Ark of the Covenant

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Revelation 11:19-12:1

Raiders of the Lost Ark was a great movie, but the true meaning of the ark is even greater. It was only recently that chapters and numbers were added to the Bible; for many years, people just read the above passage all in one piece, as we show it here. They understood that the Ark of the Covenant which appeared in Heaven was actually Mary, carrying within her the true Law in the person of the Son of God. The physical ark–constructed according to God\’s direction in order to hold the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments–was a foreshadowing of the true Ark, Mary. And just as the ancient ark was carried into battle to ensure victory, just as the ark blessed the people who approached it reverently, so Mary is our standard in war, the woman who makes the devil tremble. And we still call upon her name, asking her to intercede for us with her Son. Everything shown in the Old Testament proves to be a shadow of the reality which comes in the New Testament. 

Mary, Ark of the Covenant, remind us to turn to you when we are in need of help. You are the greatest intercessor before God; be our saving help always. 

House of Gold

The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high; and he overlaid it with pure gold. He also made an altar of cedar.  And Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold, and he drew chains of gold across, in front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold. And he overlaid the whole house with gold, until all the house was finished. Also the whole altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary he overlaid with gold.
–1 Kings 6:20-22

 King Solomon is a foreshadowing, or type of Christ in this passage: he made his temple beautiful beyond all imagining, using not only gold but many other precious metals, wood, stone, jewels, and textiles. It was fitting that the Lord of Lords should have the most perfect place to dwell on earth, as He did in Solomon\’s temple within the Ark of the Covenant. The temple itself becomes a foreshadowing of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the House of Gold because she was the all-holy one who gave birth to Jesus. Jesus is the King of Kings, and so it is fitting that He should rest in Mary\’s virginal womb until the time came for His birth, the most pure and immaculate place possible.

Holy Mary, House of Gold, help us all to remember that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Let us never forget this dignity which is ours, and may it keep us from behaving in ways contrary to the freedom that a child of God should have. 

Tower of Ivory

The unusual sounding title, \”Tower of Ivory\”, is another found in the Song of Songs: 

Your neck is like an ivory tower.

Your eyes are pools in Heshbon,

    by the gate of Bath-rab′bim.
–Song of Songs 4:4ab

First our lover compares his beloved\’s neck to the tower of David, a tower made ready to withstand a battle. Now, he compares his beloved\’s neck to a tower of ivory. Many times the phrase \”ivory tower\” is used to describe someone (especially someone in the academic field) who is completely separated from reality, but still claims to understand what is going on in the world. Thankfully, this is a meaning we would never ascribe to Our Lady. 
Mary is an ivory tower in the sense that she is strong, upright, courageous, pure and lovely. Mary is an example of true strength. It took immense courage to accept God\’s will when Gabriel presented it to her. That courage carried her forward through her marriage to Joseph and the birth of her only Son. Mary was strong when she let Him go on His way, knowing the plan of God had to be fulfilled. She stood beside Him when He hung on the cross, unafraid of what might happen next. And throughout her life, she possessed the loveliness and purity of one who has given her entire life to Christ. This is not necessarily a matter of physical attributes (although in Mary\’s case, this was true as well). It is primarily the beauty of one who allows the splendor of God to shine through. Blessed Raymond of Capua, OP,  the follower and biographer of St. Catherine of Siena, once had a mystical experience where he saw the face of Christ upon the face of St. Catherine. In this same way, Christ shines through us when we allow Him to possess us completely. Mary knew this without being told. But she did not remain aloof from the world. Instead, she was right there in the midst of everything, the good and the bad, the marketplace and the synagogue, the well and the sewer. She was untouched only in the sense that she, unlike almost everyone else around her, saw God in all things and in everything that happened in daily life. 
Mary, Tower of Ivory, help me to live as you did, in the world but not of the world, placing all my trust in your only Son Jesus Christ, allowing His radiance to shine through me more and more. 

