Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
St. Mary
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
(Luke 1:50)

Ettu Nombu Special - 6

Volume 3 No. 166 September 6, 2013

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword

It is not necessary that we understand why God does things the way He does. We just have to trust that God knows what he is doing and that is always for the best of us.

God picked Mary because of her purity, simple faith and, most of all, her humility. Mary believed in God. Like Abraham, who was willing to do anything God commanded him to do, including the sacrificing his son Isaac, Mary was willing to do anything God asked her to do. That is simple faith and obedience. That is why she was selected as the Theotokos, the Mother of God. No human being was raised so high like Mary. (as stated in our Sleebo Namaskaram for Sunday - Third Hour - Bovuso of Mor Jacob) ...

Inspiration for Today: Compassion of God During Your Suffering

Featured: Mary - Believing the Impossible

A wonderful look at the annunciation story. You will get an insight into what made Mary so special.

What is it that God wants from us? Total comprehension about the future before we will trust him? No. That's impossible. And besides, it's better that we don't know what the future holds. Does he want us to have perfect knowledge of the Bible? No. If that were the case, then no one would ever trust him. Do we have to be spiritually advanced to the point of sainthood? Thank God the answer is No. Very few of us would meet that qualification.

What does God want from us? The same thing he wanted from Mary. Simple faith that he will keep his word in unlikely and unexpected ways. ...

When God Shows Up, Don't Forget It

Today, remember. Remember who God is. He will do what He said He will do. He is El Roi, the God who sees me. He is the God who sees you. And that is something we should never forget. ...

Marian Imagery in the Old Testament

St. Augustine said that "the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old is fulfilled in the New." Like other Church Fathers he distinguished between the outer "literal" and the inner "spiritual" meaning of Holy Scripture. And like the others, he often preferred spirit to letter. ...

God Lifts Up the Lowly

Proud people are generally very focused on whatever serves their best interests. So "scattering" is a very good verb to use to indicate what happens to the proud when God goes into action. Mary rejoices in that "scattering," but who are the proud? Maybe we don't have to look any further than ourselves. How much we fight with that root sin of pride! ...

Mary's Visit to Elizabeth in Luke 1, Ark Imagery and the Early Fathers

Patristic sources often link Mary, the mother of Jesus, to ark of the covenant imagery. Where did this tradition originate? At first glance, it might be suspected that such language is merely the result of reckless allegorization. After all, the New Testament never links Mary with the ark. . . right? Here I want to make the case that the imagery of Mary as ark can be found in Luke's Gospel. ...

Light Will Come

Anytime you are going through difficult, dark times, know that God already has a plan to bring you through to victory. When you call on His name, when you surrender your circumstances to Him, that's when His light will come forth through the darkness. ...

More Resources For Study and Reflection

Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary plus other publications of interest.

About Malankara World

Foreword
One of the things that fascinates people when they read the biblical description of annunciation, Mary's subsequent Journey to Elizabeth etc. is how God picked Mary for this important task. Mary was very young, perhaps 12-16 years old at that time. She was born in an obscure village. She had no formal scriptural education. She was a peasant girl dreaming of her upcoming marriage with Joseph when her world turned upside down with the visit of an angel. The angel tells her that she has found favor with God and she is picked as the human mother to the son of God. She is indeed blessed. The question many people ask is, "Why Mary?", "Why not a princess?" or "Daughter of Chief Priest?" or "Daughter of a rich man from a rich family with private school education?", etc. etc. After all, Moses was brought up in the royal place.

God does things differently. He made it clear through Isaiah 55:8-9

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts."

Isaiah 55:8, 9.

It is not necessary that we understand God's way of doing things. We just have to trust God to do His will and know that it will always be good for us.

God picked Mary because of her purity, simple faith and, most of all, her humility. Mary believed in God. Like Abraham, who was willing to do anything God commanded him to do, including sacrificing his son Isaac at God's commandment without questioning, Mary was willing to do anything God asked her to do.

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said."
Luke 1:38

That is simple faith and obedience. That is why she was selected as the Theotokos, the Mother of God. No human being was raised so high like Mary. (as stated in our Sleebo Namaskaram for Sunday - Third Hour - Bovuso of Mor Jacob)

God picks ordinary people like Mary to do extraordinary things. He has a plan for each one of us. We just have to let Him do what He wants from us. All God asks us (like he asked Mary) is to believe in him and do what He tells us to do. There is nothing impossible with God. Of course, the path may not be rosy. We may have to face trials, tribulations and persecution. We will have to take His cross and follow him. Our life may be turned upside down like what happened to Mary. But in the end, it will all be worth it. God's grace will be sufficient for us.

We have a treat for you in today's Journal. Read the feature story 'Mary - Believing the Impossible' written by Dr. Pritchard. He has the knack of story telling. He will put us in Palestine 2000+ years ago. We will meet Mary at about 2 PM on a week day dreaming of her upcoming marriage with Joseph, making the plans for her marriage like the guest list, menu, ordering sufficient wine, flower arrangements, etc. etc. Then she meets the angel. The encounter with the angel turned her life completely around. Once you start reading the article, you won't put it down. It is good. It gives you an insight into what went through Mary's mind. Interestingly, Dr. Pritchard also explains in the article why it was important that Theotokos had to be a virgin. Some of the misguided folks out there claim that there was nothing special about Mary; she didn't have to be a virgin; anyone could have given birth to Jesus etc. There is no point in arguing with people who thinks they know it all. We know that God's son had to come into the world through a virgin birth. Old testament is very clear on that. Jesus Christ fulfilled all the prophesies about the Messiah and virgin birth was one of them.

Talking of old testament imageries, we also have an article that talks about the prophesies about Mary in the bible. Sandra Miesel's article, 'Marian Imagery in the Old Testament' begins with a quote from St. Augustine, "the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old is fulfilled in the New." Old Testament is closely linked to the New Testament. Mary enters the picture from the beginning. She is described as the new Eve. What a contrast though. Instead of the disobedient and proud Eve, we have a faithful Mary full of humility and obedience. Satan cannot touch her. Learn the other associations from the article. Michael Barber, in his article, "Mary's Visit to Elizabeth in Luke 1, Ark Imagery and the Early Fathers" describes the imagery of Mary as the 'ark of covenant.' Our Sleeba Namaskaram Noon Prayer describes this relationship between Moses' ark and Theotokos.

I hope that today's journal and the special issues we produced so far helped you to understand the special role played by St. Mary in the redemption of mankind choreographed by God. Keep them aside and read them often. Reflect and pray. Holy Spirit will help you understand the mysteries.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

Today's Features

Inspiration for Today
Compassion of God During Your Suffering

Let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.--I PETER iv. 19.

