Magnificat (detail) by Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510) – Image courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons.

We will never be able to plumb the depths of wisdom that can be found in Holy Scripture. With the eyes of faith we are shown many overlapping truths, all in accord with each other, all designed to point to the inscrutable mystery of God. It was God who ordered Moses to build the Ark of the Covenant thousands of years before Mary of Nazareth was born. God gave very precise instructions to Moses on how to build and use the ark. The Scriptures show that the Ark of the Covenant was a type, or model of Our Blessed Mother.

«They shall make an ark of acacia wood; two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. And you shall overlay it with pure gold, within and without shall you overlay it, and you shall make upon it a molding of gold round about. And you shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark by them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. And you shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you. Then you shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark; and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you of all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.» (Exodus 25:10-22)

The ark was designed so that four or more Levites could move it without actually touching the holy object directly. God had promised Moses that He was going to be in the ark by saying “There I will meet with you”. In the same manner, in the Incarnation, the Son of God was present inside the womb of Mary who is also destined to be immaculate and untouched, just like the ark of ancient times. In Luke 1:36-37 the angel uses the word ‘overshadowing’ (Gr. epischiasei, επελευσεται) to describe how the Holy Spirit would approach Mary. That word is the same that is used in Exodus to describe how the angels are to overshadow the mercy seat of the ark and also in Exodus 40:34-35.

The Ark of the Covenant contained objects representing types of Jesus the Messiah. The ancient ark was designed to contain several sacred things: The stone tablets where the finger of God had carved the Commandments, a golden bowl with “manna” or bread from heaven miraculously preserved fresh, and Aaron’s rod that sprouted buds and blossoms and bore ripe almonds in a single night, faithfully showing God’s choice of Aaron for the priesthood. Each of those objects point at one quality of Jesus Christ. The stone tablets are the commandments given to Israel by God. Of all men, only Jesus fulfilled those commandments faithfully (1 John 3:5-6). The manna is the “bread from heaven” (John 6:22-65). The rod of Aaron is a symbol of Jesus’ eternal priesthood (Hebrews 7:23-24). These three things were inside the ark and all of them point at Jesus. Our Blessed Mother contained not representations of the qualities of Jesus but Jesus Himself. That is why she is considered to be the Ark of the New Covenant.

«And David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” So David was not willing to take the ark of the LORD into the city of David; but David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Hittite. And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Hittite three months; and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and all his household. And it was told King David, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing.» (2 Samuel 6:9-12)

This portion of the Old Testament shows several parallels between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary, the mother of Jesus. First, David asks almost the same question that Elizabeth asked when Mary came to visit “How come the ark of the LORD come to me?” Replacing the word “ark” in this phrase, we have the phrase Elizabeth exclaimed when she saw Mary coming to visit her: “How come the Mother of my LORD come to me?” Second, the Ark remains in the house of Obed-Edom for three months and so does Mary, who remains in Elizabeth’s house three months (Luke 1:56). The baby in Elizabeth’s womb, the son of a Levite, leaps for joy, while David danced before the ark, dressed as a Levite.

«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. 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; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; 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, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.» (Revelation 11:19 to 12:6)

The Apocalypse of John, also known as the Revelation, was written towards the end of the first century A.D. By that time the Ark of the Covenant had been lost for more than 600 years. According to Jewish tradition, it was the prophet Jeremiah who hid the ark, to protect it from falling into the hands of the Babylonian army (2 Maccabees 2:5-8). In his vision John sees the ark again “in Heaven”. The ark scene seems to end abruptly to introduce the reader to the “sign” or “portent”, the woman clothed with the sun. In Isaiah 7:14 it was prophesied “Therefore the LORD himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” The image also has strong connections with Galatians 3:27, where the apostle Paul exhorts the Church to “put on the Christ” who is also compared in Scripture as the sun or the “great light” (Matthew 4:16). The woman is clothed perfectly with the light of Christ and crowned with twelve stars, that is the twelve apostles of Christ (compare with the use of the number twelve in Revelation 21:10-14). In reality the scene describing the ark does not end suddenly. It rather continues, indicating that the ark and the heavenly woman are the same, or closely associated in John’s vision. Other clues that point to this woman as being a type of Mary are the child she bears, who is going to rule the nations (Christ), the moon under her feet is the Church—under the Queen of Heaven, the militant Church, imperfectly reflects the glory of Christ, in contrast with the triumphant Church whose light is Christ (Revelation 21:23). Additionally she is the enemy of the Dragon (Revelation 12:17) who is identified in Revelation 20:2 as Satan “the original serpent,” who will fight and persecute the offspring of the woman (compare with Genesis 3:14-15).

