generation of God with us. Advent is the time to contemplate if we will tell the other to move on or if we will open our doors and rejoice as we break the piñata filled with love, compassion, courage and integrity that is our heart.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM (she/her) is a mother and grandmother living in East Los Angeles. She is a member of the Immaculate Heart Community. She is an ordained Roman Catholic priest and a member of Roman Catholic Womenpriests. She is active in social justice actions for the LGBTQI community and immigrants. She has been active for many years with Call To Action.