Ark Of The Covenant.
Saint John tells us in the Apocalypse that "the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the Ark of His Testament was seen in His temple" (Apoc. XI—19).
The Ark of the Covenant seen in the temple of God in Heaven prefigures the Blessed Virgin Mary. Between her and the Ark of the Covenant, built by Moses, are found the following resemblances.
The Ark of the Covenant was made of an incorruptible wood, while Mary never suffered at any moment of her life the corroding influence of even original sin. The Ark was overlaid within and without with purest of gold, and Mary, in her purity, is of the purest of gold, so immaculate is she that of her it is said: "All the glory of the king's daughter is within" (Psal. XLIV—14). The Ark of the Covenant was covered with a propitiatory; Mary is a propitiatory for all who have recourse to her.
Two cherubims, made of gold, spread their wings over the Covenant, whereas choirs of angels hovered constantly over Mary. In the Ark were placed the tables of the commandments; in Mary is the law itself in the person of Jesus Christ.
There was in the Ark the rod of Aaron, which had blossomed; Mary conceived in her womb that incomparable flower of the rod of the root of Jesse. We also find in the Ark a portion of the manna that came down from Heaven and served as food for the Israelites in the desert; in Mary was the bread of life that came down from Heaven in the person of Jesus, the Redeemer of the world, who said: "I am the bread of life, this is the bread that came down from Heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna and are dead; he that eateth this bread shall live forever" (John VI—35-59).
In the Ark was the table of the law; in the womb of Mary was the heir of the testament. The Ark contained the law, Mary, the Evangel. From the Ark came the voice of God; from Mary came the Word of God. The Ark glistened from within and without with the purest of gold; Mary shone, from within and without, with the brightness of resplendent virginity. They overlay the Ark with gold taken from the bowels of the earth; God enriches Mary with a gold, all heavenly, chastity and charity.
"When you shall see the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, rise you up and follow it" (Josue III—3). Behold Mary, the Ark in the temple of God in heaven! Rise you up and follow her, paying her homage, respect and veneration.
"The sea saw" the Ark of the Covenant "and fled: the Jordan was turned back" (Psal. CXIII —3). At the very name of Mary, hell trembles, and the demons take to flight.
Before the Ark the walls of Jericho crumbled: before Mary the chains that bind the sinner fall from his shackled hands.
The Ark insured victory to the Israelites, Mary obtains for us victory over the powers of darkness, and aids us to conquer all our enemies. The Ark of the Covenant was a sign of the presence of God among His people; Mary was the Ark bearing God in her chaste womb, for in her the "Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John I—14).
The Ark was the guarantee of peace to the Israelites; Mary contained the "Prince of Peace." The Ark was the power of the people of God; Mary was the tabernacle of the "power of God." The Ark of the Covenant was the propitiatory of the old law; Mary was that of the new law. The Ark of the Covenant brought the favor of God upon His people and a malediction on His enemies, Mary brought blessings to all the human race, but destruction to all who reject the salvation she offers them through the fruit of her womb, Jesus.
God looked complacently on the Ark, He takes delight in Mary, His most pure, most chaste, Virgin Mother.
Gate Of Heaven.
In the disobedience of Adam, mankind suffered a most serious loss. Adam, and through him all men and nations, was driven out of the Garden of Eden, whilst the gate of the heavenly paradise was closed against him. Though created for Heaven, he sacrificed his claim to it by transgressing the command of his Creator when he ate of the forbidden fruit. His posterity was condemned to the same punishment, and all the generations of men found the gate to the kingdom of Heaven shut against them.
Ere God expelled man from the garden of paradise, he gave him the promise of a Redeemer who would reinstate him in the rights to his heavenly home, would bring back blessing to earth accursed in his sin, and would reconcile him to his Creator in the shedding of His blood.
The Saviour promised by the Almighty was to be the seed of the woman. God spoke thus to the serpent: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel" (Gen. Ill—15j.
