Tucked inside the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico is the Chapel of La Conquistadora, translated as “Our Lady of Peace.” Dating back to 1625, the statue at the center of the chapel is considered the oldest representation of the Virgin Mary in the United States while Santa Fe – established in 1610 – is the oldest capital city in the country. It is curious that the translation for the chapel is “Our Lady of Peace” when la conquistadora literally means “Our Lady of the Conquest.” Could it be the case that the word la conquistadora actually signifies both peace and conquest at the same time?
Grappling with this more expansive translation is helpful when discussing the readings for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In these readings, Mary is characterized as the “new Eve,” the one who calls herself the “handmaid of the Lord” after the angel announces to her that she will give birth to the Son of God. Mary's “yes” to the divine will turns on its head Eve's decision to go it alone. In so doing, Mary is responsible for ushering in an era of peace with the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ. And the Savior's coming brings about the ultimate conquest of sin and death. So paradoxically, Mary can be understood as both Our Lady of the Conquest and Our Lady of Peace.
While today's feast itself does not refer to the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, but rather to Mary's own immaculate conception as a woman born free from sin, her surrender to the divine plan prompts believers and people of good will to join in celebration. All peoples this Advent season are not only invited to “sing to the Lord a new song for he has done wondrous deeds” (Ps. 98:1) but also to emulate Mary’s own response, “may it be done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1: 38).
Catherine E. Wilson
Advent comes from the Latin word, adventus – an arrival or a coming. In the context of the season, Advent means that the Lord is coming. Read more of the Advent introduction...
First Week of Advent
Second Week of Advent
Third Week of Advent
Fourth Week of Advent