“Maiden of the Lost Ark”
Two of the greatest mysteries of the Old Testament revolve around the significance of two arks that disappeared. The first was the ark constructed by Noah and the second was the Ark of the Covenant constructed by the Israelites as dictated by God through Moses. Both arks were directly related to God protecting and saving His chosen people. Serving as content for some of Hollywood’s most epic film productions over the last century, the arks reemerge continuously as fascinating mysteries that cause the frantic modern world to pause and wonder. Perhaps partly inspired by Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark, there continue to be archaeological quests that search for them hoping their discovery would unlock secrets that would bring this world back to God.
Why did God allow two critical arks, known for saving His people and establishing His covenant with them, to disappear? Surely, their discovery would inspire a world that has all but rejected the true God, right? Not exactly. We see clear evidence not only of a world moving beyond Christianity, but a reversion back to the Old Covenant, with plans being considered to construct a new temple in Jerusalem. As one biblical scholar put it, when the good is seen as the best, it becomes the enemy of the best. In other words, when Christianity (Jesus Christ and His Mystical Body, the Church) is rejected as the fullness of God’s revelation, and the fulfillment of His covenant with His people, and attention is directed back to rebuilding the “old temple” which housed the old covenant ark, such people become God’s enemy – for they have formalized their rejection of the revelation of the fulfillment of God’s covenant in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Why is this important? Because the world is going backwards in every sense. Every moral precept is being violated and codified into law. We are embracing, for most unknowingly, the precepts of social Darwinism which presents a humanity divorced from God which, in short, proposes that given enough time, man will eventually evolve into gods through the advance of science (which is the root of the word “knowledge”). Never before in human history has mankind so rapidly advanced in science and the technology which arises from it. Has this evolution led humanity closer to God, the source of all science (knowledge)? If two world wars, hundreds of millions of abortions and 270 million people murdered by the state – all in the twentieth century alone – doesn’t clearly reveal that answer, then nothing will. It is Genesis 3:1-5 playing out to its near fulfillment:
Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, `You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [RSV* with Apocrapha]
The “tree of knowledge [science]” and “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
What characterizes the followers of Lucifer? They are those who wish to substitute science for God because they believe that the concept of God is not something independent and absolute from them, but something that evolves – something into which humanity can evolve as it progresses in science. The fruition of this philosophy is a materialistic, technocratic society which replaces God and, therefore morals, with science and eugenics (the evolution of the perfect human species) – as mankind takes upon itself the evolving role of being God as humanity “progresses” in science. The pride and disobedience of Lucifer has never been more alive in the world than it is today. And we know what happens to a society when it listens to his invitations.
Today is the feast of the Nativity of Mary. Apart from a rather quick shifting of gears, what in the world does all this have to do with today’s feast day? Well, it has everything to do with it. No sooner does humanity fall through Adam and Eve than God announces its salvation . . . through “the woman” (Gen 3:15), the Ark of Salvation. And this woman, while clearly announced, is yet veiled in mystery throughout the Old Testament until “the fullness of time” had come and “God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). For almost six centuries, God’s people were slaves and without any object that assured them of God’s presence. The Ark was gone and for many, so was their hope.
The Nativity of Mary is the beginning of God’s answer to the cry of God’s broken and enslaved people: Where is the Ark of God’s Covenant? God’s people would not be reintroduced to the Ark of the Covenant until the Annunciation when St. Gabriel greets Mary and reveals that SHE is the true Ark of the New Covenant, because she was the woman predestined to be the virgin-mother of the Savior (cf. Is 7:14]. As the Ark of the Old Covenant vanished from the world into obscurity through the pride and disobedience of God’s people, it reentered history amidst the perfect humility and obedience of the New Israel, represented by Mary. And just as the construction of the Ark of the Old Covenant was dictated by God (cf. Ex 25ff) to bridge His relationship with His people and crafted with the greatest finesse of human hands, Mary was prepared and created to be the Ark of the New Covenant by God’s own hands according to His Immaculate Conception! Mary would not be an inanimate container of blessed relics of God’s caring for His people, but she would be the living Ark from whose very flesh the Son of God would forever unite Himself to all humanity!
If one still had doubts as to whether St. Luke was making this comparison with Mary as the New Ark of the New Covenant, all one has to do is read what immediately follows his account of the Annunciation where Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth. In just a few sentences, St. Luke makes a clear allusion that Mary IS the new Ark of the Covenant, bearing within her the living fulfillment of the items in the old ark in the person of Jesus the Christ:
- The Ten Commandments tablets (Jesus is the Word Made Flesh Who fulfills the Law and the Prophets writing the Law on our hearts, not on stone)
- The rod of Aaron (Jesus is the New High Priest)
- The manna (Jesus is the True Bread come down from Heaven in the Eucharist– cf. John 6)
St. Luke wants to make it clear that what was symbolized in the Ark of the Old Covenant is now fully realized in Mary, the true Ark of the New Covenant. First and foremost, the Ark was the place par excellence of God’s presence. As the Book of Numbers reveals:
And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O LORD, and let thy enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee.” Nm 10:35
In the Visitation narrative of St. Luke (1:39-44), St. Luke applies to Mary all that was said of the Ark in 2 Samuel 6:2-11. Compare, for example, 2 Samuel 6:9 with Luke 1:43.
In 2 Sam 6:9 we read: And David was afraid of the Lord that day and he said, ‘How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” Then in Luke 1:43: “And why is this granted me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
And in 2 Samuel 6:11 we read: And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of O’bed-e’dom the Gittite three months; and the LORD blessed O’bed-e’dom and all his household. And then in Luke 1:56: And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.
And if any doubt remains after seeing these intended connections in the Gospel of Luke, then one only needs to turn to the end of Revelation 11 and read on into 12 where St. John sees and describes the ark of the covenant assumed into heaven and his language is quite clear to whom he is referring:
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple . . . in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
There it is. Mary is undoubtedly the Ark of God’s Covenant who continues to bring forth the treasury of her Son’s grace and power to the Church and to the world . . . as we are seeing like never before in our extraordinary age of Mary. Wherever the Ark of God’s Covenant is, there is God with His peace, His power, His mercy, His love, His salvation and His VICTORY!
Now, you’re probably asking: “You also said earlier in this post that Mary is the Ark of Salvation. What’s that about?” We’ll talk about that in my next blog post on the Holy Name of Mary. Until then, don’t forget to say your Rosary!
*Revised Standard Version [Bible]
Art: Detail of Noah’s Ark, Edward Hicks, 1846, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons. Entering the Promised Land, Corbert Gauthier, copyright 2007, used with permission, all rights reserved. Detail of Fall of Man, Jacob Jordaens, 17th century; Nacimiento de la Virgen (Birth of the Virgin), Jusepe Leonardo, circa 1642, PD; Mondsichelmadonna (Woman of the Apocalypse), Circle of Leopold Kupelwieser, 19th century; all PD-US, Wikimedia Commons. Dr. Howard’s Heroic Familes Logo used with permission.
Editor’s Note: “Ark of the Covenant” is a title with which the Church honors Mary in the Litany of Loreto (click here), often prayed at the end of the Rosary.