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Mary: The Ark of the New Covenant

By Sonja Corbitt
August 14th, 2009
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The same Spirit that rested on the mercy seat of the Ark, filling the tabernacle ‘overshadowed’ the Virgin Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant

BETHPAGE, TN (Catholic Online) - Located in the Holy of Holies of the Old Testament tabernacle, the innermost chamber of the Holy Place, was a special piece of furniture. Partitioned off on one side by a veil richly woven in blue, scarlet, and purple thread and embroidered with ornate, gold cherubim, the ark, the most important object in the tabernacle, was enclosed on the three remaining sides with wood paneling overlaid with gold.

Within this beautiful cocoon, the ark rested secretly in the Holy of Holies, bearing the presence of the Lord in the cloud. Only about three feet by one and a half feet in size, the ark was made of cedar-like wood overlaid with gold. Its lid was decorated with two of the glorious, worshipping cherubim, beaten from one piece of gold that further enclosed the lid of the ark within the covering of their wings. Thus, the ark was carefully surrounded by worship, privacy, and mystery.

The word “ark” strangely and prophetically means “coffin,” since the Lord used it somewhat as a throne. Inside the small box were the following: the Ten Words (the Ten Commandments),a pot of manna, and Aaron’s fruited almond rod. All were fitting reminders of God’s perpetual provision for His beloved people.

The ark traveled everywhere with them. Borne on the priests’ shoulders, it was carried like a litter, with poles thrust through rings on the sides which made its transport easier, and it was the priests bearing the ark that led the people through the wilderness for forty years, all the way to the Jordan River separating the Israelites from the Promised Land.

Bearing the ark’s leadership and the cloud of the Lord on it, it wasn’t until the priests’ bare toes touched the waters of faith that they separated, in the same way they had at the Red Sea, to allow them to walk through the river on a dry bed. And so they processed across the Jordan into the Promised Land.

This Promised Land would be no picnic, however, for the first thing the people encountered was Jericho, a fortified stronghold whose inhabitants the Israelites had to rout in order to begin making the land their own. By perhaps the most unorthodox method in the history of warfare, the Israelites brought a coffin-throne, with which to do battle, to a siege (Joshua 6).

At the command of God, seven trumpet-blowing priests led the people and the ark in a procession around the city for seven days (Trumpets are a Scriptural symbol of the Voice/Word of God.). On the seventh day, after encircling Jericho seven times, and ending the procession with shouting and trumpet blowing, the walls of the city fell and the people took it completely.

I read recently that Mother Teresa prayed what she called “express novenas” to Our Lady. She would say nine Memorares in a row, all at once, when she needed immediate help. “Inspired by this confidence,” I realized something important. The same creative, speaking, brooding Holy Spirit “moving” on the face of the Genesis waters (Genesis 1:2) is the same Spirit, or “breath,” that rested on the mercy seat of the Ark, filling the tabernacle, and giving life to the Israelites through what He spoke to Moses (Exodus 40:34-35), and the same Spirit that “overshadowed” the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:35), conceiving new Life, the Eternal Word thus became the Incarnate Word, in her womb. "And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us..." (John 1:14)

It is for this reason, and several other striking parallels that the early Church Fathers regarded Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant. The Ark on which the Spirit uniquely rested, and which accompanied the Israelites on all their journeys, was arguably the most integral part of the victory at the Old Testament Battle of Jericho, and I would suggest to you that she still is.

For what other reason does the Holy Spirit compel the Church to pray to Mary for her powerful intercession, if it isn’t to bring the Ark’s influence to bear on our lives and situations, and in much the same manner, processing with her around fortified strongholds in prayer?

A wonderful invitation of grace and means of ‘conquering’ in our own difficult situations, we must be careful to bear our beloved Ark upon our shoulders as we move forward into battles of faith, proclaiming the Scriptures, blowing our trumpets, praying our prayers, processing in joyful expectancy for the moment when the walls fall flat. There is no stronghold that can withstand the power of God’s presence on the Ark.

Remember, most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly to you, oh Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me, and grant me….

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Sonja Corbitt is a Catholic Scripture teacher, study author and speaker. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit her at www.pursuingthesummit.com and www.pursuingthesummit.blogspot.com.

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