For those of you who are movie trivia buffs, I want you to guess the following movie. The movie involves lots of traveling, romance, and good guys and bad guys. It involves an American archaeologist who gets mixed up with an ancient artifact which some people believe it to have power. These people believe that if they have this artifact, their army will be invincible. Any guesses yet? One of the actress is Karen Allen as the archaeologist's old girl friend. And the archaeologist is played by an actor who starred in the first Star Wars. Okay, the movie is "Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark." The ancient artifact that the Nazi's were looking for in this movie was the ancient Israelite's Ark of the Covenant. When the Nazis finally opened the ark, what was there? A pile of dust. And then, true to Hollywood special effects, some spirits popped out like the Ghostbusters.
But what did the real Ark of the Covenant contain? The Ark was the sacred container which held three things. (1) tablet containing the Ten Commandments of Moses, (2) Aaron's rod, and (3) manna. The Ten Commandment was the evidence of the covenant between God and the Israelites. It was also God's words and law etched on stone. The rod of Aaron represents Aaron's priesthood. And the manna was the bread that came down from heaven that sustained Israelite's journey in the desert. The Ark was used for many purposes for Israelites. It preceded the people as they traveled through desert. They carried the Ark into battles. A famous example is when they carried it seven times around Jericho, and the walls of the Jericho came tumbling down. The Ark was also the visible presence of God among the Israelites. They placed the Ark in the Tabernacle; Tabernacle was a tent like structure consisting of an inner shrine known as Holy of Holies and an outer chamber called Holy Place. In the Holy of Holies the Ark was kept. Thick veil separated the inner chamber from the outer. Only the high priest entered this inner chamber, and only once a year. In the outer chamber was kept a seven-branched lampstand, table for showbread, and altar of incense. Hmmm, Catholics, where do we have something similar to the Tabernacle, with a candle and bread?
When Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and plundered the Temple, the Ark was lost. Several theories abound. One of the theories is that when an Egyptian pharoh captured Jerusalem around 930 BC, he took it back to Egypt. This is where Hollywood's Indiana Jones' story takes off. As the movie ends, we find that the Ark was sealed in a wooden crate and piled up in some government warehouse to be forgotten.
Now it was a common belief among the rabbis of old that it would be found at the coming of the Messiah. This is where our story begins. We know that the Old Testament foreshadows New Testament, that Old Testament prefigures New Testament. Could the old rabbis' theory be true? Will the Ark will be found with the arrival of the Messiah?
Let's go to the scriptures. In Luke 1, we find the scene of Archangel Gabriel announcing the great news of the arrival of the Messiah. Mary replies, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And Gabriel replies, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." If we go back to the Book of Exodus, we find something happening to the tent of meeting or the Tabernacle, "Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling." (Exod 40:34) And we just learned that inside the inner chamber of the Tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant.
Let's look at another part of Luke 1. After Mary is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, we learn that she goes off to her cousin Elizabeth who is now pregnant with John. We read, "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Let's now go back to 2 Samuel 6. King David is welcoming the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. David cried out, "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?" Then a little later, King David led the Ark into the city leaping and dancing before the Lord. Do you see the parallel between what David did and what Elizabeth and her infant in her womb did? Both were beholding the Ark. David was greeting the Ark of the Old Covenant while Elizabeth and John in her womb were greeting the Ark of the New Covenant.
Let's go to the Book of Revelation 11. We read "Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm." (Rev 11:19) Then the very next verse reads, "A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth." (Rev 12:1-2)
The Ark that was lost since Babylonian exile is now shown in heaven as a woman with a crown of twelve stars. Does this make sense? It makes sense if what's contained in the Ark of the Old Covenant foreshadows what's contained in the Ark of the New Covenant. We know that three items were placed in the Ark of the Old Covenant: (1) tablet of Ten Commandments representing God's word and covenant, (2) rod of Aaron representing priesthood of Aaron, (3) manna, the bread come down from heaven. In the womb of Mary was Jesus who was the Word of God, the Eternal Priest, and the Bread of Life. Do you see the parallels?
So how is Blessed Mother being the Ark of the New Covenant significant for us? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is ‘the dwelling of God . . . with men’" (CCC 2676). She's not an accidental teenager picked out of random to bear Jesus. She was in God's plan from the very beginning to point us to the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Where we find Blessed Mother, we find her son. And Mother Teresa told her sisters, "With Mary, we make more progress in the love of Jesus in one month than we make in years while living less united to this good Mother."