Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Ark Maker

Tomorrow is the last Sunday before Christmas.  The Gospel reading is a familiar scene.  Mary has travelled to see her cousin Elizabeth.  When Mary approaches Elizabeth, Elizabeth exclaims "how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"  We Catholics get a lot of flack over the years for referring to Mary as the Mother of God, yet here Elizabeth uses the same word that Luke consistently uses to refer to God, Yahweh.   The mother of the Lord, that's what theotokos is all about.  Not elevating Mary even more, but rather elevating our understanding of who Christ himself is.  Just like at the wedding of Cana, even the title we give Mary does not point to her, but to the child she bore into the world. 

I think Luke also purposely portrays Mary as the Ark of the Covenant.  What do I mean?  I mean that he portrays Mary in a way that indicates he was consciously attempting to link them as one and the same.  To a first century Jew the comparison would have been evident while reading the Gospel.  It would have been even more direct when reading the book of the Apocalypse.  That's where typology comes in to bible study.  Typology is the notion that a person, place or thing foreshadows a future person place or thing.  The future type is always greater than the previous one.  That's an important thing to keep in mind.

So let's compare the story of the Ark, with the story of Mary:
  • The Spirit of God overshadowed both Mary and the Ark. Exodus 40:34-35, Luke 1:35
  • The Ark contained the tablet of the commandments, the manna from heaven, and Aaron's Rod.  Mary contained the living Law, the bread from heaven, the Branch of David (the High Priest), Jesus Christ   Deuteronomy 10:3-5, Hebrews 9:4, Luke 1:35
  • The Ark traveled into the hill country of Judah, Mary travelled to the hill country of Judah 2 Samuel 6:1-11, Luke 1:39
  • Dressed as a priest King David approached the Ark of the Covenant and danced for joy, John the Baptist, son of a priest, danced in the womb before the presence of Mary 2 Samuel 6:14, Luke 1:43
  • David shouted for joy, Elizabeth exclaimed in joy 2 Samuel 6:15, Luke 1:42
  • David asked, How is it that the Ark comes to me?  Elizabeth How is it that the Mother of the Lord comes to me?  2 Samuel 6:9, Luke 1:43
  • The Ark remained for three months in the house, Mary remained for 3 months in the house 2 Samuel 6:11, Luke 1:56
  • The Ark returns to Jerusalem to the temple, Mary goes to Jersualem to present Jesus in the temple 2 Samuel 6:12, 1 Kings 8:9-11, Luke 1:56, 2:21-22
  • God made Aaron's rod come to life, Jesus the Branch was brought back to life Numbers 17:8, Hebrews 4:14
Those are just some of the examples.  It would take much longer to actually cover all of it, if that could even be done in a blog post.  I think though there is something to be learned from the story.  John lept in the womb before the Ark.  King David lept for joy and danced with abandon before the Ark.  How are we responding to the Ark?   How are we responding to it's contents?  As we approach Advent these are a few of the questions that can help us ask if we are responding to God.  Are we filled with joy at his presence?  Does Mass cause us to call out with our hearts at the presence of God?  Is Mary a part of our lives? Or do we dismiss her?

What else can we learn?  As Catholics we believe Mary is the first and foremost example of what it means to be a true disciple of Christ.  As Christmas approaches, we look forward to the birth of Christ into the world.  Mary was the living Ark.   She allowed the Spirit of God to overshadow her.  She was so filled with God's love that she became the vessel that Christ would spend nine months in perfect communion with.  He was a part of her.  Inside of her.  In a way that no other human has ever experienced.  Are we being Arks?  In our discipleship are we allowing God to overshadow us, to the point that others feel God's presence through us?  You know those people who are so filled with God's joy and love that when you are in their presence, you can just feel it?  The air is tangible, there is an energy.. something that makes you want it too... something that gives you joy.... Yeah, that's right.. Are you doing that?   Are you allowing God to so consume you, to overshadow you... that you become a joy?  Is your happiness on the surface, your joy overflowing? 

I don't know about you guys, but I've got work to do.  I do know this.  It starts with a Sacramental life.  How can you be an Ark if you don't allow the contents of the Ark to come inside you?  Jesus is there.  He is present in the Eucharist.   You and I need to receive him. That way we can truly go out into the world at the dismissal of the Mass to be Arks... to bring the presence of Christ to a world that very much needs him.  Mass.  The original Ark maker ;)

His servant and yours,