The Ark of the Covenant: Found!

The Ark of the Covenant has been found! For two and a half thousand years, people have searched for the ark, but it has already been found, and, as Christians, we can take joy in the knowledge our tradition and scriptures pass to us, for Revelation tells us where it is.

"Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of the covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm. A great sign appeared in the sky: 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...."

The new temple, complete with the altar upon which Christ presents himself, slain, yet glorified, to the Father, is in heaven. And the Ark of the Covenant, the dwelling place and vessel the Almighty used to come to His people who were not ready to see His full glory, is also there. But it is not the same as it once was. It has changed forms, though not functions.

2,500 years ago, the Ark of the Covenant left the pages of history, left the people it ministered to, and was hidden away. Though hunted for, it has never been found on this earth. Shortly after, the temple was also made much less accessible, the people were in captivity, and the flavor of Judaism changed. The desire for the Messiah was growing greater and greater. Judaism - and the world - were being prepared for the great fulfillment of the law and temple. And, as the Jewish people were being prepared, so too was the new Ark. That which would bridge the gap between the physical and the divine. A new tabernacle, the model of the tabernacle we would each become, was fashioned and placed in the heart of Israel, waiting to perform the sacred mission prepared at the dawn of time for her. The Ark's name? Mary.

The old Ark carried the priestly staff of Aaron, the tablets of the law, and the manna that came from heaven. So too did Mary carry the new Eternal High Priest (Hebrews 5), the fulfillment of the law (and the entire Old Testament), and the Bread from Heaven (John 6). 

Just as the old Ark was fashioned by human hands but under the guidance of the Spirit, so too was this vessel crafted from human, fleshly matter but knit together by God. Just as the Glory of the Lord overshadowed the ark, so too did the glory of the Spirit overshadow this young maiden and leave with her - in her - the Divine. Just as David danced for joy at being in the presence of the glory of God when the Ark came to him, so too did John, when Divinity came to him inside of His new Ark, leap for joy in his mother's womb. Just as the beauty and majesty of the ark served to bring the visual human mind to meditate on the glory and power of God, so too does Mary act as the moon or a mirror - reflecting the glory of God so that others may, through her witness, come to know Him who created her.

And just as, when its purpose was complete, it was united to the throne of God, hidden from the eyes of man and the decay of the earth, so too was the New Ark lifted up at the end of her earthly life to the glory, not allowed to decay or be bickered over. The old Ark was only truly understood in the context of the temple, and so too is the new Ark only understood in the context of the new, heavenly temple with the new High Priest, the new Sacrifice, and the new Covenant. They are tied together, and they cannot be separated. It was not only Mary's spirit that became a dwelling place for the Divine, but the entirety of her being. And, as another blogger pointed out, the cells of a child linger in the woman's body forever, pieces of the Divine Lord were forever, physically, in the body of this beautiful woman.

Mary, therefore, is one of the few who have been given then grace of having their bodies not decay on this earth, but rather, has already had her body glorified in Heaven. She did not ascend to heaven on her own might as did her Precious Son. She was gathered to the bosom of the Son she gave flesh by His power and carried to Him by His Angels.

Just as the Sacrifice has changed, just as the temple has changed, so too has the Ark changed. And this Ark seeks no glory for herself, but precisely because she is the new Ark, we can know that she is with He whom she brought to us. The Ark is not supposed to be separated from the glory, and, Indeed, it cannot be. And so, when her earthly body reached the end of it's days, it had to be brought into continued communion and glory with the Father who created her, the Spirit who overshadowed her, and the Son whom she gave flesh and glory.

Just as she was the first to receive the Lord, she is the first to taste the reward. Look to her and see the hope for our own future. We saw a glimmer of it in Enoch, a brighter shine of it with Elijah, but no where do we see more beautifully the promise of the new Covenant than with our Mother and Mother of our Lord.

Each of us has the opportunity - to varying degrees - to be tabernacles that host the spirit and/or body of Christ. We will never be the Ark, for even those of us who receive the Body and Blood of Christ do not keep Him physically inside us at all times as Mary did. But each of us is a tabernacle, a temple as Paul says, of the Spirit. Mary was the first to be overshadowed (the same work used when the column of fire or cloud rested over the tabernacle and ark in the old testament) by the Spirit, but at Pentecost, we see a different manifestation of that gift given to the gathered believers, and it is the same gift passed on in Confirmation. We cannot be the Ark, but we can look to the Ark of the New Covenant for guidance and understanding.

The Ark, after all, was the method God used to come to the world. Both arks were humbly crafted - though beautifully and intentionally, with full knowledge of their future tasks - but neither sought to bring glory to themselves  only to the God who made them shine. Mary humbly accepted the gift of her Son; she humbly praised Him, recognizing her lowliness; she went to Him in faith and hope, but never dared to contradict His will, and she accepted the knowledge that Him beginning His ministry earlier than intended would mean He started down the road to Calvary earlier than intended; she humbly, but firmly, tells others to follow the will and directions of her Son, not her; she followed Christ through His public ministry, likely helping feed His disciples and those who followed Him, bearing the scorn - as well as the praise - of being His mother. And selflessly, she walked beside and behind Him on his road to Calvary, joining in His suffering in the unique way only a mother can as she watched him struggle and die. And instead of allowing the anguish destroy her, instead of joining Him to ease the pain she was feeling, she accepted the final command of her Son - "Behold, your son" and accepted that this was the childbearing pains of the New Covenant, of the Church, of the second-born of her children, those "who keep the commandments of God and bear witness to Jesus," her Firstborn (Rev 12:17). Never once did she think of her own wants. Her desires were summed up in her response to Gabriel, "I am the handmaid of the Lord," (Luke 1:38) and to Elizabeth "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior." (Luke 1:46-47).

Because she accepted Christ, nursed him, nurtured him, but also followed his commands, she was rewarded, as were Enoch and Elijah, with being bodily assumed into Heaven, thus uniting the Ark with that which it carried so faithfully into the world.

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