Summary: The woman of the Visitation and the woman of the Book of Revelations are one person, the Mother of Jesus.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 2013

The New Ark

In the year 1981 a feature movie was released that immediately made Harrison Ford a household name, and that reminded the general public of something from the Bible. The movie was called “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and the Ark in the title is the Hebrew Ark of the Covenant. Now most of the so-called history in the movie was pure hogwash, but there was one line that we might all remember: “An army which carries the Ark before it... is invincible.”

The original Ark, according to the Torah, was crafted under the authority of Moses, and contained items critical to the identity of the Hebrew people–the Israelites. It contained, among other things, the tablets of the Mosaic Law, or Ten Commandments, and the manna that nourished the people in the desert for forty years. That Ark was, in fact, carried with the Hebrew armies, and they were invincible–kind of. During the time of the Judges, the Hebrews fought the Philistines in a battle in which the Ark was captured by the enemy. It was eventually recovered and brought into the Temple of Jerusalem. But it was not the Ark that made the Hebrews victorious. It was their faithfulness to the Divine Law. When they went whoring after false gods, and especially when that idolatry involved prostitution and the murder of their infant children, God turned His back on them and let Jerusalem be destroyed and the Ark stolen by the Babylonians. It was permanently lost and probably destroyed. When the Temple was rebuilt, the place where the Ark should have been kept was empty.

Today the Book of Revelations, or Apocalypse, says that the Ark of the Covenant was seen in the heavenly Temple, the real and eternal Temple. And then there is a chapter break and a woman is seen. The division is artificial. The original book had no chapter markings. So the great sign that appeared in heaven, the woman clothed with the sun, is the Ark of the Covenant. Who is this woman who is the Ark? Who has within her the physical appearance of God’s presence, the New Law, and the manna from heaven? Elizabeth, in today’s Gospel, answers the question when she asks “Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” That is almost a verbatim quote of what David said when the Ark of the Covenant came to Jerusalem, “who am I that the Ark of my Lord should come to me?”

Yes, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the mother of the Lord, the Lord Jesus. He is the physical appearance of God’s presence among His people. He is the New Law of Love–“love one another as I have loved you.” He is the manna from heaven, the Bread of Life, born in a feed box and present every time we celebrate Mass.

Did Mary get a swelled head when honored by Elizabeth? No. She knew who was important in the scene of the Visitation–the miracle of God-man growing in her womb. Her soul–her whole life–glorified the Lord. Her spirit could rejoice, but not in herself. She rejoiced in the God who had saved her by preserving her from all sin as the Immaculate mother of the Word Incarnate. Of herself, she was lowly–a poor woman from a nowhere village. But God raised her up, as He intends to raise up all who understand their poverty and turn to Him for redemption and healing.

You see, the Big Men in Israel did get swelled heads, and in their self-importance they thought they knew better than God how to succeed. When they came in from the desert, they adopted the local customs and practices. They were “open-minded” and began to worship the local agricultural gods. They worshiped in the ways of their neighbors. They were tolerant and supportive of the different customs of others–even if their God had forbidden them. They also took up the economics of their neighbors–cheating and oppressing the poor, stealing land and hoarding their property to drive up prices. These Big Men were, then, the cause of the periodic destruction of Israel and exile of the people. They would accomplish the same thing about seventy years later when the Romans crushed one of their many political coups. Big Men with their Big Ideas always take care of each other, and always end up hurting the little folk. And God is not pleased.

He was, however, pleased with the attitude of Mary. She was entirely open to being the virgin Mother of the Redeemer. She said “yes” in every moment of her life to the plan of God. It involved, as recounted here, a several day trip through the Jordan valley and up to the village of Zechariah and Elizabeth. It involved three months taking care of Elizabeth as she awaited the birth of her son. It involved telling Joseph about her pregnancy, and awaiting his own “yes” to the plan of God. It involved a difficult trip to Bethlehem in her ninth month, giving birth in a stable, and fleeing from a vengeful king’s murderous wrath, all the way to Egypt. Ultimately it would involve watching her divine Son be tortured and murdered. She stood with two companions at the foot of the cross to hear herself named mother of all the living by Jesus. As the author of Hebrews put it, she became perfect through suffering, just like her Son.

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