Mary and the Ark of the Covenant

1 One finds in the records that Jeremiah the prophet ordered those who were being deported to take some of the fire, as has been told, 2 and that the prophet after giving them the law instructed those who were being deported not to forget the commandments of the Lord, nor to be led astray in their thoughts upon seeing the gold and silver statues and their adornment. 3 And with other similar words he exhorted them that the law should not depart from their hearts. 4 It was also in the writing that the prophet, having received an oracle, ordered that the tent and the ark should follow with him, and that he went out to the mountain where Moses had gone up and had seen the inheritance of God. 5 And Jeremiah came and found a cave, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense, and he sealed up the entrance. 6 Some of those who followed him came up to mark the way, but could not find it. 7 When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: "The place shall be unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. 8 And then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated." (2 Mac 2:1-8)

19 Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. 1 And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for deliveryÖ 5 she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne. (Rev 11:19-12:2,5)

According to tradition, the Ark of the Covenant was a type of Mary, who in turn was a type of the Church. In our texts above, we first read the story of how the prophet Jeremiah, during the Babylonian deportation, hid the Ark of the Covenant in a cave to protect it from the pagans. This cave has remained hidden and unknown ever since. Jeremiah said it would be revealed when ďGod gathers his people together again and shows his mercy.Ē To the Christian, this time of mercy and gathering happened when Jesus came.

We then hear of the Ark in the book of Revelations, when the heavens open and the Ark is seen. It would seem St. John describes the Ark which he sees as a woman, a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet and wearing a crown of twelve stars. We understand this woman to be Mary, her Son being the one who rules ďall the nations with a rod of iron.Ē Thus, the ark is Mary. Why?

Letís look at what the Ark actually was. It was a kind of box and inside was (1) the stone tablets of the Law, (2) a miraculously preserved sample of manna, and (3) the rod of the high priest Aaron. The Epistles to the Hebrews describes this as understood at the time of Jesus:

3 Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, 4 having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. (Heb 9:3-5)

Consider that the manna was a type of the Eucharist, that is, Jesus in the flesh; we Christians know this very well. The Ark, as a container for this manna, was an excellent type of Mary Theotokos, the God-bearer who carried the true Jesus in the flesh in her womb. But further, letís consider Aaronís rod, which was the symbol of his priestly authority; Jesus is the high priest of the New Covenant, of which the Aaronic priesthood was only a type. Again, the Ark, as a container for the OT priesthood, was a type of Mary who bore the NT high priest. Finally, letís consider the tablets of the Law, which was the OT Word of God, literally; of course, we know Jesus is the Word of God in the New Covenant, so again the Ark holds a third symbol of Jesus. These three-fold symbols of Jesus carried inside the Ark are types of Jesus carried in the womb of Mary His Mother.

At this point we can just sit back and acknowledge that the Ark was a type of Mary. But where will this lead us? We can start with the above text from Hebrews, where we are reminded that Ark was also the mercy seat. At the time of Moses and for centuries thereafter until the Babylonian captivity, God sat on His mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. The Holy Spirit, in the visible form of a cloud (called the Shekinah) entered the Holy of Holies and resided there. Only the high priest could enter in and see Him.

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD and died; 2 and the LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. (Lev 16:1-2)

34 And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" 35 And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. (Lk 1:34-35)

The Holy Spirt overshadowed the Ark, even as the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin.

Next, letís look at some similarities between OT texts from 2 Samuel 6 involving King David and NT texts from Lukeís Gospel. First, we see David dancing before the Ark, as St. John the Baptist Ďdancedí in the womb before the presence of Mary carrying Jesus in hers.

12 So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; 13 and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. 14 And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. (2 Sam 6:12-14)

41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. (Lk 1:41-44)

Second, we see a similarity between Davidís statement of humble unworthiness and Elizabethís, regarding the coming of the ark/Mary:

9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?" (2 Sam 6:9)

41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Lk 1:41-43)

Third, we see the Ark stayed with Obed-edom for three months, as Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months:

11 And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months; and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and all his household. (2 Sam 6:11)

56 And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home. (Lk 1:56)

Finally, letís look at this famous story of the carrying of the Ark at the time of King David:

2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. 3 And they carried the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart 4 with the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. 5 And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. 6 And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there because he put forth his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God. (2 Sam 6:2-7)

Why did God kill Uzzah for merely touching the Ark? Because it was forbidden for anyone but the priests to touch the Ark and Uzzah was not a priest. In this story, considering the Ark as the type of Mary, and Mary as the type of Godís Church, we can conclude that the Church is a thing for priests alone. But how, as most members of Christís Mystical Body are not priests? In fact, we are; we are all priests.

4 Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; 5 and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame." 7 To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner," 8 and "A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall"; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pet 2:4-9)

This is not the sacerdotal priesthood which offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. This is the priesthood of all believers; we are priests in that we offer our sacrifices to and with the Lord. And as such, we are members of Godís spiritual house: the Church. We are more than people who touch it, like Uzzah; we are the very stones that compose it. And Mary, our Mother, typifies us.