The Ark and the Son

for January 28th, 2014
Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas

Liturgical texts here



THERE are some interesting parallels in today’s Scriptures between the Virgin Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, which is an Old Testament type of Our Lady.

As it says in the Catechism:

Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God… with men.”Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2676

The Ark contained a gold jar of manna, the ten commandments, and the staff of Aaron. [1]cf. Heb 9:4 This is symbolic on a number of levels. Jesus comes as priest, prophet, and king; the manna is symbolic of the Eucharist; the commandments—His Word; the staff—His authority. Mary contained all of these at once when she carried Jesus within her womb.

In today’s first reading,

David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the City of David amid festivities.

If we a roll back a few verses, we see David’s reaction when he learned that the Ark was coming to him:

“How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Sam 6:9)

It is interesting to read Elizabeth’s similar reaction when the “Ark” was coming to her:

…how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:43)

When the Ark arrives, carrying the commandments, the Word of God, David leads it forth…

…leaping and dancing before the Lord. (2 Sam 6:16, RSV)

When Mary, carrying the “Word made flesh,” greets Elizabeth, her cousin recounts:

…at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. (luke 1:44)

The Ark had remained in Obed-edom’s house in the hill country of Judah for three months where it “blessed” them; likewise, Blessed Virgin Mary…

…traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah… Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. (Luke 1:56)

Going back to my first comment, David had placed great significance upon the Ark, dancing and sacrificing before it. However, one might be tempted to say that the parallel between Mary and the Ark ends with today’s Gospel, when Jesus seems to do anything but rejoice when He is told that His Mother is at the door:

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

But pause for a moment and understand what Christ was saying: whoever does the will of God is… my mother. Who, of any other creature on earth, accomplished the will of God with complete submission and obedience more than His Mother? St. Paul wrote that, “without faith it is impossible to please him.” [2]cf. Heb 11:6 Who then would be more pleasing to the Father than Mary Immaculate? Rather than distancing Himself from her, Jesus was reaffirming precisely why Mary was more than the one from whom He took His very flesh and humanity; she was pre-eminent as a spiritual mother as well.

Yet, Jesus expands motherhood to include all those who do the Father’s will. This is why the Church is also referred to as a “mother,” for she gives birth to new souls each day from the womb of the baptismal font. She nurtures them with the “manna”; she teaches them the commandments; and she guides and corrects by the staff of her authority.

Last, you and I are called to be Christ’s “mother” as well. How? Today’s Psalm says,

Lift up, O gates, your lintels; reach up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may come in!

We widen the gates of our heart, that is, open the wombs of our souls by saying “fiat”, yes Lord, may everything be done according to your word. In such a soul, Christ is conceived and born again:

Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. (John 14:23)





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1 cf. Heb 9:4
2 cf. Heb 11:6