The movie Indiana Jones . . . had it a l m o s t right.
The real Ark of the Covenant contained the enormous supernatural power of the Holy Almighty One. And no human dare mess with it or take it lightly.
The real ark was made of hard and finely grained precious acacia wood, and then completely covered inside and out and all around with gold.
Of course there were prequels to the Ark, inklings in the pagan world that a real ark would be built some day to hold a divine something. You can find archeological examples all over the Middle East. But one day the real Ark was indeed built, along with gold rings at the corners and two long gold-covered acacia poles to put into the rings so that the Ark could be moved and carried without the touch of human hands.
After the Ark was filled . . . the top was shut . . . and no man – ever – could ever open it again, ever. Nor could the Ark be touched, not only not by profane (common) hands, but neither by ordained, consecrated priestly hands.
The Ark of the Covenant contained a “trinity” of objects*, each representing the holy presence of God-Most-High. Centuries later, when a young virgin was addressed as “blessed,” she then “contained” in her womb the Divine Presence; Mary is like the Ark of the Covenant and her womb “contained” God.
How can this happen to a human girl? How can this be? “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God, ” Gabriel told her.
The “Son” was the Son of God-Most-High, and as such, as “son,” He too was of the same eternal substance as the Father. It didn’t take long before the example of the Ark of the Covenant was understood to have been a foreshadowing of Mary, “Blessed,” called by God for a special purpose, and Ever-Virgin, untouched, never opened by man, never to be opened.
On December 8th we acknowledge and celebrate Mary, created without blemish, just like the Ark of the Covenant, perfectly made, perfectly created by an act of God so that as soon as she was created, she was conceived, and she was conceived without the blemish, the macula, the stain of sin because she was, so to speak, “saved” by her Savior, her Son, from the first moment of her existence.
Yes, she is human, she needs a Savior **, she has a Savior, but in this special, one-time unique act of creation, she was made to be the perfect Ark, the perfect container, the perfect womb to hold the Son of God.
Her human body could “touch” the Holy Son of God without annihilation.
Christians have written about this for many, many centuries, nearly 1,800 years; and then, during a certain crisis in history, the church decided it was time to formally define this doctrine so that people would know what Mary’s “Immaculate conception” meant and also what it didn’t mean.
No new doctrine, just a clear definition – but not many knew what had just been written in Rome. No cell phones in those days. No tweets.
But an affirmation was sent, in the form of a visitation from the Immaculate Conception herself. And to make sure it was a heaven-sent apparition, Mary appeared to an unlikely witness: an illiterate, unschooled, rather ignorant peasant girl who could not have imagined nor understood the new definition, even if she had heard about it.
It’s an interesting story, a lovely story, really, and told very well in the movie “Song of Bernadette.” Though her family, her town, the authorities, her priest and her bishop resisted her testimony, when she reported that the “beautiful lady” in the apparition had called herself “The Immaculate Conception,” they began to listen. Was this an inadvertent confirmation of the Church’s definition of an age-old doctrine?
How could Bernadette have known?
But what is also interesting is what happened to this ignorant, uneducated peasant girl after the visitations.
This is a photo of her, a few years later:
She became a very private person; a nun; holy; humble; serene.
And this is what happened to her after her death-
Oh – how about a close-up —
30 years after her death they wanted to move her body, and, as was the practice, they opened her casket. Beautiful. Her body untouched. She had beheld a holy and heavenly visitor, conversed with her, and it changed her spirit, her personality, and even her physical habitation.
We do not celebrate Bournadette on this day, nor her apparition at Lourdes, but we celebrate the reality of the Immaculate Conception, a young virgin, created to be the perfect, holy vessel for the Incarnated Son of God; the real Ark of the Covenant. (See Revelation 11:19 and 12:1)
.* The three objects are: A sample of the Manna which fell onto the people, from Above, to be their food and sustenance for forty years of wilderness travel.
The second “object” was the stone tablets which contained words given to Moses, which represent the will of God, the Word of God, and since He is God, His word is Himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . ”
The third object was the rod, or staff, of Aaron, the brother of Moses, which, though a dead stick, budded to manifest the Affirmation of God’s presence and approval during a crisis among the Israelites.
Three objects, all containing and representing the Presence of the Living God, and more specifically, His Presence among us in the Person of His Son, threefold for emphasis: Life, Word of Life, and Bread of Life.
.** Mary is human, like us, and as such, she is never to be worshiped as God is worshiped. Any goodness in her comes from God, her Savior, just as any goodness in us is the work of God. Mary is receptive to God’s working, just as we must be.
Any honor given to Mary is because of her Son and is due her Son. “Behold, all generations shall call me Blessed . . .” because — not because of her, but because of her Son. (There are some who don’t want to call her Blessed, but this is not biblical.)