A woman was to be the mother of the Redeemer. No one could enter into the celestial paradise until the Saviour should come. On conquering sin and death, He would return triumphant into heaven, from whence He descended, in order to reopen it to the children of Adam, who would avail themselves of His profferred redemption by loving and serving God faithfully. But what privileged woman was to be the Mother of Him who would liberate mankind? Since, by sin, Heaven was lost, it can be recovered by perfect innocence only, and an adequate atonement made to the justice of an outraged God.
Heaven alone can bestow the Saviour, while the earth must open the way, be the gate, so to speak, through which He may come to earth in the fulness of time according to the secret designs of God.
That blessed among women was none other than the Immaculate Mary, the Mother of Jesus. By a special dispensation of Divine Providence she was preserved from the original stain of Adam through the anticipated merits of the passion and death of her Divine Son, the promised Redeemer. She is verily the gate by which Christ Jesus entered into the world, to do the will of His Father, to whom He had said from all eternity, "behold I come."
Jacob, the son of Isaac, having received his aged father's blessing went into Mesopotamia of Syria. On his way he rested and slumbered. In his sleep he saw a ladder which rested upon the earth, while the top of it reached the heavens. Angels of God came down and returned upon it. And he heard the Lord God of Abraham say to him: "In thee and thy seed all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. XXVIII—14). On awakening, Jacob said: "This is no other but the gate of Heaven" (XXVIII—17).
Not in sleep, but while in sublime contemplation of God, did Mary see descending an angel from Heaven, who told her that she was found pleasing to the Lord her God because she was full of grace, and that she was chosen of all women to be the Mother of One through Whom all the peoples of the earth are to be blessed.
Her consent is awaited. She must open the way and allow the Just One to come into the world, for she is "no other than the gate of Heaven." Speak! Oh Mary, speak the word and let the gate of Heaven stand wide open! She spoke it: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Thy word," the gate was opened and the Emmanuel came unto us.
Arising from prayer, she hied herself to the home of her cousin, Saint Elizabeth, who greeted her as she entered under her roof: "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb," Jesus, "and whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1—42-43). Then it was that Mary burst forth in that sublime inspired anthem: "My soul doth magnify the Lord," and "all generations shall call me blessed" (Luke I—46, 48).) Truly all the generations of men and all the choirs of angels will proclaim her blessed, who is "no other than the gate of Heaven," the Virgin of Virgins, the Mother immaculate of the promised Redeemer.
"A star shall rise out of Jacob" (Numb. XXIV—17). This star of Jacob prefigures the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is born into the world as fair as the moon, as bright as the sun, and is as the morning star that forcasts the rising of the sun of Eternity.
At her birth the angels of God exclaim in beholding her: "Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?" (Cant. VI—19).
Justly may we say of her what the angels of God announced to the shepherds out in the fields at the birth of the Saviour: "I bring you glad tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the City of David. Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will" (Luke 11—10, 11, 14).
In creating Mary immaculate, Virgin most pure, Virgin most chaste, God had before Him His Divine Son, who was to be born of her. Her conception and birth foreshadowed the coming of the Saviour. She is the morning star of the day of days when He shall be born who will illumine every man that cometh into the world.
Prior to the advent of the Redeemer, holy souls who were looking for the redemption of Israel sighed and prayed for it, pleading with God to open the Heavens and rain down the just One.
If, at times, a faint glimmer of hope of the long-looked for day appeared on the horizon, with all the powers of their souls they poured forth prayers of thanksgiving. What would have been their transports of joy had they known that in the birth of Mary, they would perhaps live to see the day wherein the Redeemer would be born.
A dark dismal night had cast its gloom over the whole earth, which could be dissipated only by the coming of the Saviour. Mary was the dawn of that day. "The night is passed and the day is at hand" (Rom. XIII—12). Mary gives us hope, for while she is not the day itself, she is the harbinger of it.
We see not yet the promised One, but we do behold the splendor of her who is to be His Virgin Mother. She is as the morning star that forecasts the coming of the day so earnestly prayed for.
Eve was the first to give way to the tempter and eat of the forbidden fruit, Mary, the new Eve, is the fruit in the order of redemption to foil the serpent's insidiousness and triumph over Him, for she is the immaculate, from whose virginal womb shall come the promised Redeemer who will save His people.
