Mary: the New Ark of the Covenant

The following is adapted from a recent homily given by Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers:

After the Babylonians crushed Jerusalem and destroyed Solomon's Temple in 587 B.C., the Ark of the Covenant, the holy container that held the Ten Commandments, was never seen again. In 2 Macabbees, it says that the place of the Ark will "remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy" (2 Macc 2:7).

We live in the time of great mercy - a time when, through St. Faustina, God reminds us of His boundless love for wretched sinners. Is it possible that the Ark will be revealed to us soon? We can't be sure. But by studying Scripture, we can learn about the new Ark of the Covenant, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and how God gave her a most essential role in our salvation.

In Exodus, God gives Moses very specific directions on how to build the Ark. After all, His presence would dwell there. He wanted it to be made of wood covered with gold and to have a lid adorned with two cherubim between which God's presence would dwell (called the mercy seat). If God wanted His Commandments housed in a perfectly constructed container, how much more would He want the Word, Jesus, to have a perfect dwelling place? That's why He chose for Mary to be conceived without original sin.

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit overshadows the Ark of the Covenant (see Ex 40:34-35). Similarly, the angel Gabriel says that the Holy Spirit will come to "overshadow" Mary (Lk 1:35).

When we compare the Gospel of Luke to 2 Samuel, we see further proof that Mary is the new Ark. After the Annunciation, Mary travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth across "the hill country ... of Judah" (Lk 1:39), the same land where King David left the Ark when it came to him (2 Sam 6:11). When Elizabeth hears Mary's greeting, Elizabeth's son, John the Baptist, leaps in her womb. The word for "leap" in the Gospel is the same word used in 2 Samuel to describe how King David danced before the Ark (2 Sam 6:14). Finally, Elizabeth and David use similar language when they question their worthiness to stand before so great a presence of God (2 Sam 6:9, Lk 1:43).

In addition to the Ten Commandments, the Ark also housed a golden jar of manna, as well as the rod of Aaron, which symbolizes the priesthood. Similarly, in Mary's womb, we have Jesus who is the Bread of Life and also the High Priest.

If that's not enough to convince you that Mary is the new Ark, in the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John describes seeing God's temple in Heaven open and the Ark of the Covenant within (see Rev 11:9). In the very next two verses, John says, "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" (Rev 12:1-2).

Mary is the new Ark! Those who question why we Catholics revere Mary so much only need to look to Scripture. There they will learn about the essential role Mary plays in our salvation.

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