Wednesday, March 11, 2009

House of Gold. . . so much more than a metaphor for Mary

A word of explanation:

The Ark of the Covenant was not a woman. Why, then, would I include a post about the Ark of the Covenant in a series about Women of Salvation History? Well, the Women of the Old Testament point to the New Eve. We have seen how these women reveal a little piece of God’s great plan for our redemption. This line of matriarchs quietly runs parallel to the line of patriarchs, and it culminates in the Immaculate Conception (Mary) and the birth of the Incarnate Word of God (Jesus). Any review of the great female prefigurements of the Blessed Mother must include an overview of the Ark of the Covenant, because there is no denying the truth. Our Lady is the New Ark of the Covenant.

My fascination with metaphorical language began in a senior-level English class in high school. I discovered that I love to sort through a novel or short story and unveil the literary symbolism hidden within the text. I think I knew even then that I would eventually study literature and writing.

Nothing compares to the delight I find in studying the metaphorical language contained in the Word of God, but over and over again, I am struck by the realization that what I am studying is more than a metaphor.

One such moment occurred when I took a closer look at Hebrews 9:4-5 (below), which is really a summary of many Old Testament passages that describe the sacred Ark of the Covenant. There is no denying the attention to detail, the significance of the items contained in the Ark of the Covenant, and their prefigurement of the coming Messiah.

First, we see the gold jar of manna, a direct link to the Christ who would become the Bread of Life (John 6:35 and John 6:49-51). Second, we see Aaron’s staff, which is nothing more than a branch cut from a tree, but by some miracle, life has sprouted from this dead branch. Certainly, this prefigures the one who would be conceived in a virgin’s womb, but even more so, the one who would turn death into life (John 5:24). And finally, we read that the Ark of the Covenant contained the stone tablets of the Law, a reminder that with the New Covenant, we would receive a Lord who would be the fulfillment of the Law of Moses.

Our God is a God of details. It’s almost like He was practicing for the big moment. It’s almost like He wanted to give the Israelites clues so they wouldn’t miss the Messiah when He finally came.

But the prefigurement doesn’t end there. Could there be a clue in the word overshadowing?

Could this word reveal the connection between the Ark and Mary? Let it be a sign to you, the virgin will be with child (Isaiah 7:14). Mary is so important, she was the sign. She was the way the people of God could know Jesus was the Messiah. In the Scripture, we see the word “overshadowing” only a few times: resting on the Ark of the Covenant, when the Spirit rested over the waters, at the Transfiguration, and when the Angel Gabriel explained how Mary would conceive. The power of The Most High will overshadow you (Luke 1:35), the angel says in answer to Mary’s question, how can this be (Luke 1:34).

A well known priest, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, once gave an extensive talk on Mary. At the end of the talk, an old woman came up to him and told him he missed the main point. With great humility, the priest asked the old woman what that point was. She told him the most important thing was that Mary was overshadowed.

Oh, to be overshadowed by The Most High, to welcome Jesus into our lives at any cost, to become, in our own small way, an Ark of the New Covenant! And every time we receive the Eucharist, for a space of time, we are an Ark of the Living Manna, the fulfillment of the Law, and the Tree of Life.

The God of yesterday, today, and forever gives us one more glimpse at the Ark. In the book of Revelation (11:19-12:1), we see the two Arks come together in heaven. Just in case we missed the connection, God superimposes these two Arks one last time. Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

Indeed, the Word of God is more than a metaphor.

References from Holy Scripture:
Exodus 26 (construction of the Ark), 37(description)
I Chronicles 13 (transfer of the Ark)
Deuteronomy 31(the Law placed within the Ark)
Joshua 3, 4 (the Ark and the priests go before the Hebrew people as they cross through the Jordan and into the Promised Land)
Hebrew 9:4-5 (This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover.)



  1. Denise,
    Thank you for the work you put into your blog, it is very helpful. I love your column in the Exponet, too.
    I'm a convert also now for 20 years.
    I can remember well my conversion, it is a fond memory indeed. The Catholic religion is God's gift to me to help me through life's journey to Heaven.

  2. This is beautiful. I just stumbled upon it when trying to read about Blessed Mother's title, "House of Gold." What beautiful insights you have, clearly the gift of the Spirit. Yes, with God, it is more than a metaphor. The Word became flesh! It's too good to be true, but indeed it is Truth itself.

    Blessings, Jennifer