The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.--JAMES v. 11.

On Thy compassion I repose
In weakness and distress:
I will not ask for greater ease,
Lest I should love Thee less;
Oh, 'tis a blessed thing for me
To need Thy tenderness.
A. L. WARING.

Oh, look not at thy pain or sorrow, how great soever; but look from them, look off them, look beyond them, to the Deliverer! whose power is over them, and whose loving, wise, and tender spirit is able to do thee good by them. The Lord lead thee, day by day, in the right way, and keep thy mind stayed upon Him, in whatever befalls thee; that the belief of His love and hope in His mercy, when thou art at the lowest ebb, may keep up thy head above the billows.
ISAAC PENINGTON

Source: Daily Strength for Daily Needs

Featured: Mary - Believing the Impossible

by Dr. Ray Pritchard, Keep Believing Ministries

Did you know there are two versions of the Christmas story in the New Testament? Although scholars debate the differences and try to reconcile the two accounts, I think there is a fairly simple explanation. Matthew tells Joseph's story and Luke tells Mary's story. If you doubt that, just go back and read the two versions for yourself. Matthew tells the story like a man would tell it. Luke emphasizes the things a woman would consider important.

What is it that we know about Mary from Luke's gospel? Here is a brief list: First, her father's name was Eli. Second, she had a sister named Salome. Third, she had a relative (unspecified) named Elizabeth. Fourth, she is young. Fifth, she is poor. Sixth, she is a devout believer in God. Seventh, she is very much in love.

That last one is a key to the story. Mary is a teenager in love. She may have been as young as 12 or 13; she might have been as old as 18-19. If we said 16, we would not be far off the mark.

When the story opens Mary is "pledged" to Joseph. That meant that she had formally agreed to marry him but the "wedding" had not yet taken place. Between the "pledge" and the "wedding feast" was a period usually lasting six months to a year. During that period the couple was considered to be married and were called husband and wife but they

A. did not live together and
B. did not consummate their marriage physically.

Following the custom of that day, Mary would live with her parents and Joseph would live with his parents. After the public wedding feast, Mary and Joseph would live together as husband and wife.

Everything in Luke 1-2 happens against that background. Mary is 16 years old, living with her parents (presumably in Nazareth), and waiting with happy anticipation for the day of her wedding.

Like teenagers everywhere, she can hardly think of anything else. If we suppose that the wedding feast is still four or five months away, we can imagine that all her thoughts center on the same things prospective brides think about today - the guest list, the decorations, the food, the music, what she will wear and where they will house the people coming in from out-of-town. Mary had never been happier. This was the most exciting time of her life.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE

It is right at this point that God breaks in. He is about to ask an unknown teenage girl to take part in something that is so shocking as to be totally unbelievable. What God asks Mary to do will change her life forever.

Gone are the happy dreams of a beautiful wedding; gone are the days of sweet anticipation; gone are the carefully-thought out plans for the wedding feast; gone are the hopes for "the most beautiful wedding to the most wonderful man who ever lived;" gone are all her girlish hopes of a quiet life in the home she would personally decorate. Most of all, gone are the visions of a houseful of children conceived in love and raised with tender care.

She will be married, but not before rumors spread through the countryside. There will be a wedding feast, but not the way she planned. She will have a home, but over her family will rest an uneasy cloud of dark suspicion.

It will all happen, but not the way she expected.

GABRIEL'S FIRE

Luke 1:26-38 tells us how it all began.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. (26-27)

These two verses set the historical framework. They let us know that what is about to happen really happened, that this episode is not the figment of some writer's imagination or some kind of religious upper-story hallucination. To use Francis Schaeffer's term, this is "true truth." If we had been there, we would have seen what Mary saw.

Well, what did Mary see? She saw an angel named Gabriel. We know his name because the text tells us; we don't know if Mary knew his name. We know a few other facts as well. It happened in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy; We know it happened in the little village of Nazareth in Galilee. We know it happened while she and Joseph were "pledged" to be married.

These verses stress two facts about Mary.

First, she is a virgin. Verse 27 mentions that fact twice. The Greek word involved (parthenos) leaves no room for doubt on that issue. It means a young woman of marriageable age who has never had sexual relations with a man.

Second, she has no idea what is about to happen. Mary is completely in the dark, without a clue that her life is about to be changed forever.

The other fact we need to know at this point is that Mary and Gabriel are about to have a conversation in which Gabriel will do most of the talking. He says three different things to her (28, 30-33, 35-37) and she responds to what he says (29, 34, 38). Each time Mary responds we see how she begins to believe the impossible.

THE 2 PM MID-AFTERNOON, I-MISS-MY-BOYFRIEND BLUES

Let's see if we can't use our imagination to reset the scene. Let's suppose that Gabriel first appeared to Mary one day when she was at home helping her mother around the house. Let's further suppose that it happened during the middle of the afternoon.

What's Mary doing? Outwardly, she is doing her chores. In this case, she's about to go to the well and draw some water to do the laundry. It's 2:00 P.M. and Joseph is coming over tonight for supper. She's excited to see him and excited because she wants to talk over her newest idea for the wedding feast, something about a new dress she thinks he's going to love. It features a bright scarf around the neck, the kind Joseph seems to favor. In her mind, she's ticking off the things she wants to talk to him about. So many details and so little time. Tonight the two of them will probably take a romantic walk along the road leading to Capernaum. Mary can hardly wait to start getting ready for Joseph's arrival.

Her mother interrupts her reverie by asking her to fetch the water from the well. But Mary is quite happy to do it, in part because she enjoys working around the house, in part because her mind is filled with Joseph and marriage and happy thoughts of the future.

Which is why she didn't see the stranger standing by the olive tree in the back yard. In fact, she wouldn't have noticed him at all except that she bumped into him. He was about six feet tall, dark-complexioned, with medium brown curly hair and a closely-cropped beard. She glanced up at him, started to say "Excuse me" when something made her hesitate. It wasn't fear exactly, more like surprise and bafflement. Who was this strange man and why was he standing in her backyard?

Then he spoke and she got spooked: "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." (28) Mary quite simply did not know what to make of it. It's as if someone you've never seen came up to you and said, "Good news. This is your lucky day. God has chosen you for a special blessing." How do you respond to that?

