The Ark of the New Covenant

December 23, 2018

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we come to one of the key figures of the season: the Virgin Mary.

John the Baptist’s entry onto the public stage was a historically significant moment in Israel, because there were no prophets for 400 years until John. In contrast to John’s public introduction, Mary, the key figure in bringing God into the human world, was completely hidden from the public. This isn’t surprising, because God consistently chooses what is humanly insignificant as an instrument to fulfill God’s purpose. The Prophet Micah says in the First Reading, “You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.” No one expected anything good to come from Bethlehem, yet it is where God chooses to be born. Certainly no one in their right mind would expect a little girl from Nazareth to bring God into our human world, yet it is within her that God chooses to dwell.

Mary is called the Ark of the New Covenant. St. Luke used parallel elements from the Old Testament to describe this in the Gospel’s Visitation scene. One needs to be very knowledgeable about details in the Old Testament to understand and see these elements “revealed” in this passage, so I will list only a few here for your reflection.

The Ark of the Covenant is God’s Chosen dwelling place. Because God is dwelling in Mary’s womb, Mary becomes the Ark of the New Covenant.

1) The Location: Mary’s journey into the hill country is the same location the Ark was when it was on its way to Jerusalem.

2) The Shouts of Joy: Both Mary and the Ark were greeted with shouts of joy.

3) The Leaping: Both the infant John the Baptist and King David leapt in the presence of God in the Ark.

4) The Ark contains the two stone tablets onto which God has written the Ten Commandments; in Mary’s womb, the Word of God made flesh. The Ark has an urn of manna; in Mary’s womb is the Bread come down from heaven. The Ark contains Aaron’s staff – the true priesthood; Mary’s womb contains the true and eternal priest.

As we journey with Mary to the hill country, let us contemplate our own life’s journey. Our Christian journey began in Christ at the Baptismal font where He joined Himself to us forever. Our journey continues with Christ as he nourishes us along the way with the food of his Word and the food of his Flesh. It will end with Christ as we join him and all his Saints in Heavenly splendor. It is up to us to prepare for that great day by spending our lives glorifying God in serving others with love and commitment.

Merry Christmas!

Kathryn Richards