The optional first reading for today’s Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe comes from Revelation (Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab). It opens with my favorite type of the Virgin Mary: Our Lady as Ark of the Covenant. In reading this passage in a Bible it is easy to miss the connection in Revelation because the verse about the ark comes at the end of chapter 11 and the “woman of Revelation” is introduced in the first verse of chapter 12. But remember that chapter designations were arbitrarily assigned much later (like twelve centuries later). It is fitting on this day commemorating Our Lady of Guadalupe (which led to millions of conversions to the Catholic Church in the Americas as millions of Europeans were drawn away from Catholicism by the Protestant Reformation) that these verses be read together.
Consider the Ark of the Covenant. This wooden container held the two tablets on which the finger of God wrote the Ten Commandments given to Moses.
“The ark was the mark of the Lord’s intimate presence among his people.”* No wonder Elizabeth cried out and John the Baptist jumped for joy when Mary came to visit (see Lk 1:39-45). “Blessed are you among women…mother of my Lord.” Here is affirmed from Elizabeth’s lips Mary’s exalted status as most supremely favored because she was chosen to be the mother of the person of Jesus, the God-Man. Jesus becomes flesh and dwells among His creatures in order to save them.
“The ark was carried before the army in battle.”* So why wouldn’t we invite the new Ark to lead us in our personal battles, struggles, concerns, fears, and doubts? Having recourse to Mary as a powerful advocate while always striving to “do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5) is plainly proclaimed in Scripture for those who have ears to hear.
“Where the ark in the Old Testament carried the Old Covenant, Mary, as the ark of God’s New Covenant, carried the Messiah.”* And to what does Jesus refer as the “New Covenant”? The Eucharist: His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity (see Lk 22:19-20). So He remains with us always, as promised (see Mt 28:20). As intimate as He was with His mother who provided His human nature with its body and blood we also can be intimate with Him when we absorb His Body and Blood into our bodies.
It is fitting so close to Christmas to be honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe who appeared to Juan Diego as the Ark of the Covenant, that is, pregnant, and who miraculously imprinted that image on His cloak. She is also often invoked under this title as we pray for the conversion of our world to finally see the horrors of abortion.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.