Verse 29 tells us that "Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be." After all, it's 2:00 in the afternoon, she's sixteen years old, about to be married, dreaming of Joseph and their long walk on the road to Capernaum, and she just came out to the well to get a bucket of the water to do the laundry. Now some stranger says something bizarre to her. No wonder she wondered about it.

"CONGRATULATIONS! YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE A BABY!"

But that's not the half of it. Without a pause, Gabriel proceeds to tell her something that - to use a 20th century term Mary almost certainly wouldn't have used - blows her mind. He tells her she's going to have a baby. And not just any baby. She's going to give birth to the Son of God.

Listen again to these words you have heard time and again. But this time, remember that you are 16, deeply in love, and on your way to the well to get some water to do the laundry. You don't have any inkling of what you are about to hear:

The angel said to her, "Fear not, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (30-33)

Well now. How's that for a conversational opener? What, really, do you say back to Gabriel? Remember, you're 16, it's 2:00 in the afternoon, you're on the way to the well, you're waiting to see Joseph tonight, and your life just seems perfect. Now here comes this stranger with the most preposterous-sounding thing you've ever heard in your life.

Do you argue? Do you ask for clarification? Do you call 911? Do you say, "Who are you and how did you get in my backyard?" Do you laugh out loud?

Mary could not be blamed for any of those responses. But she does none of those things. In fact, she passes over all the hard stuff. When Gabriel says, "He will be called the Son of the Most High," she doesn't ask what that means or why she was picked for such a high honor. None of those ordinary concerns seems to affect her in the least.

She only has one question, a technical matter she would like cleared up: "How can this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" (34) This is a perfectly natural question. Mary is betrothed but not formally married. She has never had sexual relations with any man. How then can she become pregnant and bear a son?

It is instructive to note that Mary does not doubt the angel's word, even though it must have sounded incredible. She believed what the angel said. Her only question had to do with how it would happen.

In essence she says to Gabriel, "All right. I'm willing to do my part, but you need to explain how we'll handle this one little problem." That's real faith. That's believing the impossible. That's trusting God when the "facts" argue against it.

THE "HOW" OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH

Now that the big question has been settled, there remains only one final word from Gabriel. It is the only explanation of the Virgin Birth in all the Bible:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. (35)

The key point in Gabriel's explanation is that what is about to happen to Mary will be the result of the direct intervention of God.

The Holy Spirit is the agent of the Virgin Birth;
overshadowing is the means of the Virgin Birth;
the Son of God is the result of the Virgin Birth.

This suggests something that is often denied. It is often suggested that the Virgin Birth was not necessary even though it really happened, i.e., God could have brought Jesus into the world in some other way. Gabriel's word seem to indicate the opposite. The whole point of verse 35 is that the Virgin Birth produces the Holy One of God. The "so" is very crucial. Without the virginal conception by the Holy Spirit, the Holy One of God will not be born.

That suggests that, in reality, there really was no other way for Jesus to be born. Gabriel's words imply that the Virgin Birth was not just another Christmas miracle that God could have dispensed with had he so chosen. Without the Virgin Birth, there would be no Christmas at all.

If someone inquires into the biology of the virginal conception of Jesus, we have only this verse to give them. The Greek word translated "overshadow" (episkiazo) was used of God's visible presence in the Old Testament tabernacle. It pictures the God of light personally dwelling with his people. We might also think of the Spirit of God hovering above the waters in Genesis 1:2. "God's powerful presence will rest upon Mary, so that she will bear a child who will be the Son of God." (Marshall, Luke, p. 71).

William Hendriksen (Luke, p. 88) adds this helpful note on Gabriel's explanation:

Does this mean that Gabriel has now made everything 'perfectly clear' to Mary? Of course not. As anyone who has ever taken a course in human embryology knows, even 'ordinary' conception within the human womb is veiled in mystery. See Ps. 139:13-16. Therefore this unique conception, by means of which the pre-existing Word of God assumes the human nature, surpasses human comprehension all the more. Neither God nor Gabriel demands of Mary that she must understand everything. What is required of her is only this, that she believes and willingly submits.

NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD

Since Mary would likely have doubts about all this, Gabriel calls her attention to the case of her relative Elizabeth. She is now in her sixth month of pregnancy (which will result in the birth of John the Baptist) even though she had been barren and she and Zacharias were both advanced in years. That is, they were both too old to have children and yet, through a miracle of God, she is expecting her first child.

Now these cases are not the same, of course. Mary is a teenager and Elizabeth was perhaps 70 years old; Elizabeth's conception came the natural way while Mary's came via the Holy Spirit. But that's not the point. The point is that both are examples of human impossibilities made possible by the word and promise of God.

"Mary, if you doubt my word, just take a look at Elizabeth. She's expecting her first child even though she's 'too old' to have children. If God can do that for her, don't you think he can do this for you?"

Which brings us to verse 37, a great Christmas verse that is often overlooked at this time of the year. "For nothing is impossible with God." He is able to do anything he decides to do. If he wants to cause a virgin to conceive, he can do it.

THE SIMPLE FAITH OF A TEENAGE GIRL

In the history of the church Mary has often been portrayed as a kind of misty, other-worldly figure. If you look at some of the great paintings of Mary, they make her look so peaceful and beatific that you almost forget she was a real person. That's a shame because Luke makes it clear that she was very real, with very real doubts, very real questions and very real faith. Nowhere is this seen with more clarity than in verse 38:

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

Without exaggeration, we may call this one of the greatest statements of faith in all the Bible. We read it so often that we forget how great it really is. But remember, it's 2:00 in the afternoon, you're 16 years old and very much in love. Your mom asks you go fetch some water to do the laundry and on your way to the well, you run into a man you've never seen before. He tells you that
A. You're going to get pregnant
B. You're going to give birth to a son
C. He's going to be the Son of God.
When you ask how, he says, "Don't worry about it. The Holy Spirit will cover you like a cloud and you'll end up pregnant. That's all there is to it."
What do you say to that?

Mary said Yes. Yes to God, Yes to the impossible, Yes to the plan of God.

Did her heart skip a beat when she said Yes? There she is, teen head tilted high, her hands trembling just a bit, wide-eyed, nervous, open-mouthed, questioning but not afraid, wondering but not terrified, unsure but not uncertain. When the angel said, "Nothing is impossible with God," Mary took a deep breath and said, "Be it unto me as you have said." And with those words Christmas came to the world.

RUMORS, LIES AND SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

Let's not underestimate what it cost Mary to say Yes to God. From that moment on, she faced the incredulity of her friends ("Oh Mary, how could you expect us to believe such a bizarre story?"), the scurrilous gossip of the neighborhood ("Did you hear about Mary? I guess Joseph finally got lucky.") and the whispers of promiscuity that have lasted 2,000 years.

