Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mary, Ark of the New Covenant (Assumption homily)

Today is the Solemn Feast of the Assumption. What is that?

We celebrate today the moment when—
at the end of her life on earth—
God took Mary to himself in heaven. 

Note that we believe Mary was taken to heaven—
she didn’t go there on her own steam.

So, how do we know this happened?

While Scripture doesn’t mention it explicitly, there are hints.
Notice the first reading: John looks up into heaven, 
and sees “the ark of the covenant.” 
But the ark of the covenant is a “woman, clothed with the sun.”

How can a woman be the “ark of the covenant”?

Remember what the ark was—
it was a box, created in Moses’ time, 
to carry the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the Word of God. 
And it also carried a jar filled with Manna, the bread from heaven.

But—that was the ark of the old covenant.
Mary is the ark of the new covenant!
The old ark carried God’s Word written in stone;
Mary carried the Word of God become man!
The old ark carried the Manna from the desert;
Mary carried Jesus, the Bread of Life!

And just as the glory of the Lord 
would overshadow the ark when Moses and the people worshipped, 
what did the Archangel Gabriel say to Mary:
“The power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

Notice the psalm we used today: 
“The queen stands at your right hand, clothed in gold.”
That psalm is actually referring to 
what we would call the “queen mother”—
the mother of the king—
because it describes her watching as the king meets his bride.

Who is the king? Jesus of course.
Who is the queen mother? Mary!
And the bride is the Church.

It simply makes sense. 
Why would God tell Israel to honor the ark of the old covenant, 
and not expect the New Israel to honor the ark of the new covenant?

What Saint John Damascene said, almost 1,300 years ago, 
still makes sense:

“It was necessary that she who had preserved her virginity 
inviolate in childbirth should also have her body kept free 
from all corruption after death;
“It was necessary that she 
who had carried the Creator as a child on her breast 
should dwell in the tabernacles of God.

“It was necessary that the bride espoused by the Father
should make her home in the bridal chambers of heaven.

“It was necessary that she who had gazed on her crucified Son
and been pierced in the heart by the sword of sorrow
which she had escaped in giving him birth,
should contemplate him seated with the Father.

“It was necessary that the Mother of God 
should share the possessions of her Son, 
and be venerated by every creature
as the Mother and handmaid of God.”

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