Not excluding the Esheth Yahil (Woman of Valor) from Proverbs 31, Mary as the Ark of the Covenant has to be one of the greatest Old Testament types of Mary.
The original Ark of the Covenant was the sacred chest that contained the presence of God for the Israelites. The Ark was two and half cubits (3.75 feet, 1.1 meters) in length and one and one half cubits (1.5 feet, 0.5 meters) in height and width. The Ark was built from acacia wood and covered inside and out with gold platting. On the corners were golden rings so that poles made from acacia wood and gilded with gold could be inserted in order to carry the ark without it being touched. The lid was made of a solid slab of gold. The gold slab formed the mercy seat and on either side was two cherubim angels made from gold and facing one another. God gave the description and “blue prints” of how the Ark of the Covenant was to be built (read Exodus 25:10-22).
The Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments, which were written on stone tablets. These were the second version of the tablets (read Deuteronomy 10:5) since Moses destroyed the first tablets, the ones God divinely carved, when he threw them at the Golden Calf. Also in the Ark was a gold vessel (similar to a ciborium) that held the manna that fed the Israelites in the desert (read Exodus 16:34), and the staff of Aaron that blossomed (read Hebrews 9:4).
The Ark of the Covenant was the visible sign of God’s presence and protection among the sons and daughters of Israel. A cloud, which also represented God’s presence, would overshadow the Ark. This cloud became known as the “shekinah” which means “Divine Presence” or “Divine Glory.”
In the New Testament, Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth, becomes the New Ark of the Covenant. The New Covenant (Testament) is a covenant that is everlasting between God and all of humanity through the person of Jesus Christ. Mary becomes the sacred vessel for she is immaculately created by God to carry God himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Mary is the Theotokos – she is the God-Bearer.
Just as the original Ark was layered with gold, a precious metal that does not fade, so Mary the new Ark of the covenant through her Immaculate Conception would not fade. At the Annunciation, the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant, just as the “shekinah” overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the articles that were placed in the Ark of the Covenant. He is the New Law (Beatitudes) that fulfills the Old Law, the Ten Commandments. He is the fulfillment of the manna that came down from heaven that fed the Israelites. Jesus is the living bread that came down from heaven (see John 6:51) to feed all of us with his Holy Eucharist (read John 6:22-71). He is the fulfillment of the staff of Aaron because Aaron was the first high priest of the Levitical Priesthood. Jesus is the Eternal and Royal High Priest.
In his essay, The Mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Old Testament, Fr. Stefano Manelli, F.I, states,
“…Mary is she “who bears in herself not the word of God written ‘on stone’ (the tablets of the Law), but the very Word of God, the Logos, made flesh, become her son; who carries in herself ‘not the flowering rod of Aaron, but the flower of Jesse’; who carries in herself not the manna, figure of the Eucharist, but the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Eucharistic Christ, adored by the golden cherubim!”
As the Ark of the Covenant was a sign of God’s protection in the Old Testament for the Israelites, and was carried into battle at times, so too the New Ark of the Covenant, should be a true sign of God’s presence in the world and protecting the Church militant here on Earth as we battle Satan, the evil he proposes, and those who attack the Catholic Church.
Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant…Pray For Us!
Hahn, Scott, Catholic Bible Dictionary. Doubleday Religion, 2009.
Miravalle, Mark, Introduction to Mary. Queenship Publishing, 2006.
Miravalle, Mark, Mariology – A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons. Seat of Wisdom Books – Queenship Publishing, 2007.