Mary knew - or would soon realize - that saying Yes to God meant misunderstanding and public shame. Gone was her pure reputation and with it her dreams of a quiet, happy life in Nazareth. In the future, her life would at times be happy but it would never again be quiet.

Since we know the end of the story we may tend to overlook the possibility of divorce. But Mary had no way of knowing how Joseph would respond to her pregnancy. Would he blow his top and walk out on her? Would he humiliate her publicly? Would he divorce her?

As the story turned out, Mary had every reason to worry about Joseph. He didn't blow his top or try to humiliate her, but he did intend to divorce her. Only an angel's intervention kept that from happening.

That, too, was on Mary's mind. By saying Yes she risked losing the man she loved. Her whole future was on the line.

And all these things were just the beginning. Mary could not know what the future would hold. Before it was all over, she would experience heartache, opposition, slander, confusion, anguish, despair and loneliness. In the end she would face the greatest pain a mother can endure when she would watch her son die on a cross.

Mary couldn't know all those things. Perhaps if she had known she might not have said Yes. But it's just as well that she didn't. Sometimes we say, "I wish I knew what the future holds for me." But you really don't want to know. It's far better that we don't know what life will bring us in 10 or 15 years.

Mary didn't know the full cost of saying Yes. But having made her decision she never looked back. Those two aspects of her life may be the greatest things we can say about her:

1. She believed God when it seemed to be impossible.

2. She never looked back.

When God said, "Are you willing to believe the impossible?," Mary said, "Yes I am!" Without that Yes, there would be no Christmas.

A WOMAN GOD COULD TRUST

I have no doubt that Mary asked, "Why me?" Why should God choose an obscure peasant girl in some out-of-the-way village as the chosen vehicle to bring his son into the world? There are many answers that have nothing to do with Mary, but there is one answer that has everything to do with her. God chose her because he trusted her. He knew she was willing to believe the impossible. He also knew she was willing to pay the price for that belief. He knew she was willing to bear a child out of wedlock in order to bring God's Son into the world.

Mary said Yes to shame and glory; she said Yes to God's power; she said Yes to the impossible.

Saying Yes brought her … .

1. This Burden - 33 years of turmoil and heartache.

2. This Joy - She was the mother of the Son of God.

3. This reward - Among women there has never been anyone greater.

If somehow Mary could be here today and we could ask her, "Was it worth it?," she would once again say Yes.

Mary, then, stands as a model for all believers but especially for women.

1. She is a model of openness to great possibilities.

2. She is a model of faith in the face of many natural doubts.

TWO WORDS THAT ALWAYS GO TOGETHER

It's still true that "Nothing is impossible with God." That's as true today as it was 2,000 years ago. It's also true that somebody has to say Yes or else the impossible will never happen.

That ought to encourage us at this season of the year because the Christmas story is filled with miracles from beginning to end. The Wise Men see a miraculous star in the sky and travel to Bethlehem. The angels sing to the shepherds. An old woman gives birth to a son. A virgin gets pregnant. A wicked king kills all the babies in Bethlehem … except the one baby he most wanted to kill. The baby and his parents are warned in a dream of the king's evil plan and escape to Egypt in the nick of time. There are miracles galore in the Christmas story.

Here are two words that always go together - Christmas and miracles.

That's good news for all of us and very good news for some of us. Some of you are carrying heavy burdens today. For some of you Christmas will be lonely this year. Some of you are facing a financial crisis that looks hopeless to you right now. Some of you are out of work and don't have a single lead on a good job. Some of you are looking at a marriage that seems worse than hopeless. Some of you are estranged from members of your own family. Some of you have children who are far away from God. Some of you feel lonely and far away from God yourselves.

The list goes on and on. But all these things have this in common: They seem impossible to solve by any human means. And for the most part they are. After all, if human means would have solved your problems, they would have been solved long ago.

Remember this: Christmas is all about miracles. They happened 2,000 years ago; they can still happen today. As the old gospel song puts it:

"Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can't tunnel through?
God specializes in things  thought impossible.
He does the things others cannot do."

WHAT GOD WANTS FROM US

What is it that God wants from us? Total comprehension about the future before we will trust him? No. That's impossible. And besides, it's better that we don't know what the future holds. Does he want us to have perfect knowledge of the Bible? No. If that were the case, then no one would ever trust him. Do we have to be spiritually advanced to the point of sainthood? Thank God the answer is No. Very few of us would meet that qualification.

What does God want from us? The same thing he wanted from Mary. Simple faith that he will keep his word in unlikely and unexpected ways.

Our Father, we do not pray for more faith; we pray rather for courage to exercise the faith we already have. Make us more like Mary, willing to believe in spite of our doubts. We pray in the name of Him whose birth we celebrate at Christmastime. Amen.

© Keep Believing Ministries

When God Shows Up, Don't Forget It

by Sharon Jaynes

"Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water." (Genesis 21:19 NIV).

Yesterday we looked at Hagar and how God spoke to her in her deepest time of need. Let's visit that one more time, because Hagar, like you and me, forgot about her encounter with God.

When Hagar encountered God the first time, she fell on her face and gave God the name El Roi, the God who Sees Me "I have now seen the One who sees me," she cried. She had heard God. She had seen God. More importantly, God had seen Hagar. God had heard Hagar.

Hagar returned to her mistress, gave birth to a son, and placed him into Abram's arms. But sixteen years later, God was true to His word, and Sarai gave birth to a son of her own. (God also changed Abram's name to Abraham and Sarai's to Sarah). When Abraham was ninety-nine years old and Sarah ninety, with a womb that was as good as dead, she birthed a bouncing baby boy whom they named Isaac. But rather than diminish Sarah's angst toward Hagar, the tension between the two boys stoked the fire of jealousy into full blaze.

On the day of Isaac's weaning party, Sarah demanded that Hagar and her son, Ishmael, be sent away for good. After wandering around in the desert, after their water supply had dried up, after giving up all hope, Hagar placed Ishmael under a tree to die. He cried. She cried. God heard.

"What is the matter, Hagar?" the angel said. "Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation."

"Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water" (Genesis 21:19).

This verse catches my breath every time. The water was there all the time, but she didn't see it. Not until God opened her eyes did the life giving drink come into focus.

Sometimes, I feel just like her. Not so much in that I have ever truly been abused, but I have been tossed away, abandoned, and used. And I have run. And God has rescued.

