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The Ark, Lost and Found

Mary, as the new ark of the covenant, is my favorite Old Testament type ~ designed and built for beauty inside and outside, dwelled over by God’s Shekinah glory, bearing within the visible law, manna, and priestly prop, treated with the utmost respect and joy. Everything in the Old Testament is a picture, a perfecting, a positioning of the New Testament.

maryark2The ark of the covenant:
• Was overshadowed by God’s glory (Exodus 40:34),
• Contained the stones of the ten commandments, a pot of manna, and the first priest Aaron’s budded staff (Hebrews 9:4),
• Was sent to the hill country for three months when Uzzah was killed for unlawfully touching it (2Samuel 6:1-11),
• Was leapt before by King David when it came home (2Samuel 6:14),
• Was hidden and lost (2Maccabees 2:5-8)

maryarkAnd Mary:

• Was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35),
• Contained Jesus, the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5;17), Bread from heaven (John 6:35), and our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14),
• Went to the hill country for three months to visit Elizabeth (Luke 1:39),
• Was leapt before by John (Luke 1:44),
• Was found, revealed by God to John (Revelation 11:19—12:1 ~ there were no chapter distinctions in the originals).

Athanasius and Gregory the Wonder-Worker (third century) sang and wrote of Mary as the ark ~ covered in gold within and without and holding the treasure of the sanctuary. I read a statement by protestant preacher R.C. Sproul, that “The presumptuous sin of Uzzah was this: he assumed his hands were less polluted than the dirt.” Well, no sir. His sin was disobeying God and touching the sacred vessel, a picture of Mary’s sacred virginity.

The final point above puts Mary in heaven, bringing us to the feast of her assumption, which we celebrate in a few days. Formally defined as dogma in 1950 as, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory,” we find writings about our blessed mother’s assumption from the honored sixth century author Gregory of Tours’ Eight Books of Miracles (and even centuries earlier in obscure texts). This story is not found in Scripture, but has clearly been believed and written about since before the New Testament was in place and it is certainly not an un-scriptural concept, as there are other “weird heaven-goings of holy people” like Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2Kings 2:11) being caught up to heaven body and soul.

“There (heaven) in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity, in the communion of all the saints, the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother.

In the meantime the mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise, she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim people of God (CCC 972).”

Hail, kecharitomene (“were, and are, full of grace”)! We celebrate your assumption; you are with your Son now! We love Him, too, and look forward to the day we follow you to Him.

arkmary1

For more in-depth expositions, see

Catholic Answers
Saint Peter’s List
New Advent

 

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Advent Apologetics Ecumenism Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mary Sacred Scripture Tiffany P

Mary: More Than a Minor Role in the Christmas Story

 

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In many non-Catholic Christian traditions, the time of year has arrived in which it is deemed acceptable to remember Mary, the woman who gave birth to Christ in a barn and laid him to sleep in a manger. Despite year-round condemnation of the use of statues to remember people and events in Church history, nativity scenes are being put on display in front yards and fireplace mantles, featuring small figurines of angels, the three wise men, Infant Jesus, and even St. Mary and St. Joseph.

As a way of disassociating themselves with what they perceive as an idolatrous focus on Mary, many of our Protestant brethren have retreated to the other end of the extreme, limiting Mary’s mention only to Christmastime. Even during, her role is portrayed as minor. Many evangelical Protestant Christmas plays will focus their attention on the angels, shepherds, and the three wise men as the lead roles, while Mary is portrayed by an actress wearing robes, sitting silently in the barn holding an infant—or sitting at a distance away from the infant who lays in the manger. There is little mention of the events leading up to this birth, such as her visit with Elizabeth, who upon noticing the presence of Jesus with Mary says, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear” (Lk. 1:42); as such, there is little depiction of Mary’s proclamation in response, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on, all generations will call me blessed (Lk. 1: 46-48).

However, the small role Mary plays around Christmas time is very generous in comparison to the amount of attention given to the Blessed Mother throughout the rest of the year, despite the focus on other Biblical women who serve as godly examples, such as Esther, Leah, or Sarah. This raises the question for these Sola Scriptura Protestants, where in the Bible is their backing for this purposeful discarding of Jesus’ Mother? Though I was taught to back everything up with Scripture alone in my own evangelical Protestant days, it never occurred to me to find in Scripture where it says anything on the lines of “pay no mind to Mary, for she can do nothing for you”. Mary was simply associated with “unbiblical” Catholic traditions, and we wanted no part of that.

As the Church Teaches and Scripture confirms, Mary’s role in our Christian life begins before and continues beyond her labor and delivery in the barn. Mary, having physically carried Jesus into the world, is the Ark of the New Covenant.  Just as the Ark of the Old Covenant was made of pure gold, not to be touched with man’s bare hands lest it become blemished (Ex. 25:10-21), the Ark of the New Covenant was also prepared by God to be the personified version of gold and unblemished: born without the stain of original sin. Not through her own power, but through God’s preparation for her to carry the New Covenant into the world. This belief does not elevate Mary to a level of worship, but magnifies our deep love for Jesus: would we want any less than perfect for our God?

Mary is not the first to be conceived without sin; as we read in the book of Genesis, Eve was also created without the stain of original sin. However, upon her failure to uphold this pure life, she brought sin—and therefore death—into the world. Mary, having also been born without the stain of original sin, becomes humanity’s second chance. In upholding her sinless state through God’s power, she brings Jesus—and therefore life—into the world.

