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Ark of the Covenant

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

One of the titles given to Mary in the Litany of Loreto, or Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is "Ark of the Covenant." This title is taken directly from the Book of Revelation and appears as our first reading for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Ark of the Covenant was an elaborate tabernacle which was housed in the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Solomon. The ark was reputed to contain the tablets of stone upon which God wrote the Ten Commandments as well as a receptacle which held some of the manna which God gave to the Israelites as they made their way through the desert to the Promised Land. These two objects were reminders of the covenant relationship which they had with God. When the ark was carried into the Holy of Holies, the shekina Yahweh, the glory of God, descended upon the ark and appeared as a cloud which inhabited the Holy of Holies.

The Christian Scriptures record that God established a new covenant with the people through his Son, Jesus. Just as our ancestors did before us, we also place a tabernacle in our churches which contains the abiding presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Inasmuch as Mary acted as such a tabernacle during the nine months of her pregnancy, she has come to be regarded as the Ark of the New Covenant. Her womb was the tabernacle which gave flesh to the Word of God, the incarnate Word, Jesus, the Christ.

As we celebrate this great solemnity, we remember that Jesus rose from the dead, and that through our faith in Jesus, we too will rise from the dead. Mary was the first to enjoy the fruits of the resurrection as we believe that she was assumed into heaven body and soul after her death. According to the legend that surrounds her death, when the apostles went to her tomb they found it filled with roses rather than the mortal remains of the Blessed Virgin. She stands as a witness to our faith that we will live with God, body and soul, after the second coming of Christ. Indeed, we are blessed.

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