“… There was a woman whose dress was the sun and who had the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head…” (Rev. 12: 1)
There are several interpretations to the passage of Revelation 12:1. But one that stands out is the identification of the woman with Mary. Saint John, the writer of the Book of Revelation, had identified this woman in the last verse of the preceding chapter as the “Ark of the Covenant”. We know this because the division of the scriptures into chapters and verses is a later addition to the Bible. So when John wrote, he was describing this Ark which appeared in the heavenly temple. Mary is the New Testament (NT) fulfillment to the Ark of the Old Testament (OT). Mary is the new and greater fulfillment of what was prefigured by the Ark of the OT. What follows is a step by step comparison of the OT Ark with its NT counterpart and why Mary should be honoured as sinless and pure.
The Ark of the Old Covenant was the holiest and most powerful article on Earth outside of God Himself. It was a sacred chest which contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments among other things (Deut 10:5). The Ark also carried and represented the spiritual presence of God on Earth. When God spoke to Moses, it was from between the two cherubim which were on the Ark (Num 7:89; Ex 25:21-22). Let us now look at how the Bible identifies Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.
The Ark of the Old Covenant contained the written Word of God (Deut. 10:5). The Virgin Mary contained the Word of God made flesh, Jesus (Jn. 1:1,14). Revelation 19:13 says, “And He [Jesus] was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called, the Word of God.”
The Ark of the Old Covenant was “overshadowed” by the power and presence of God (Ex 40:34 -35). The Virgin Mary was “overshadowed” by the power and presence of the Most High (Lk 1:35).
The tabernacle was constructed to contain the holy Ark (Ex 40:2-3). When God would come down upon the tabernacle and the Ark to speak to Moses, we read in Ex 40:34 – 35 that God’s glory cloud or visible presence (called the “Shekinah”) “overshadowed” it. The rare word which is used to describe how this unique presence of God would “overshadow ” the Ark is episkiasei in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint.
Exodus 40:34-35 – “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud overshadowed it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”
The very same word “episkiasei” is used in the New Testament which is written in Greek to describe how the presence of God will “overshadow” the Virgin Mary. The Scriptures uses this language only about the Ark and about Mary.
Luke 1:35 – “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
The clear implication is that the presence of God overshadows Mary and comes down upon her – since she is the New Ark – just as it overshadowed the Ark of the Old Covenant. This reveals that Mary, while just a creature and infinitely less than God, is the new Ark. She has a unique connection to God, a unique holiness, sanctification and power.
Parallel Lines that Intersect
Consider the amazing parallels that Scripture gives us between what happened to the Ark of the Old Covenant in 2 Samuel 6 and what happened to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, in chapter 1 of Luke’s Gospel. 2 Samuel 6 is the most complete story in the Bible concerning the Ark of the Old Covenant. Luke 1 is the most complete story in the Bible concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary.
2 Samuel 6:9 – “David feared the Lord that day and said, How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”
Luke 1:43 –”[Elizabeth said]: And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? ”
Elizabeth says the same thing to Mary that David said about the Ark because Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. The only difference between the two statements is literally that “mother” is used where Ark was used. The Bible is telling us that the mother of the Lord is the Ark. This is confirmed without any doubt as we carry the story further.
David leapt Before the Ark: 2 Samuel 6:16 – “As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Saul´s daughter Michal looked down through the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord…”
The Infant (John the Baptist) leapt in the presence of Mary: Luke 1:41-44 – “And it came to pass, that, when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit… For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”
The Ark stayed for three months: 2 Samuel 6:11 – “ The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obededom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed Obededom and his whole house.”
Mary (the Ark) remained with Elizabeth for three months: Luke 1:56-57 – “Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.”
David set out to fetch the Ark from Judah: 2 Samuel 6:2 – “Then David and all the people who were with him set out for Baala of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God.”
This occurred when Mary ( the Ark) went to Judah: Luke 1:39-40 – “During those days Mary set out and travelled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.”
Revelation of the Ark
The Book of Revelation also indicates that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant:
Revelation 11:19,12-1 – “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. [12:1] And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”
The Bible was not written with any chapters or verses indicated. It was not until the 12th century that chapters and verses were added to the Bible. The author of Revelation, St. John, wrote what begins chapter 12 in one continuous stream immediately after what ends chapter 11. At the end of chapter 11, we read that the Ark of Jesus’ covenant was seen in Heaven. The very next verse is Revelation 12:1. Therefore, the words which end chapter 11 flows immediately into the words which begin chapter 12 without any interruption.
That means that the appearance of the Ark of Jesus’ covenant at the very end of chapter 11 is immediately explained by the vision of “the woman” clothed with the sun which begins chapter twelve, the very next verse (Rev. 12:1). This indicates that “the woman” clothed with the sun, who bore the Divine Person in her womb (the Virgin Mary), is the Ark of the New Testament.
The Ark contained the manna from the desert: Hebrews 9:4 – “…the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna , and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant.”
Mary contained the manna from Heaven, Jesus: John 6:48-51 – “I am that bread of life…This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven…and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
There can be no doubt that the manna in the desert (Exodus 16) prefigured Jesus as the Bread of Life. Jesus makes a connection between the two in John chapter 6. He makes reference to the manna in the desert, and then says that His flesh is the true manna from Heaven. Well, the manna from the desert was placed inside the Ark of the Old Covenant. That prefigures Jesus Christ Himself being contained within Mary, His Mother.