In John’s Apocalypse the Ark of the Covenant is a woman, who is also the mother of the Messiah. In similar fashion later in John’s Apocalypse the Bride of the Lamb is also the City of God, the Church triumphant in Heaven. We find the model, the representative type of Mary within the Jewish age of the people of God. Shortly before the Babylonian invasion of 597 B.C. the Ark of the Covenant once given to Moses was hidden by the prophet Jeremiah. The hiding place was supernaturally veiled and could not ever be found by anyone.

«It was also in the same document 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. Jeremiah came and found a cave-dwelling, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense; then he sealed up the entrance. Some of those who followed him came up intending to mark the way, but could not find it. When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: “The place shall remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. 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 Maccabees 2:4-8)

The Ark appears again in the vision of St. John as described at the end of Revelation 11 and the beginning of Revelation 12. The first Ark of the Covenant was well acquainted with war and so is Mary Most Holy. Herod persecuted the Holy Family forcing them to hide in Egypt, then came Calvary and the early persecution of the Church in Roman Palestine. Later, Mary moves to Ephesus where she presumably lived with the family of the Apostle St. John. Our Blessed Mother was the first Church, having the life of Christ in her womb, then in her home, and as a model for all Christians she also had her Son in the Holy Eucharist. We can see that, as early Israel grew around the Ark, the Church grew around Mary.

When Mary was still pregnant, she hurries to the mountains of Judea where her cousin Elizabeth lived. Elizabeth was much older than Mary and past the age of bearing children. By a special miracle she became pregnant in spite of her advanced age. Mary moved with her for a while to help her. They knew the new baby was going to be a male, dedicated to God. Following the instructions of an angel, he was to be called John. The last and greatest prophet of the Old Covenant, John the Baptist had the greatest mission: to be the forerunner of Israel’s Messiah.

«In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’» (Luke 1:39-44)

Those verses of the Gospel of St. Luke describe the moment when the Church of the Old Covenant meets the Church of the New Covenant. It is a joyful moment that God reserved for those four human beings, the two humble women and the two babies living in their wombs. The Age of the Gospel, the Good News of the long awaited arrival of the Kingdom of God fills all of them with joy. God moves Mary to sing a wonderful song glorifying God. We know that song as the Magnificat. (Luke 1:46-55)

« And Mary said,

‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of His mercy,
according to the promise He made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’»

This song of joy is a model of the song the whole Church will sing when the Kingdom is finally established after the great battle at the end of this age. We know from prophecy that Mary will be leading the Church in combat.

«Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon,
bright as the sun, terrible as an army in battle array?» (Canticles 6:10)

The Ark of the New Covenant will be with the Church unfailingly in the same way she was at the foot of the Cross. It is imperative for us, for the Church to stand with her in opposition to the battle lines of this wicked world.

«In our present age, we find ourselves in the middle of the battle that rages between the Woman and the serpent, as violence against Christians escalates throughout the world; as nations reject the natural law regarding marriage; as countless unborn children are “legally” murdered; as religious rights are being systematically denied. Other manifestations of the battle (at times is bloody and at times not) could fill pages. What is important is that we are on the correct side. Jesus once declared the “he who is not with me, is against me” (Matthew 12:30). In the language of St. Louis de Montfort, we need to choose whether we want to be the children and the servants of the Blessed Virgin or the children and the instruments of Lucifer.»  (Quoted from Opus Sanctorum Angelorum, The Army in Battle Array)

God will not fail to ensure the victory of Our Mother. He will show the strength of His arm. He will scatter the proud and their evil ideologies. He will bring down the powerful from their high places and lift up the lowly. He will fill the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty because no amount of money can buy the joys of His Kingdom. He will mercifully help His faithful fulfilling the promise He made to us and to our ancestors, to His family of faith for ever.