When the Magi came to Jerusalem seeking the new born king of the Jews, they said to the king: "We have seen His star in the East" (Matt. II—2). Though all Jerusalem was unconscious of the wonderful happenings at its very doors, a star in the heavens guided those of the east to the manger where they found the child wrapped in swaddling clothes, and falling upon their knees they adored Him.
Oblivious of the star that was to rise out of Jacob, the world slumbered whilst from out of the heavens came an archangel to announce its appearance and admire it: "Hail, full of grace," spoke the messenger of God to Mary, the humble Virgin of Nazareth, who was heaven's first blessing to earth in the order of redemption. "Hail, full of grace," without stain, all loveable in the sight of her Creator, rising, as the morning star, of the day, the great day, wherein it would be said, the Saviour is born among us.
Saint Elizabeth proclaimed it, inspired by the Holy Spirit, "whence comes it that the Mother of my God should come to me?" The great and holy man Simeon gave vent to the same joy, when, in the temple, he received the child Jesus into his arms, he said: "Now, thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, because my eyes have seen thy salvation" (Luke 1I—29-30).
The night had passed and the day was at hand, for the star had risen out of Jacob, the morning star, our sweet, our loving Mother Mary, preceeded the great day, wherein the desired of all nations was to make His appearance in the person of Jesus, the Son of the ever glorious Virgin Mary.
Health Of The Weak.
Since the unfortunate downfall of man in transgressing the command of his Creator, innumerable miseries have become his portion in life. He was told that in what day soever he would eat of the forbidden fruit, he should surely die the death.
Led astray by the spirit of evil, who was jealous of man's happiness, he took of the fruit and ate. In that hour he parted, not only with the beauty of his soul, but he also sustained in his body the consequences of sin.
Sickness, disease and countless infirmities became his lot. He has now to battle against these ills to prolong a life that otherwise would have endured forever. To retrieve his loss, man of himself had no hope. God's decree condemning him had gone forth and the "heavens and the earth will pass away," but His word will abide unendingly.
Misery and death will henceforth mark his path through life, for he carried in him the seed of suffering and death, because of his disobedience. Having lost the vigor of body and soul, he must have a way to recuperate his strength. In the sweat of his face he has to work in order to provide for the necessities of life, and for his soul, he must seek heaven's indulgence by being faithful to God midst the vicissitudes of his earthly sojourn.
He was promised a Redeemer, who would bring back blessing to the earth and God's friendship to his soul. Yet he must die to resurrect in the last day provided he loves and serves his Creator during life. The merits of his suffering Lord will be applied to his soul to restore health and life to it, and in God's own time to his body.
As food sustains the life of the body, grace gives life to the soul. When we become feeble in body, we resort to those helps that will reinvigorate it and bring it back, as far as we can, to its first energy. Every available means is sought in order to recover our lost health. If we hear of any skilled physician who has been successful in the treatment of the ailment we suffer with, we quickly seek him and enlist his services in our behalf.
Man clings to life, parting with it reluctantly. Vast amounts of money are expended by those who can afford it, to prolong their life, even for a short time. This being true of the life of the body that must, however, on the word of God, return some day to the dust from which it is made, what should be our zeal in regard to the life of the soul that is immortal?
On its healthful condition depends the eternal life of glory promised to those who live in the love of God to the end. "What will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul," or "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
Our greatest efforts should tend to keep our soul healthy, or if, unfortunately, it has become enfeebled by wrong doing and thereby parted with grace, which is the life of the soul, it behooves us to remedy the evil done by having recourse to those means that can heal and restore it to life. If we knew of anyone who could help us in our infirmities of soul we would be most unwise to say the least, to delay having recourse to that person.
But Mary, "full of grace," is that one. She has practised every virtue in an eminent degree, and as through her the Heavenly Physician of our soul came among us, through her we may find Him in our need.
By her humility and admirable purity she brought Jesus Christ from Heaven to earth, she is the gate of Heaven, and by her words, her example, her encouragement, she points us out the way to him.
Jesus, from the Cross, gave her to us as our mother, so that in our trials, difficulties and weakness we may have recourse to her, the best of mothers, and that we may appeal to her in all our necessities.