In Hebrews 9:4, we also see that the rod of Aaron was placed within the Ark of the Old Covenant. In Numbers 17, we read that this rod budded to prove the true high-priest. The rod of Aaron then signified the true high-priest. In the New Testament, Jesus is described as the true high-priest.
Hebrews 3:1 – “ Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” Also see Hebrews 6:20, 9:11, and other passages all attest that Jesus is the true high-priest. The inescapable conclusion is that Aaron’s rod being placed within the Ark prefigured Jesus Christ, the true high-priest, being contained within Mary.
SINCE MARY IS THE ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT, THAT MEANS THAT SHE IS THE MOST SACRED THING ON EARTH OUTSIDE OF JESUS CHRIST
Holy So Holy
The Ark of the Covenant was the holiest thing on earth outside of the presence of God Himself. The Ark was contained in the tabernacle, within the holy of holies. The Ark’s presence is what made the holy of holies so sacred.
2 Chronicles 35:3 – “Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build.”
The Ark was so holy that when the people of God followed it they had to keep a respectful distance.
Joshua 3:3-5 – “When you shall see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests of the race of Levi carrying it, rise up also, and follow them as they go before: And let there be between you and the ark the space of two thousand cubits: that you may see it afar off, and know which way you must go: for you have not gone this way before: and take care not to come near the ark .”
People who unlawfully touched the Ark were killed.
2 Samuel 6:6-7 – “Azor put forth his hand to the ark of God , and took hold of it: because the oxen kicked and made it lean aside. And the indignation of the Lord was enkindled against Azor, and he struck him for his rashness: and he died there before the ark of God.”
The men of Bethshemesh were killed because they had dared to look into the Ark.
1 Samuel 6:19 – “ And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men…”
We see how sacred God considered the object which was to come into close contact with His spiritual presence.
SINCE MARY IS THE NEW ARK, SHE HAD TO BE HOLY AND CREATED FREE FROM SIN
God gave the most precise specifications for the construction of the Ark. He ordered that it be made with the most pure gold (Ex 25:10-13,24).
It’s interesting that the Ark not only had to be overlaid with gold all around, but there is a specific reference to it having a “crown of gold round about.”
The Ark of the Old Covenant had a gold crown: Exodus 25:11 – “And thou… shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.”
The Virgin Mary (the New Ark) also has a crown: Apocalypse 12:1 – “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”
The Ark of the Old Covenant had to be perfect and holy because it was the seat of God’s unique spiritual presence. God’s holiness could not be tarnished by contact with that which had defects. Likewise and to a greater degree, the Virgin Mary, as the new Ark and bearer of Jesus Christ, had to be created without sin and in a state of perfection.
She did not merely contain the spiritual presence of God, but Jesus Christ (God Himself). She did not merely contain the written word of God, but the Word of God made flesh (Jn 1:1). Consequently, Mary must be perfect. She had to be free from all sin, ever-virgin and untouched by man.
If the Ark of the Old Covenant, which contained the written tables of the Law and was overshadowed by the spiritual presence of God, had to be overlaid with the most pure gold and had to be constructed according to the most precise specifications of God, how much greater is God’s “construction” of Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant? The fulfillment is always greater than the type. Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, must be and is greater than the Ark of the Old Covenant.
Just like the Ark of the Old Covenant, Mary must also have tremendous power over the Devil and God’s enemies. She must have a unique power of intercession with God, in bringing down His blessings and in aiding the people of God, just as the Ark of the Old Covenant did.
The Ark of the Old Covenant had awe-striking power. When it was taken by the Philistines, extraordinary things happened to them and to their false god, Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1-5).
The Philistines began to be destroyed for having taken the Ark. This prompted them to return the Ark to their enemies, the Israelites.
1 Samuel 5:7 – “And the men of Azotus seeing this kind of plague, said: The ark of the God of Israel shall not stay with us : for his hand is heavy upon us, and upon Dagon our god.”
The waters of the Jordan were miraculously dried up by the Ark.
Josh 3:13-14 – “ [And the Lord said to Josue ]: And when the priests, that carry the ark of the Lord the God of the whole earth, shall set the soles of their feet in the waters of the Jordan, the waters that are beneath shall run down and go off: and those that come from above, shall stand together upon a heap. So the people went out of their tents, to pass over the Jordan: and the priests that carried the ark of the covenant went on before them… ”
Mary, the New Ark, has this power and even more; for the fulfillment is greater than the type, and the New Testament is greater than the Old. We are told that the angels fought for the woman against the dragon (Rev 12:7). As we learnt from previous articles, Mary “by her fair humility and holy life conquered (the devil) and beat down his strength”. For Alphonsus Ligouri, “Jesus and His Mother have overcome Lucifer.” And for Saint Bernard, “this proud spirit (the dragon) was beaten down and trampled under foot by this most Blessed Virgin; so that, as a slave conquered in war, he is forced always to obey the commands of this Queen. She is our Queen and our Ark of refuge as she is for her Son our Lord Jesus Christ.