I'm also like Hagar in another way. I forget. God comes to me in my running away. He sees me. He notices me. I know He sees me. I call him El Roi and all is well. But time passes, as sixteen years passed for Hagar, and I forget. I forget what He has done for me, what He has said to me, what He has meant to me. I forget. I close my eyes and wander about thirsty again. I give up. I lay my hopes and dreams under a tree and walk away for them to die.

"What is the matter, Sharon? Do not be afraid; God has heard your crying." And God woes me back once again. He opens my eyes to the well of living water that has been there all along.

Today, remember. Remember who God is. He will do what He said He will do. He is El Roi, the God who sees me. He is the God who sees you. And that is something we should never forget.

Let's Pray

Lord, I am so sorry that I have forgotten the many ways you have blessed me, the many times You have rescued me, the many times You have given me moments of Sudden Glory when You've made Your presence known. Open my eyes, Lord. Open my eyes to see Your well of goodness right in front of me.

In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Go back and read the story of Hagar in Genesis 21. Zoom in on verse 19 "Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water." The well was there all along. She just didn't see it. Today, pray that God will open your eyes to His provision and protection in your life.

Hagar, "she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink," (Genesis 21:19). When I open my eyes to see the well of God's provision, protection, and persistent pursuit of my heart, it is never for me alone. He then calls me to fill my skin, and give others a drink. Is there someone He is calling you to refresh today?

About The Author:

Sharon Jaynes is the author of "A Sudden Glory: God's Lavish Response to Your Ache for Something More". If you long for more in your relationship with Jesus, then this book is for you.

Source: Girlfriends in God Devotional

Marian Imagery in the Old Testament

by Sandra Miesel

St. Augustine said that "the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old is fulfilled in the New." Like other Church Fathers he distinguished between the outer "literal" and the inner "spiritual" meaning of Holy Scripture. And like the others, he often preferred spirit to letter.

The categories into which various Fathers divided the spiritual sense need not concern us here, only their zealous attempts to read the figurative meanings of the Bible. They saw the New Testament foreshadowed in the Old through several devices. Types are persons, things, or events taken as historical (Adam is a Type of Christ); prophecies are predictions (the Messiah will be born of a virgin); and allegories are poetic comparisons, not limited to strict personifications (Holy Wisdom is a gracious woman). Our discussion will move freely across all these categories.

The Fathers saw every part of the Scriptures as linked to every other part. They believed that God had encoded patterns of similarities and contrasts into his Word to produce flashes of illumination. Making cross-comparisons rounds out our picture of what Salvation is--and is not. For instance, innocent, devout Abel is a Type of Christ while jealous, murderous Cain his Antitype.

Mary entered this web of associations early, when St. Justin Martyr (d. 165) contrasted her obedience with Eve's disobedience immediately after referring to Christ's symbolic titles in prophecy. His insight was repeated a generation later by St. Irenaeus of Lyons (d. ca. 200): "What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith." Thus Mary came to be called the New Eve and the Latin pun Eva/Ave for the reversal entered Christian lore.

Eve is the mother of all according to the flesh, but Mary according to the spirit. As universal spiritual mother and first Christian, Mary is also a Type of the Church, a parallel first noted by St. Irenaeus. Therefore, the same Biblical imagery used for the Church can also apply to Mary: she is the living Ark of the Covenant, the ultimate Temple, the new Jerusalem, and the perfected Israel as Bride of God.

These Old Testament prefigurations are brought forward into the Book of Revelation and amplify the Woman Clothed in the Sun (Rev 12:12), the "great sign" manifested immediately after the scene of the Ark in the celestial Temple. The pregnant Woman's body carries the Messiah as the Ark once held the Divinely sent Tablets of the Law, Aaron's rod that flowered, and a pot of manna Moreover, she is also the mother of all Christians. But this Woman flees from the threatening Satanic Dragon, unlike Eve who fatally lingered when the Serpent spoke.

The Woman does not, however, grapple directly with the Dragon, though some Marian devotees wish it were otherwise. Direct engagement with the Foe is left to other Marian Types. Deborah rallies the Israelite army (Jgs 4:4-16), Jael smashes the head of an enemy general (Jgs 4:17-22), Judith beheads Holofernes (Jdt 13), and Esther maneuvers Haman onto the gallows (Est 7), in each case saving their people from certain destruction.

Besides the typology of specific characters, Messianic Psalm 45 has been traditionally taken to represent Christ as the king with Mary as the queen who stands beside him adorned "in gold of Ophir". This Psalm is often quoted in the liturgy, including texts of Marian feasts such as the Assumption. There it refers to Our Lady's entrance into heaven and justifies showing her enthroned beside her Son.

The queen in the Psalm is the king's bride but the normal structure of a Semitic court gave the king's mother far more power than any wife. This situation, demonstrated by the relationship between Solomon and his mother Bathsheba (1 Kgs 2:12-25) does fit Mary, so Bathsheba was used as a Type of Mary. In the incident shown, however, Bathsheba's intercession gets the petitioner executed. The only other queen mothers shown in action, idolatrous Maacah (1 Kgs 15: 18) and murderous Athalia (2 Kgs 11), could be called Antitypes of Mary.

The Old Testament also gives many poetic images for Mary that have proven important in art and prayer. These cluster around several themes that illustrate doctrines. Her Divine Maternity is the ground of everything else, shown in metaphors for fruitfulness and containment. As a Virgin Mother, Mary is unpenetrated, an impossibility miraculously possible. As a unique partner in Redemption, she is a passage, source, or signal. As a perfectly sinless being, things beautiful and unblemished reflect her.

Some of the imagery preceded the dogmas. The Immaculate Conception and Assumption were only defined in modern times while Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix are still commonly believed without dogmatic definition.

Although these images developed more quickly in the East than the West, this essay is limited to European examples. The anonymous eighth or ninth century Latin poem Ave Maris Stella, which would enter the Breviary, is an early Western example that builds on Patristic insights. It begins:

Hail, Star of the Sea,
Loving Mother of God,
And ever-Virgin,
Happy gate of heaven.

Receiving that "Ave"
From Gabriel's mouth,
Secure us in peace,
Changing Eve's name.

Star of the Sea, mistaken for the Hebrew meaning of the name Mary, and Gate of Heaven, paralleling Jacob's ladder to heaven (Gn 28: 10-12, 16-17), later became invocations in the Litany of Loreto.

In the West during the first millennium, the Madonna and Child motif was meant to defend the Incarnation. Only towards the end of that period does it become a devotional object in its own right as Mary herself loomed larger in European Christian consciousness.

