Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Brothers and sisters: When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. - Galatians 4:4-5

The ark of the covenant conjures up visions of Indiana Jones these days. To the ancient Hebrews, the ark of the covenant contained their very identity as a people. The ark was a wooden chest which was overlaid with gold and topped off with two cherubim. In the ark were found the the word of God (the law) which was inscribed on stone tablets, a container which contained the manna from heaven which fed the Israelites on their journey through the desert during the exodus, and Aaron's staff which was symbolic of his priestly office. The ark was kept behind the veil of the sanctuary.

Interestingly, the ark was but an image or type which pointed Israel to another ark, the ark of the new covenant, Mary, the Mother of God. Let's think about this for a minute. Whereas the word of God was inscribed on stone tablets in the first ark of the covenant, the Word of God revealed in the person of Jesus was enfleshed in the new ark of the covenant, Our Lady. The first ark of the covenant contained manna from above which nourished the Israelites but despite its ability to nourish they still died, but the new ark of the covenant, Mary most holy, contained the bread which came down from heaven which if eaten will lead to eternal life. The first ark of the covenant contained a staff which was symbolic of Aaron's priestly office, the new ark of the covenant, the Blessed Mother, contained the high priest himself who would offer the perfect sacrifice on Golgotha. Our Lady, the new ark of the covenant, contained not just the identity of Israel, but the glorious hope of the entire human race.

A few other parallels between the ark of the covenant and the Blessed Mother. From the tent of meeting, the smoke from sacrificial offerings would descend and cover the ark which was symbolic of God being amongst the people. At the Annunciation, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Our Lady, and she conceived Emmanuel, God with us. As King David set out into the Judean countryside with the ark of the covenant, so the Blessed Mother set out to the Judean countryside to visit St. Elizabeth. As King David lept and danced around the ark, so St. John the Baptist lept in his mother's womb when Our Lady greeted St. Elizabeth.

And finally, in the Book of Revelation Chapter 11:19 we read, "Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm." This must have caused a stir to the first century Jewish Christians because the ark of the covenant had gone missing centuries earlier. But St. John clarifies his vision with the next description, Revelation 12:1-2,5, "A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod." Some would argue that the "woman clothed with the sun" is a symbolic image of the Church since the Church delivers Christ to the world, and I would agree, but I would also say that Our Lady is the personification of the Church herself since in her very womb she bore Christ, and through his birth, she delivered him to the world.

All of these images proclaim Holy Mary to be the ark of the new covenant. The new covenant is a person, Jesus the eternal Son, true God and true man. It is only fitting that the Blessed Mother, whose very being is centered in her son, Jesus, would have the title Theotokos, "God-bearer" or "Mother of God." This title was dogmatized at the Council of Ephesus in the year 431, thus revealing for all history that Christ's two natures, divine and human, are inseparable, and thus Our Lady could not be merely the mother of the human and not the divine. Since Jesus is God, Holy Mary is the Mother of God.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


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