Should we attempt a recital of our Mother Mary being the health of the infirm in body there would be no end to it, but what tongue can tell all she has done for the health of those weak souls deprived of the grace of God through their own folly. Having received the plentitude of grace, Mary comes to the aid of the weak, and by its superabundance in her enables them to recover the health of the soul.
Her merits plead constantly for us before the throne of God, and obtain for us all necessary graces for the well-being of our soul. In all our needs we have an inexhaustible source of help in Mary, whose delight is to be the hope of the infirm, the comfort of the distressed, the health of the weak.
Refuge Op Sinners.
When sin entered the world, such a blight rested upon it, that God communed no longer with man as He was wont to do.
There was no fit refuge for him. All was darksome. Gloom brooded over the habitation the Creator was accustomed to visit before its defilement. In his transgression man closed his heart against his God, who could find no delight in a place defiled by sin, where He once loved to dwell.
For four thousand years, tears and lamentations marked man's pathway on earth. Deprived of God's presence, all was sorrow, and darkness covered the face of the earth.
From time to time some slight hope entered into the heart of man, when, through the rifts in the clouds that overspread the world, a faint light from Heaven would come to him. At last the day dawned. From His throne, the Almighty beheld a refuge in the person of an humble virgin, where He could find once more an abode among men.
He would descend in the person of His Divine Son into that refuge in which He took delight, become one of us and repair the wrong done by Adam, father of the human race.
No stain of any kind could exist where He chose to find shelter. Whilst He had taken upon Himself the sins of all men, He could not associate with iniquity or seek a refuge where sin was ever known. He is one with His Heavenly Father, who is eternal holiness, to whom the very shadow of sin is repulsive.
In Mary, however, Mary full of grace, Mary most pure, most chaste, Mary immaculate, He found a suitable refuge, where He could enter without umbrage to His infinite majesty and sanctity. Midst the lilies of Mary's virginal womb the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
No sooner was Jesus the Saviour born of Mary, than the angels of God announced the glad tidings to man in the person of the shepherds out in the field tending their flocks, and bade them to go and find their Lord and God in the manger at Bethlehem. "And they came with haste: and they found Mary and Joseph and the Infant lying in the manger.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them" (Luke II— 16-20).
Protection and salvation had come to them through Mary, and they rejoiced with exceeding great joy that their Redeemer had found a refuge where He was free from the winds and gales of sin.
The Magi, wise men from the East saw His star in the heavens and journeyed to Jerusalem to find Him, but no trace of Him could be found in that far-famed city. It was only when they reached the stable at Bethlehem that they found Him through Mary. "They found the Child with Mary, His Mother, and falling down they adored Him" (Matt. II—4). The lowly and the great find Jesus through Mary, His only secure refuge.
Man had sinned in Adam, but he sighed for the promised Redeemer who came to him under the shelter of His Virgin Mother Mary. Only those who sought Him through Mary were blessed in finding Him, while all who looked for Him not in that secure refuge were left to their wicked pernicious ways.
All men need Jesus and must seek Him, for all have sinned in their first parents. Those who have strayed further away from God by sin, require all the more the saving merits of the Redeemer to be cleansed of their iniquities and be restored to His grace and friendship.
The order of things established by Divine Providence has not changed. Hence, to avoid shipwreck on the boisterous sea of life, we must turn toward the star of the sea and direct our frail bark toward that secure refuge, where we will be safe from the billows of sin.
We must turn toward Mary who sheltered Jesus and who is the refuge to which all sinners may look for safety and salvation in Christ Jesus, whom they will find through Mary, the secure refuge of sinners.
God honored her in the beginning, He still honors her. He lavished His graces upon her and she faithfully responded to all of them. All who are sin-burdened and far from their true home, should, like the soldier upon the battlefield, who, wounded and bleeding, thinks of his mother, remember their Mother Mary and seek her aid.
She will be their secure refuge and under her benign protection, they will find their merciful Saviour, who, like the good shepherd, will place the lost and bruised sheep upon his shoulders and return it to the flock.
The very angels will rejoice because he who was lost has returned, and found through Mary, a safe refuge for all time.