I know, the title of today’s Feast is The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But in all actuality, scripture and the Church see the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant. You have to really appreciate the links between the New Testament and the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) to fully understand this. I won’t go in to the full explanation of TYPOLOGY, but suffice it to say that many things in the New Testament point to the Old Testament. Many things in the Old Testament are better understood because of the New Testament. Saint Augustine said that “the Old Testament is the New concealed, but the New Testament is the Old revealed” (Catechizing of the Uninstructed 4:8). One easy example of TYPOLOGY is when Jesus himself refers to the bronze serpent of Moses (that was hung on a pole to bring life to the Israelites) as a type of his own crucifixion.
If you remember the stories from the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was seen as God’s own presence to his people. It was carried forth in battle to assure victory and was kept in the Holy Temple to be worshipped. It was so holy that no one could touch it. When Uzzah, the son of Abinadad touched it, he immediately died. The Ark of the Covenant contained three items; the tablets on which God wrote the ten commandments, a piece of manna from when God fed the Israelites in the desert, and the rod of Aaron, the symbol of priesthood of the first priest of Israel. This ark was prominent in the life of David and Solomon and many others until it was hidden when invaders came in to Israel. It was never found and is still hidden somewhere in Israel. Just in case you are wondering, Indiana Jones did not find the Ark of the Covenant; that was just fiction.
So why do we consider the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant? There are many reasons, but I will list a few. First of all, when Mary was told that she would give birth to Jesus, the angel told her that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her. This word overshadow is the same word that the Old Testament used for God’s Spirit overshadowing the Ark of the Covenant. The only place this word is used in the New Testament is here, overshadowing Mary. This shows the parallel of the Holy Spirit overshadowing the Ark of the Covenant and that same Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant. Today’s Feast shows another very good example of TYPOLOGY. Mary comes to visit Elizabeth when both of them are carrying child. Mary is pregnant with Jesus and Elizabeth is pregnant with John the Baptist. As soon as Mary greets Elizabeth, we are told that John the Baptist leapt for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. This makes us look back to King David when he danced before the Ark of the Covenant and leapt for joy. The words, “cried out for joy” here for both Mary and the King David before the Ark of the Covenant are the words used for liturgical dance and joy. The readers of that day would have understood this.
Another interesting thing is that when King David was able to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant he said, “How can the Ark of the Covenant come to me?” Elizabeth said to Mary, “How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” See how close these are. Luke also tells us that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months in the hill country. The Old Testament tells us that David kept the Ark in the hill country for three months. There are other parallels, but I would like to end with one final thought. Let us compare what the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant contained and what the New Testament Ark of the Covenant (Mary) contained.
The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the very Word of God, written on stone. The New Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the Work of God, made flesh. The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the Manna that God sent to feed the Israelites. The New Testament Ark of the Covenant contained the Bread of Life, Jesus, who feeds His people with the Eucharist. Finally, the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the rod of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel. The New Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the New High Priest, Jesus. Isn’t God AWESOME?