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

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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

Advent Liturgical Year Splendid Sundays

Splendid Sundays: Peace on Earth

Second Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 5

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For he proclaims peace to his people.”  (Ps 23) These days it is hard to see this proclamation in our world, we wonder where the peace is.  We’re looking for peace in others, for others, in government, at work, everywhere, and often we just don’t see it.  Given the Advent season, the song popped in my head, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”  Imagine if everyone approached life with this attitude, let peace begin with me.  But is peace simply an attitude?

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven. (Ps 23)

Can you image that day?  What a day!!!  It feels forever, lifetimes away!  But to God, it is all in the blink of His eye.  “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay’” (2 Pt 3).  Advent is time that we reflect on His plan for our salvation.  We are in the midst of it, without delay.  Isaiah prophesied on behalf of the Lord, “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.” (Is 40)  God made good on that  prophesy and sent us His only son, Christ Jesus 2,000 years ago… so, only two days ago to God ;).

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way,
what sort of persons ought you to be,
conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion,
waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace. (2 Pt 3)

God’s grace sure is a gift, isn’t it?  And so are our lifetimes, as we need all of that time to cooperate with God’s grace because only He can make us worthy of His promises , “Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him”.  (Ps 23)  The four candles of the Advent wreath symbolize each of the four thousand years God’s people awaited the arrival of the first coming of Our Savior since Adam and Eve.  Advent is also a time where we, the beneficiaries of the New Covenant, look forward to His second coming with anticipation and preparedness.  We strive for holiness, keeping close to the Sacraments that God has provided for us such that we can be “found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”  (2 Pt 3)  God divinely provides for our peace filled purification through His Church, the Bride of Christ (Eph 5).  Peace is more than an attitude, it is God’s sanctifying grace in us.

As the Christmas season brings about its busy-ness and bustle and you find yourself bewildered, “Where is Christ in this Christmas?!”, return to Christ in the Eucharist for peace, and turn to God in the confessional for some spot and blemish removal ;).

“Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”