lunedì, dicembre 08, 2014


The Ark of the Covenant


Whoops! We interrupt this Advent for a Solemnity! Intone the Gloria! Ring the bells! Get out the white vestments!



Today, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, is exactly nine months before September 8, the birthday of Mary. It is a dogma of the Church that Mary was conceived without Original Sin, in view of the sacrifice that her Son made on Calvary.

And so today's Jesse Tree image is of the Ark of the Covenant. (That is, the ark of Moses, which is really the second ark - the first was that of Noah.)

"As the visions during the night continued, I, John, saw God's temple in heaven open, and in it could be seen the Ark of the Covenant."

Moses brought the Law (scribed on two stone tablets) down from Mount Sinai. He also brought the detailed specs on how to build a certain wooden box, to be lined inside and out with gold, and ornamented with cherubim, and how it was to be handled, and so forth.

But what did John see? The wooden box lined with gold, containing the two stone tablets and a sample of the manna, and the rod of Aaron? Or was it something else?

One of the titles of Mary in the amazing list called the "Litany of Loretto" is "Ark of the Covenant". She, too, was planned by God in advance. She, too, was made of what we might call "the material of failure" - made in the same form as the failed human family from which she came (just as the ark of Moses was wood, symbolizing failure) BUT with an important difference: she was all-pure, and "full of grace" as the angel told her (just as the ark of Moses was lined with gold inside and out).
Like the ark of Noah, the ark of Moses was built according to a plan. Despite its much smaller size, the ark of Moses had a rather more detailed plan. And the new, one-celled Ark, hidden in the womb of Anna, was far smaller, and far more complex - and far more holy. For the ark of Moses contained only the Law of God, and a sample of the bread of God. But Mary the New Ark was readied to contain the God Who gave that law, and He Who would one day give His very own flesh as bread for the life of the world. (Note that last word is kosmosin Greek!)

It's funny how even some Catholics get the details of this date confused, forgetting that nine months before Christmas is the Great Solemnity of the Annunciation, which was once New Year's (Even, as Tolkien told us, in the Kingdom of Gondor, the day that the Ring went into the fire!) Interestingly, that feast often interrupts Lent, just as this feast interrupts Advent. (Every so often, however, due to a special case which is the height of good system design, the celebration of the Annunciation is displaced until after Divine Mercy Sunday; my mother used to say those years Jesus was a preemie, hee hee.) But it is funny when I hear someone confusing "Immaculate Conception" as if it applied to Jesus - I wonder, for it's almost as if they don't know about the human gestation period (nominally 278 days)...

This feast of the Immaculate Conception, held up as a sign against those who deny the personhood of prenatal humanity; its splendor is still being explored and revealed. In doing so, not only will be drawn more to the praise of these wonders of God, and to love for Him, but we will have a greater love and respect for our neighbors who share in the same humanity... For as often as we do it to one of our least brothers, it is as if we did it to Him.