By the year 1000, a new style of Madonna emerged, first in southern France, that came to be called the Majesty of Mary. Enthroned as a queen, the Mother presents to the world her Child who holds a book. This is also the visual formula for another Litany title, Seat of Wisdom. With her lap doubling for her womb, Mary is the living throne of the New Solomon. (Good examples from the twelfth century are carved above entrances to Notre-Dame of Chartres and Notre-Dame of Paris.)

Relying on earlier collections of Patristic ideas, such as the Glossa ordinaria, typological thinking dominated Biblical interpretation in the High Middle Ages. It shaped art from Austria to England. Major cycles of images survive in the glass of Canterbury cathedral and the Verdun altar, a masterpiece of enameled gold. In these works Mary appears in Gospel scenes matched with Old Testament parallels such as the Annunciation of Jesus paired with the Annunciations of Issac and Samson.

One striking new motif that originated in twelfth century France was the Tree of Jesse, taken from Isaiah's prophecy of the lineage of the Messiah: "A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom" (Is 11:1). The tree sprouts from the lions of David's father Jesse bearing the ancestors of Christ. As time went on, Mary received more emphasis to appear in a flower atop the Tree holding Jesus, the final fruit.

As devotion to Our Lady blossomed in medieval times, so did the range of Marian typologies. Honorius of Autun (d. 1152) expounded a set of images that soon turned up on the new Gothic cathedrals of France. The most complete expression of Honorius' ideas was carved around the Mary-portal at Notre-Dame of Laon in the thirteenth century.

These stone reliefs at Laon depict prefigurations of Mary's virginal conception: Gideon's fleece, wet by dew when the ground stayed dry and vice versa (Jgs 6: 36-38); Moses' Burning Bush unconsumed by its fire (Ex 3:1-14); Daniel miraculously fed by the prophet Habakkuk while sealed in the lions' den (Dn 14: 28-42); the Ark of the Covenant, a womb-equivalent, which contained Aaron's flowering rod (Num 17:1-11); Ezekiel's Shut Gate that only the Lord may enter (Ez 44:2); the Stone Not Cut by Hands (Dn 2:34-35); and the Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace, unharmed by flame (Dn 3)

The Laon reliefs also show Daniel killing a dragon worshipped by the Babylonians (Dn 14: 23-27), a fate the Eden Serpent will share thanks to Mary (Gn 3:15), and Balaam's prophecy of the Messiah's lineage, "a star shall rise out of Jacob" (Num 24:17) that was joined to Mary's title Star of the Sea to make her the guiding star of mankind.

Medieval books of typologies were extremely popular as aids to meditation among the literate. Two famous examples (both available in modern replica editions) are the illustrated Biblia pauperum (Poor Men's Bible) and the Speculum humanae salvationis (Mirror of Human Salvation) from the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries respectively. Originally hand-copied, these works got into print in the fifteenth century carrying woodblock illustrations.

The Biblia consists of carefully structured sets of one New Testament event flanked by two Old Testament comparisons tied together with four prophecies and captions. For example, the Coronation of the Virgin is matched to the enthronements of Bathsheba and Esther.

The Speculum shows one Biblical or legendary scene with three separate parallels from the Old Testament or secular history, plus explanations. The comparisons themselves can function as commentaries as when the Birth of Mary is paired with the Tree of Jesse (her lineage), the Shut Gate (her virginity), and the Temple of Solomon (God's presence in her)

Meanwhile, a new repertoire of Marian symbols was developing from the thought of the Mellifluous Doctor, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1153). Thanks to his four volumes of sermons of the Song of Songs, Mary came to be showered with fresh and even sensuous metaphors.

Although the Song of Songs--which ostensibly celebrates Solomon's love for his Bride the Shulamitess--continued to be read in the traditional way as an allegory of Christ's love for the Church or God's love for the human soul, it now had lovely Marian connotations.

As in Psalm 45, the Lover is Christ and the Bride Mary. Erotic language is spiritualized to signify total contemplative union between God and his most perfect creature. "I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him: and I will not let him go . . . ." (SoS 3:4)

Comparing the Virgin to flowers, gardens, foodstuffs, spices, perfumes, gems, and precious metals mentioned in the Song of Songs is lush but fitting. Seeing her as she who comes forth "as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array" (SoS 6:9) has the cosmic flavor of the Apocalyptic Woman (Rv 12:1)

But modern sensibility flinches at calling the Blessed Mother a grape (uva) or cluster of grapes (botrus) as in SoS 7:7 although the milk of her breasts "sweeter than wine" was transformed into the Sacred Blood of her Son and thence into the Eucharist. Neither are we comfortable seeing her as a marriage bed (thalamus) or couch (triclinum) as in SoS 1:15 although her womb was the chamber in which God's romance with the human race was consummated. Yet these shocking epithets were used in a late medieval Missal from Evreux, France.

The Cantica canticorum, a book of woodblock images made in the Netherlands before 1465 spread daring metaphors to a wider audience. For instance, "A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, he shall abide between my breasts" (SoS 1:12) is quite an audacious image to apply to Our Lord and Our Lady. Surprisingly, it is taken to mean the Sorrowful Mother clasping the dead body of her Son.

This style of similitude reaches a lovely peak in a Book of Hours printed in Paris in 1505. The figure of the pre-existent Immaculata stands praying beneath the gaze of God who says: "Thou are fair, my love, and there is not a spot in thee." (SoS 4:7) She is surrounded by her symbols which are mostly from the Song of Songs (marked *):

"bright as the sun,"*
"fair as the moon,"*
"gate of heaven,"
"exalted cedar" (Sir 24:17),
"planted rose" (Sir 39:13),
"well of living water
,"*
"enclosed garden,"*
"city of God,"
"sealed fountain,"*
"spotless mirror" (Wis 7:26),
"tower of David,*
"lily among thorns,"*
"precious olive (Sir 24:19),
"star of the sea."

Such poetry survived the Council of Trent's purifications to influence the beautifully mysterious titles in the Litany of Loreto, the official Litany of the Blessed Virgin (1575). Notice that nearly all are metaphors for Mary's sinless body--her lap, womb, vagina, and neck (by extension signifying her whole figure). These phrases are:

Mirror of Justice: As "unspotted mirror of God's majesty, and the image of his goodness (Wis 7:26) Mary would necessarily reflect Divine justice.

Seat of Wisdom: She is the living throne of Christ who is Divine Wisdom.

Cause of Our Joy: She is the means through which the Joy of the Redeemer came into the world.

