Editor’s Note: This is the third of a five-part series of columns Father Jeffrey Kirby is writing for the month of October, which is dedicated to Mary and the rosary.
Third truth: God’s Dwelling Place will be holy.
Several years ago, I was invited to a social function. I misunderstood how formal the event was, and I showed up greatly underdressed. It was awkward. I certainly didn’t fit in with the other guests.
Sometimes in life we can see how one thing doesn’t fit in with the others. When we approach God, we should use this same ability of discernment. Sometimes we forget how holy God’s presence is and we try to approach him underdressed.
Sin cannot withstand the majesty of God’s presence and utter holiness. Only grace makes a fitting garment for God’s company.
In the saving mission of God the Son, a special body was prepared to hold and carry his incarnated divinity. A special handmaid was fashioned to hold the presence of God on earth.
At the very conception of Mary of Nazareth by her parents, God preserved her from all stain of original sin. Three decades before the actual historical events, Mary experienced the redemptive effects of her Son’s cross and resurrection. God applied the graces of salvation to Mary, and she became the first to be saved by Jesus Christ.
Mary received this singular grace and privilege because God the Father was sanctifying the future temple of his Son. God was preparing Mary to be the new Ark of the Covenant.
In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was a sacred container that housed the presence of God. It held various testimonies of God’s covenant with humanity, mainly the tablets of the Ten Commandments, portions of manna, and the rod of the high priest Aaron.
Containing God’s presence, the Ark was holy. God himself ordered its construction, dictated who built it, consecrated those who cared for it, and blessed its completion through Moses. The Ark was a sign of God’s loving presence. It was regarded with holy fear and strict reverence by the Jewish people.
King David was filled with awe at the sight of the Ark. He danced before it, and exclaimed, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9).
As in the old covenant, God would fashion an ark for his covenant. Rather than a box or container, the new ark would be a bodily temple and a loving mother. God preserved Mary from sin, nurtured her with devotion and filled her with grace. She was to be freely and completely holy for the Son of God.
After the announcement of God’s incarnation in her womb, Mary went to her relative Elizabeth. In a scene reminiscent of King David, the unborn St. John the Baptist danced before Mary, and St. Elizabeth exclaimed, “And why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43).
In her Immaculate Conception, Mary was being liberated and prepared by God for her role in salvation history. As the Lord’s own mother, she would become the sanctified Ark of the New Covenant.
Father Kirby is the parochial vicar at St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken. To read more, visit his Web site at www.jeffrey-kirby.com.