In praying the Litany of Loreto, one of the titles ascribed to Mary is “Ark of the Covenant.” We find this title used in I Chronicles: 15:3-4,15-16 and 16:1-2. In this Scripture, the human author, in concert with the divine author, the Holy Spirit, pens an image of the honor associated with this ark, which, much like a tabernacle, housed the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments Moses received on Mt. Sinai. Jews believe that these tablets came down from heaven and were placed into the hands of Moses. As such they interpret this gesture as a gift from God to his chosen people. In offering Moses these stone tablets, God was graphically illustrating, not only the conditions of this covenant but, in return for the obedience of his people, God pledged to remain with his Chosen People, Israel and to love this people forever. The Word of God continues to instruct us that the stone tablets received by Moses were enshrined in a box-like container, known as “the Ark,” a tabernacle of sorts, made of wood and plated in metal, which accompanied the people as they wandered through the desert toward the promise land. The Ark was and is, for the Jewish people, a visible sign of God’s presence with them. Many centuries later, a home more precious than any temple, more dear than the Ark, was created by God in Mary of Nazareth. What more pure, worthy and intimate dwelling could God provide for his only Son than the loving vessel of a sinless woman? Against the backdrop of salvation history, we can recognize the hand of Providence as God as he chooses to reveal his only Son through the unique pregnancy of a woman set aside from all eternity to be his mother.
Mary of Nazareth was to be and still is the new “Ark of the Covenant,” who unveils the new and definitive covenant of God’s un-conditional love to humankind. By the power of the Holy Spirit she conceived a son and gave birth to the incarnate creative and redemptive Love of God in the person of Jesus Christ. So that Juan Diego’s bishop might believe his story about the “Lady clothed in stars,” Mary instructed this newly converted Christian to bring roses to the bishop’s residency. The bishop would recognize this as a miracle since it was wintertime. When the Aztec Indian convert opened his tilma to show the bishop the roses, not only did these flowers fall to the floor, but the bishop was awestruck as he viewed what was etched into the very fabric of the tilma, an image of the Virgin Mother! Many art historians and theologians have studied the image on the tilma [outer cloak], which belonged to St. Juan Diego. They believe that the black tassel in Our Lady’s hands is an Aztec symbol of “being with child.” Thus, Mary appears to St. Juan Diego clothed in fabric that would be meaningful even to Aztecs who were not Christian. Perhaps it is the reason why so many Aztecs converted to Christianity willingly, after the apparition of this famous image, and why so many non-religious Mexicans of Aztec ancestry still go out of their way to honor the “Woman Clothed with Stars,” not only on her feast day but year round.
Among the words spoken by Our Lady to St. Juan Diego, everybody cherishes the three that leaves us all in awe: “Call me Mother.” As Bishop James F. Checchio indicated in his column, in the last issue of “The Catholic Spirit,” on Dec. 12, 2019, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he will consecrate the entire diocese under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
As children of Mary, may we always recognize in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the pregnant virgin mother, inviting us to worship the One she carries in vitro. It is Jesus who gives us hope that better days lie ahead in a world, which, at times, seems more fallen than redeemed. Amidst the difficulties of life, especially current Church scandals, wars, natural disasters and crimes against humanity, may we strive to evangelize our families, parishes, and inactive Catholics through the testimony of our lives shaped by our faith, and given voice through the language of charity. Indeed, Our Lady of Guadalupe is the New Ark of Covenant, the Mother of a New Evangelization. By the grace of spiritual adoption through baptism, which makes us brothers and sisters of Jesus, we too can call Mary, “Mother,” who wants nothing more than for us to accept and embrace the fruit of her womb, the Good News of God’s Love, who is Jesus Christ the Lord.
Father Comandini is managing editor of The Catholic Spirit.
Mary of Nazareth was to be and still is the new “Ark of the Covenant,” who unveils the new and definitive covenant of God’s unconditional love to humankind.