Spiritual Vessel, Vessel of Honor, Singular Vessel of Devotion: "Vessel" can stand for body, Mary's body being uniquely graced for "containing" Christ. Possible allusion to a virtuous High Priest as "a vessel of beaten gold, studded with precious stones" (Sir 50:9) because Mary offers Christ to us.

Mystical Rose: This is an ancient symbol of love, beauty, and femininity, Our Lady's favorite flower. cf: (Sir 50:8).

Tower of David, Tower of Ivory: These citadels are both well-guarded (SoS 4:4) and splendid (SoS 7:4) images of the Bride's beauty.

House of Gold: Solomon's Temple was richly adorned with gold.

Ark of the Covenant: Mary is the blessed resting place of God.

Gate of Heaven: Through the Incarnation in her virgin body, the Shut Gate (Ez 44:2) and the Jacob's Gate of Heaven (Gn 28:17) are opened to us.

Morning Star: Mary signals the coming dawn of Salvation (Sir. 50:6 and SoS 6:9).

And so it was. We used to learn our Marian theology through symbols. They shaped our art and inspired our prayer. Surely the time has come to reclaim that heritage, to reconstruct a culture described by art historian Emile Male in which "everything in the world admired by man is only a reflection of the Virgin's beauty."

Source: Ignatius Insight

God Lifts Up the Lowly

by Father Steven Reilly, LC

Gospel: Luke 1: 39-56

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry,

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

And Mary said,

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Introductory Prayer:

Lord, I believe in your wondrous, shining glory, although this is hidden from my eyes. I hope in the peace and everlasting joy of the world to come, for this world is a valley of tears. I love you, even though I am not always able to discern the love in your intentions when you permit me to suffer. You are my God and my all.

Petition:

Lord, help me to be humble!

1. All Generations Will Call Me Blessed:

When Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption, it was a cause of great joy throughout the Catholic world. Believed for centuries, it entered the realm of official Catholic dogma. Our Lady is brought to heaven to share in the glory and joy of her Son and our Lord. We have always looked to Mary as our mother, and so the feast of the Assumption continues to fill us with happiness. She is with Christ, and she is our mother more than ever. We entrust ourselves to her in the same way that Pope John Paul the Great did, "Totus Tuus."

2. Scattering the Proud:

Proud people are generally very focused on whatever serves their best interests. So "scattering" is a very good verb to use to indicate what happens to the proud when God goes into action. Mary rejoices in that "scattering," but who are the proud? Maybe we don't have to look any further than ourselves. How much we fight with that root sin of pride! Mary is happy when pride gets scattered and the perspective we have widens. Instead of just seeing things from our own myopic point of view, this scattering opens up the "thoughts of our hearts" to see others and their needs. Nothing is more Mary-like than that.

3. Lifting Up the Lowly:

This feast of the Assumption is proof that God literally lifts up the lowly. Like her Son and his Ascension, Mary is lifted up by God into the realm of eternal life. Sometimes we cling to our pride out of a sort of instinct of self-preservation - "If I don't look out for number one, who will?" But Mary's humility is a lesson for us. Our true self-fulfillment lies in becoming everyday more filled with God; We can only do that if we are not filled with ourselves. Let's ask Mary to help us to live more like her and experience the true joy - the lifting up - that there is in humility.

Conversation with Christ:

Lord, I thank you for giving us such a wonderful mother. She helps me to stay on the path of fulfilling your will. Help me to be able to sing a Magnificat in my own soul, "The Almighty has done great things for me!"

Resolution:

I will be generous and joyful when I am asked to help out.

Source: Regnum Christi

Mary's Visit to Elizabeth in Luke 1,
Ark Imagery and the Early Fathers

by Michael Barber

Patristic sources often link Mary, the mother of Jesus, to ark of the covenant imagery. Where did this tradition originate? At first glance, it might be suspected that such language is merely the result of reckless allegorization. After all, the New Testament never links Mary with the ark. . . right?

Here I want to make the case that the imagery of Mary as ark can be found in Luke's Gospel. In particular, I want to look at a story relevant to the Christmas season: Luke's account of the Visitation, i.e., Mary's visit to Elizabeth. The story is rich in Old Testament echoes. As we shall see, it seems the fathers were much more careful readers of the New Testament than is often realized. This should raise a few eyebrows. Please let me know what you think in the com-box.

Mary as the Ark of the Covenant in Patristic Sources

First, let me establish the assertion I made above, namely, that patristic writers linked Mary with the ark. A few citations will do. Note that this is by no means an exhaustive survey.

Hippolytus (c. a.d. 170-c. a.d. 236): "At that time, the Savior coming from the Virgin, the Ark, brought forth His own body into the world from that Ark, which was gilded with pure gold within by the Word, and without by the Holy Ghost; so that the truth was shown forth, and the Ark was manifested....And the Savior came into the world bearing the incorruptible Ark, that is to say His own body" [Dan .vi].

Athanasius of Alexandria (c. a.d. 296- c. a.d. 373): "O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O [Ark of the] Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides" (Homily of the Papyrus of Turin).

Gregory the Wonder Worker (c. a.d. 213- c. a.d. 270): "Let us chant the melody that has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, 'Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy sanctuary.' For the Holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary" (Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary).

St. John Damascene (c. a.d. 676-c. a.d. 749): "This day the Holy and Singular Virgin is presented in the sublime and heavenly Temple… This day the sacred and living Ark of the Living God, who bore within her womb her own Creator, took up her rest within that temple of the Lord that was not made with hands… And David her forefather, and her father in God, dances with joy…" [Oration on the Glorious Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God the Ever-Virgin Mary, 2].

Echoes of the Ark in Luke 1

In Luke 1 we read about Mary's journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. We read that "Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country of Judah" (1:39). When she arrives, Elizabeth "exclaimed with a loud cry, 'Blessed are you among women'"(1:42). Elizabeth asks, "And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (1:43). She states, "For behold when the voice of your greeting came to my ears the babe in my womb leaped for joy" (1:44). After Mary responds with a long prayer praising God we read, "And Mary remained with her about three months" (1:56).

At first glance it seems that there are no clear Old Testament allusions in any of this - after all, no specific passage is cited. However, a more careful look reveals numerous Old Testament allusions in the story. Among other things, the line "Blessed are you among women" (1:42) clearly evokes Deborah's prayer (cf. Jdg 5:24). Likewise, scholars have detected numerous links between Mary's prayer in the story and Hannah's in 1 Samuel 2. Luke is clearly subtle in his use of the Old Testament; he does not need formula quotations.

