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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sr. Kathryn: Pauline Books and Media: Mary Ark of the Covenant & Recovering Joy

Subject: Mary Ark of the Covenant & Recovering Joy

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Mary and the Ark of the Covenant - Part Three 
Hello Friend,
Luke’s Gospel gives us the beautiful story of the Visitation, when Mary hastened to help her cousin Elizabeth. What does this have to do with mercy? First, Mary is doing a work of mercy in helping her older relative with this unexpected pregnancy. But the text has another theme, a bit hidden, that is also connected with mercy. Luke is hinting that Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant. What does this mean?

The Ark is first mentioned in the book of Exodus. It represented the presence of God with his people Israel. The Ark was a large wooden box gilded with gold that contained three things: 1) some manna 2) Aaron’s rod, which budded, and 3) the tablets with the Ten Commandments. 

The gold-plated cover of the box was called the mercy seat (kapporah in Hebrew; hilasterion in Greek). Later when the Temple was built, the Ark was placed in the Holy of Holies, where the high priest would go once a year on the Day of Atonement. He would sprinkle blood on it and make an offering to God to atone for the sins of the people, so that God would have mercy on them and forgive their sins.

So the Ark of the Covenant had this close connection with mercy. In the New Testament, Jesus himself is the one who offered the perfect atonement for sins by his sacrificial offering of his own life on the cross. The Greek word used for the mercy seat, indicating its role as an atoning sacrifice, is used of Jesus, for example, in Romans 3:25 where Paul says, “whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”

Here she is bringing Jesus, who is mercy itself and the one who will offer the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Mary was like a tabernacle for Jesus. What the Ark held in promise, Mary held within herself in its full reality: the incarnate Lord.
In the Visitation, we can see an important connection between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary. How so? First, consider that the Ark represented God’s presence among the people. As she went on her journey, Mary was already carrying Jesus. And since Jesus is God, Mary is the God-bearer. Here she is bringing Jesus, who is mercy itself and the one who will offer the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Mary was like a tabernacle for Jesus. What the Ark held in promise, Mary held within herself in its full reality: the incarnate Lord.

Luke’s text indicates this, as we can see by comparing it to 2 Samuel 6:1-19, where the Ark of the Covenant was transferred to a new location.

1) Joy: David and the people danced with joy before the Ark; “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb” (Lk 1:39).

2) Humility: David said, “How can the ark of the LORD come into my care?” (v. 9); Elizabeth said, “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Lk 1:43).

3) The Ark remained in the house of Obed-edom for three months, and Mary stayed with Elizabeth “about three months” (Lk 1:56).

4) Blessing: The Lord blessed the house that held the Ark, and Elizabeth told Mary, “blessed is she who believed” that the Lord would fulfill his promises (Lk 1:45).

In our life
Mary gives us a wonderful example of mercy in going to assist the elderly Elizabeth, and she went with haste. This can spur us on to be fervent and zealous in being generous with our service to God and to others.

Prayer
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To you we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to you we send up our sighs, mourning, and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

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