Tower of David


Your neck is like the tower of David,
    built for an arsenal,
whereon hang a thousand bucklers,
    all of them shields of warriors.
Song of Songs 4:4
A tower in its simplest idea is a fabric for defence against enemies. David, King of Israel, built for this purpose a notable tower; and as he is a figure or type of our Lord, so is his tower a figure denoting our Lord’s Virgin Mother.
She is called the Tower of David because she had so signally fulfilled the office of defending her Divine Son from the assaults of His foes. It is customary with those who are not Catholics to fancy that the honours we pay to her interfere with the supreme worship which we pay to Him; that in Catholic teaching she eclipses Him. But this is the very reverse of the truth.
For if Mary’s glory is so very great, how cannot His be greater still who is the Lord and God of Mary? He is infinitely above His Mother; and all that grace which filled her is but the overflowings and superfluities of His incomprehensible Sanctity. And history teaches us the same lesson. Look at the Protestant countries which threw off all devotion to her three centuries ago, under the notion that to put her from their thoughts would be exalting the praises of her Son. Has that consequence really followed from their profane conduct towards her? Just the reverse—the countries, Germany, Switzerland, England, which so acted, have in great measure ceased to worship Him, and have given up their belief in His Divinity while the Catholic Church, wherever she is to be found, adores Christ as true God and true Man, as firmly as ever she did; and strange indeed would it be, if it ever happened otherwise. Thus Mary is the “Tower of David.” —St. John Henry Cardinal Newman 

Mary, Tower of David, be our protection and strength. 

Mystical Rose

There is a medieval Christmas carol that expresses the idea of Mary as Mystical Rose beautifully. It has been set to music numerous times, recently by composers as diverse as Benjamin Britten and Sting. The poem is written in macaronic style, meaning it combines two different languages: in this case, English and Latin.
There is no rose of such vertu
As is the rose that bare Jesu;
Alleluia.
For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in lytle space;
Res miranda.
By that rose we may well see
That he is God in persons three,
Pari forma.
The angels sungen the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis deo:
Gaudeamus.
Leave we all this wearldly mirth,
And follow we this joyful birth;
Transeamus.
Alleluia, res miranda,
Pares forma, gaudeamus,
Transeamus.

Singular Vessel of Devotion

All virtues are habits; that is to say, they become easier every time we practice them, and we eventually do them without thinking about it. This may sound kind of strange–shouldn\’t you feel kindness when you do a kind deed, for example? But in fact, this habit of virtue allows us to act in a virtuous manner even when we feel like doing the exact opposite. We were struck by this when we saw Disney\’s live-action movie version of \”Cinderella\” a few years back. After her wicked stepmother and stepsisters leave for the ball, having torn up her dress and laughed at her, leaving her behind, she suddenly encounters an old woman who asks for a drink of water. The natural response might be, \”Look, lady, my whole world just fell apart. There\’s the well–get your own water!\” Instead Cinderella–who has the habit of virtue–immediately says, \”Oh yes, mother\” and gets the water for the woman. Of course, the old woman turns out to be the fairy godmother, who was waiting to see how Cinderella would react. Because she has proved herself worthy, she is given everything, eventually marrying the Prince. 
Mary is the singular vessel of devotion because she is the new Eve–the woman who reverses Eve\’s disobedient act in the Garden of Eden by saying Yes to God when He asked her to be the mother of His Son. Remember: she was not yet formally married to Joseph when this happened, and in fact when her condition became known Joseph\’s first thought was to divorce her quietly. However, Mary trusted God in spite of everything, and all went according to God\’s plan. The angel calmed Joseph\’s fears; he married Mary; and together they raised Jesus, the Son of God. 
Mary, you are fruitful with virtues beyond all measure. Pray for us, that we too may strive to live virtuous lives, so that the habit of virtue becomes stronger than our natural inclination toward vice. 

Vessel of Honor

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz,“Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman′u-el. –Isaiah 7:10-14

This is a traditional icon of Mary which is referred to \”Our Lady of the Sign\” or, in Greek, Platytera ton ouranon (Πλατυτέρα των Ουρανών), meaning \”more spacious than the heavens\”. The icon shows Mary at the moment of Jesus\’ conception in her womb. Mary\’s hands are lifted in the ancient orans or praying gesture, and her divine Son is shown as an infant Who is also a king enthroned in majesty, wearing His royal robes and giving His blessing. The title \”Our Lady of the Sign\” refers to the passage from Isaiah above. Although Ahaz pretended humility in refusing to ask for a sign, the Lord gave him one anyway, as prophesied by Isaiah. The Greek title refers to Mary as one whose womb is at the same time a human womb for a child to find a home in and also something indescribably huge.
For how can one human woman bear the Creator of the Universe within her? Truly, this is the work of God. 

Mary, Vessel of Honor, help us to follow your example of humility. When the angel Gabriel appeared to you, you obediently agreed to what God was asking of you. May we too be open to what God is asking of us, and may we remain obedient come what may, as you were.