Yet what I want to focus on here are the allusions to the story of the ark's journey to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6. There we read about David's bringing the holy vessel into the newly conquered city of Jerusalem. In the beginning of the chapter we read about David's first attempt to lead the ark into Zion - an attempt that is aborted after a man dies for touching the ark.

Indeed, the first attempt seemed doom to failure from the get-go: the ark was carried on a cart, rather than being properly carried on poles (2 Sam 6:3; cf. Exod 37:4). It is only after the cart tips over that Uzzah puts his hand to ark, presumably, as a last ditch effort to save the ark from hitting the ground, and dies (2 Sam 6:6-7). The ark remains at the house of one "Obededom" for a period of time before, after the man's house is blessed, David decides to bring the ark into Jerusalem properly (cf. 2 Sam 6:11-12). This time the ark is properly "borne" by the Levites (2 Sam 6:13) and David leads the ark in a glorious procession, which involves him offering sacrifice and blessing the people (cf. 2 Sam 6:16-19).

The parallels between the ark's journey in 2 Samuel 6 and Mary's journey in Luke 1 are striking. Indeed, the language in Luke 1 mirrors that of the LXX.

Both "arose" in are linked with the region of Judah.

"Mary arose [ἀνίστημι] and went with haste into the hill country of Judah" (Luke 1:39).
- "And David arose [ἀνίστημι] and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah" (2 Sam 6:2).

In both stories a "blessing" is pronounced.

"[Elizabeth] exclaimed with a loud cry, 'Blessed [εὐλογημένη] are you among women'"(Luke 1:42).
- "[David] blessed [εὐλόγησεν]the people in the name of the Lord" (2 Sam 6:18).


Both Elizabeth and David ask how they are worthy to be in the presence of the Ark/Mary.

"And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me [ἵνα ἔλθῃ ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ κυρίου μου πρὸς ἐμέ]? (Luke 1:43).
- "[David] said, 'How can the ark of the Lord come to me [Πῶς εἰσελεύσεται πρός με ἡ κιβωτὸς κυρίου]?'" (2 Sam 6:9).

"Leaping" occurs in both stories.

"For behold… the babe in my womb leaped [ἐσκίρτησεν] for joy" (Luke 1:44).
- "Michal . . . looked out the window and saw David leaping [MT: pāzǎz] and dancing before the Lord" (2 Sam 6:16).

Both Mary and the ark remain somewhere for "three months".

"And Mary remained with her about three months [μῆνας τρεῖς]" (Luke 1:56).
- "And the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months [μῆνας τρεῖς]" (2 Sam 6:11).

These parallels are, in my opinion, very difficult to dismiss as mere coincidence. In other words, it seems more likely that Luke is drawing on 2 Samuel 6 than that these similarities are present by chance.

The upshot of it all appears to be that Luke describes Mary's visit to Elizabeth in terms evocative of the ark's journey to Jerusalem. In other words, Luke seems to describe Mary as the new ark of the covenant.

The Ark and the Woman in Revelation 12

Interestingly, both "ark of the covenant imagery" and that of "the mother of the Messiah" also appear to be linked in the same context in other place: the Apocalypse. In Revelation 12 we read about a woman who gives birth to a male child who rules the nations "with a rod of iron" (Rev 12:5). The language is clearly Davidic and is obviously drawn from Psalm 2. In sum, the child born is clearly the messiah. The woman is therefore - whatever else she may be - the mother of the messiah.

Notably, the scene in Revelation 12 immediately follows a vision of the ark. The connection is obscured for contemporary readers a bit by the chapter and verse markers added later to the text, but a careful reading will note that the vision of the ark immediately precedes the imagery of the "woman": "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, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. Chapter 12 1 And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun. . ."

Incidentally, I might also note that many commentators see Isaiah 7:14 in the backdrop of Revelation 12, a passage also linked with Mary in the New Testament.

Conclusion

It would seem then that the patristic writers were not without precedent in linking Mary with the ark - the New Testament contains at least two places where the connection is made. Reckless allegorization or insightful contemplation? Clearly, the latter.

Of course, if the new covenant is superior to the old covenant, it would also seem that the ark of the new covenant would exceed in holiness that of the old. In light of this, the early church's affirmation of Mary as panagia, i.e., "all-holy," makes good sense.

Source: TheSacredPage.com

Light Will Come

by Joel Osteen

When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in. Psalm 112:4, NIV.

Anytime you are going through difficult, dark times, know that God already has a plan to bring you through to victory. When you call on His name, when you surrender your circumstances to Him, that's when His light will come forth through the darkness. Notice, it's not going to trickle in, it's not going to just barely get there. No, like a flood, like the breaking forth of waters, it's going to come bursting in!

I believe it means that suddenly, you're going to get well. Suddenly, you will meet the right person. Suddenly, you're able to pay your house off. Our attitude should be, "My child may be off course, making poor decisions, but I'm expecting a flood of God's mercy to bring him back." Or, "My house has been on the market for a year and still hasn't sold, but I'm expecting a flood of favor to cause it to stand out and sell."

In the midst of that difficulty, don't get discouraged. You're in a prime position to see a flood of God's goodness. Keep praising Him. Keep thanking Him and stay in faith because His light will break through the darkness!

Prayer

Father, thank You for being the light of the world. Today I lift my heart to You trusting that Your light will burst forth through the darkness. Thank You for Your good plan to renew and restore me in Jesus' name. Amen.

More Resources For Study and Reflection

We celebrate the Nativity of Virgin Mary on September 8. To learn more about St. Mary, her life, and her role in the Church, please visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary.

This supplement includes the previous years' specials on St. Mary published by Malankara World Journal.

You can access Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary at:
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/shunoyo/StMary.htm

 Malankara World Library with devotionals, prayer, essays and sermons are available at:

Malankara World Library

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Default.htm

Please keep an eye for the Malankara World Journal Specials planned for the Ettu Nombu in 2013. This is the sixth in a series of 8 planned (Issues 161-168) for Ettu Nomb - 2013.

If you missed any of the first five special issues, you can access them here:

Volume 3 No 161: September 1, 2013
Ettu Nombu (8 Days Lent) Special - Day 1

Volume 3 No 162: September 2, 2013
Ettu Nombu (8 Days Lent) Special - Day 2

Volume 3 No 163: September 3, 2013
Ettu Nombu (8 Days Lent) Special - Day 3

Volume 3 No 164: September 4, 2013
Ettu Nombu (8 Days Lent) Special - Day 4

Volume 3 No 165: September 5, 2013
Ettu Nombu (8 Days Lent) Special - Day 5

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