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Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

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Litany of Loreto – Ark of the Covenant

Monday, February 21, 2011
'The holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary.'

These words from St. Gregory Thaumaturgus in the third century reflect an understanding of Our Lady that goes right back to the beginning of Christianity. In Luke's Gospel, there are clear parallels between Our Lady and the ark of the covenant. In the hill country of Judea, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of her cousin Mary, the babe leapt in her womb. Elizabeth exclaimed 'why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?' and Mary remained with Elizabeth for three months before returning home (Luke 1). Compare this with the account of King David and the ark (2 Samuel 6). When he manages to retrieve the ark after its capture by the Philistines, he leaps and dances before it. He says “how can the ark of the Lord come to me?” and he takes the ark to Abu Ghosh, a village in the hill country of Judea and the ark remains there for three months.

 The relationship between Our Lady and the ark is also seen in the book of Revelation:
“Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, 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” (Revelation 11:19-12:2)
To see why Our Lady should be associated with the ark, we need to consider what was actually kept within it. The ark contained three things: the tablets on which the ten commandment were written, a jar of manna from the desert, and Aaron's staff that budded (Hebrew 9:4). So whereas the ark contained the word of God inscribed on stone tablets, the bread of heaven and the staff representing the Levitical priesthood, within Our Lady's womb was the Word of God made flesh, Jesus the bread of life who is our true high priest. Until the Babylonian exile, the ark of the covenant marked the presence of God among his people. Now Our Lady has taken on this role and so it is very appropriate that we pray to her as ark of the new covenant, that she reveal to us the blessed fruit of her womb.

Robert Verrill OP

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