The early Church fathers wrote extensively about Mary as the “New Eve”:

“the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.” –St. Irenaeus, 180 AD

“For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied, ‘Be it unto me according to thy word.’ And by her has He been born, to whom we have proved so many Scriptures refer, and by whom God destroys both the serpent and those angels and men who are like him; but works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon Him.”  –St. Justin Martyr, 160 AD

It may be easier to convince our Protestant brothers and sisters that Mary is the unblemished Ark of the New Covenant and the New Eve than it is to convince them that Mary cares deeply about each one of us and is an active part of our lives. The many visits from Mary and the miracles she performed in Lourdes, Guadalupe, and the others are not readily believed, and many even venture to state that her appearances are demonic spirits under the guise of the Virgin Mary.
The account of St. John in his Gospel, however, makes it plain that Mary is our Mother, given to us by Jesus Himself at His crucifixion:

“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” –John 19: 26, 27

In giving His mother to His apostle, He was giving His mother to His Church. Just as John answered Jesus’ call and allowed Mary into her home as His Mother, so should we not discard Mary, but allow her into our home. If we as Christians are going to claim Jesus as our brother (Rom. 8:29), then we should start showing respect to our Mother.

I want to end with this note to any Protestants who may be reading this message; I imagine you may be feeling very defensive and perhaps angry or saddened, as you perceive we are encouraging an emphasis on Mary instead of Jesus. Please do not have this impression; Mary never points to herself, but only to her son. A relationship with Mary cannot subtract from your relationship with God; it can only enhance it.

Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.” –Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Categories
Advent Liturgical Year Splendid Sundays

Splendid Sundays: The Arks of the Covenants

4th Sunday of Advent

Lectionary 1

First Reading ~ 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Responsorial Psalm ~ Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
Second Reading ~ Romans 16:25-27
Gospel Reading ~ Luke 1:26-38

Open Readings in another window.

Reflection:

Theologians through out Church history have held fast to the tradition of the Virgin Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant, and today’s passages overlay nicely to show us the divinely designed parallels, such exciting Scriptures!

The Ark of the Covenant is found in the Old Testament Scriptures.  It contained manna, (bread God rained down from Heaven to feed the Isrealites in the desert for 40 years), the Word of God on stone tablets, and the rod of Aaron (proof of the true priesthood).  Upon Moses’s completion of the Ark “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Ex 40) .  When King David was to accept the Ark in his custody he learned that the previous person to touch it died.  Thoughtfully, King David asked, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?”  Later, as we learn in today’s reading, while the Ark is still under his protection, King David learns that the Savior is to come through his bloodline, and the prophet says, “The Lord is with you.

The Virgin Mary, as the Ark of the New Covenant, has a similar story!  As we learn in today’s passage in the Gospel of Luke, the angel greeted the Virgin with “The Lord is with you” before she is told that she will miraculously bear a son.  Where the cloud overshadowed the Ark of the Old Covenant, Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit with the dawn of the New Covenant.  It was then her womb contained Jesus who later described himself as “the bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:41).  John also described Jesus as “the Word made flesh” (John 1:14), and we can find in the book of Hebrews Jesus described as the  “great high priest who has passed through the heavens” (Heb 4:14).  The Virgin Mary became the Ark of the New Covenant when she held Jesus in her womb.  Later, when Mary visited her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, she is greeted by words echoing King David’s, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43)

Just a couple of weeks ago we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  It is in the theology of Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant that we find amazing support for this doctrine.  God commanded the construction of the Ark in meticulous detail.  It was created with the finest materials, only the purest gold was to be used.  Perhaps a plain gold box could have sufficed, but instead God directed the construction of a masterpiece complete with meaningful artistic work; it was extraordinarily beautiful.   The Ark of the Old Covenant held symbols of the God’s divinity and power.  Meanwhile, the Virgin Mary held God Himself in the second person of the Trinity in her womb.  God knitted His son in her flesh.  The dwelling place of the Word made Incarnate, God’s only Son,  could only be held in an Ark of similar, if not even exceeding standards to that of the Old Covenant.  Furthermore, thinking back to the man who died when touching the Ark of the Old Covenant, and also to God’s warning to Moses, “But you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live” (Ex 33)  it seems that sinful man perishes when in too close a proximity to God.  Meanwhile, we know that in Heaven we reside intimately with God, yet since nothing impure can reach heaven (Rev 21), we will have been washed of our sins and made perfect in order to be able to reside with Him.   This makes one wonder, could Mary,  as a sinful human, have even survived God Incarnate dwelling her womb?

As I have argued before (Mary’s Sinlessness and our Salvation), God’s plan for our salvation was and is perfect through and through.  I feel like today’s responsorial psalm “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord“, because He so loved me as to give His only begotten Son, that I might have eternal life with Him.  I am thoroughly grateful that the Lord found my salvation important enough as to have created for Himself, and for us, his perfect Mother, Immaculate Mary!

For further reading on Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant, check out this fantastic article.


St. Ambrose (339-397)
“The prophet David danced before the Ark.  Now what else should we say the Ark was but holy Mary?  The Ark bore within it the tables of the Testament, but Mary bore the Heir of the same Testament itself.  The former contained in it the Law, the latter the Gospel.  The one had the voice of God, the other His Word.  The Ark, indeed, was radiant within and without with the glitter of gold, but holy Mary shone within and without with the splendor of virginity.  The one was adorned with earthly gold, the other with heavenly” Source