We are changing our Facebook profile picture today for the start of Advent starting this Sunday, November 27, 2011. The pic is a piece of art that we purchased a few years ago called La Posada. The Spanish word “Posada” means lodging or accommodation. It can truly speak to one’s heart and prepare us for the true meaning of Advent. When I sit and lay my eyes upon this beautiful work of art, I ponder what the artist is trying to tell me, teach me and in doing so the artist brings me into the lives of “Joseph and Mary” as if it happened today. I am there with them on this journey to pay the taxes in Bethlehem. Come go with us to Bethlehem. Joseph’s face is motionless, somewhat in a deep place, in deep thought, so deep that he probably has lost all senses and the reality of this gruesome journey. His mind is lost in the eagerness to get to Bethlehem with his wife Mary, the Christ child in her womb and keeping them safe. Can you imagine the worry, the details that he was working over in his mind as they traveled by foot? We must remember that Mary was heavily pregnant at the time and the 80 mile trip was not like it would be today. If Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as stated in Luke's Gospel, we must think about the route they took and the culture of the day. Samaria lay between Galilee and Judea, the region in which the town of Bethlehem is located. There was much ill feeling between the Samaritans and the Jews. Any lone traveler crossing from Galilee into Samaria would be at risk of attack and would certainly not receive lodgings or any other type of assistance on the journey. The family would have had to travel east, cross over into modern-day Jordan and then travel south on the eastern side of the Jordan River, before crossing back into Judea. This is a much longer journey.
Mary; as I gaze at her face, her posture, as she rest and rides on the donkey I see a women that is resting and trusting her God. I am reminded of what she was told, just a few months ago when the angel Gabriel announced to her; “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you, do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord will give Him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end. And Mary said to the angel; “how can this be, since I have no relationship with a man?” Gabriel replied; “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” Wow what a statement! I notice Mary has her left hand gently touching her swollen belly and her right hand rest upon her lap. Or maybe her right hand is supporting the growing Christ child in her womb, the child she loves so much and will soon be a mother to. Does she realize that the next 33 years will take her and the Christ child, all the way to the cross? Does she recall over and over in her mind the words of Gabriel? As she lightly caresses her womb, I am in awe that she is with child, not any child; “God of the Universe, The Word that became flesh.
The donkey has one foot lifted as he moves quickly, as Joseph has a light hand on his mane. Joseph will keep the donkey close to him, guide him and reassure the Donkey continually with his touch in hopes that the donkey understands the special cargo in which he is carrying. The donkey’s eyes are sharp, clear and looking into the direction in which Joseph is leading him.
I ponder and keep all these things close to my heart, just like Mary did in Luke chapter 2; when Jesus went missing for 3 days and was found in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking questions and all who heard the young child Jesus were astounded. Mary and Joseph after finding him and being anxious; Jesus says, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s House?” And Mary kept all these things close to her heart. As my eyes behold the artwork, again I notice Mary lightly touching her womb, and she is keeping all these things close to her heart. Will she fully understand the words of Simeon when she and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple and present him to God? “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory for all people.” Simeon blessed them and prophesied “”Behold this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke Chapter 2:22-35). Simeon’s words echo in my mind, “and you yourself a sword will pierce.” Oh Mary, what the sword must have felt like when you were standing by the cross of your son Jesus? John 19 26-27. When Jesus saw you and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to you Mary; “Women Behold, your son.” He then also told his disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took you into his home. Me too….Mary, I have also taken you into my home since I have become Catholic. You have become my heavenly mother, you have taught me so much and you gently point me to your son. Through you, I feel the sword in which you felt that day your son Jesus hung on the cross. Through you I understand what our Jesus (your son) endured on the cross for me and the whole world. Through you I have come to know that “Blessed be the fruit of thy womb Jesus” means so much more to me than I could imagine!
The following will sum up the beauty of entering into this season of Advent with Mary and Joseph as they travel to Bethlehem. How important Mary’s role has become in my Christian Faith. As I journey toward “Christmas Day Bethlehem” during the season of Advent, I ask Mary to gently take my hand and help me to understand Luke chapter 1; 28 “Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with you” 42: “Most Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Exodus 40:34-35, when the Tabernacle was completed, we learn the following:"Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud overshadowed it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
"And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God."
In both cases, the word used to "overshadow" is "episkiasei".
Mary is the New Testament, “Ark of the Covenant.” She is carrying in her womb the Lord of the universe. The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant contained three items – The Word of God in the form of stone tablets (the 10 Commandments), manna (bread) from Heaven, and the rod of Aaron that re-sprouted and came back to life (Hebrews 9:4). Just so, the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary contained Jesus Christ – The living Word of God (John 1:1), the bread of life (John 6:48), and the ruler with a rod of iron who also came back to life (Rev.12:5). At the Annunciation of Mary, Gabriel told her that the power of the most high would “overshadow” her (Luke 1:35). The term “overshadow” is significant, because it was also used to refer to the cherubim “overshadowing” the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Hebrews 9:5). The Ark (Exodus 40) was very holy, which parallels the Catholic teaching that Mary is also pure and holy. The Ark of the Covenant was so holy, that no ordinary person could even touch it. Uzzah reached out to steady it, and was instantly struck dead (2 Samuel 6:7). There are many parallels between the mention of the Ark in 2 Samuel 6 and Mary in Luke 1:
- David heads to the hills of Judah in 2 Samuel 6:2-3; Mary heads to the hills of Judah in Luke 1:39.
- David dances for joy in front of the Ark (2 Samuel 6:14); the unborn fetus John the Baptist leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice (1 Luke 44).
- David says “How can the Ark come to me”? (2 Samuel 6:9); Elizabeth says, “How is this that the Mother of my Lord has come to me”? (1 Luke 43).
- David and the Ark stayed for 3 months (2 Samuel 6:11); Mary stayed for 3 months (1 Luke 56).
So if Jesus is “The Word Made Flesh”, then Mary is “The Ark Made Flesh”. All of these parallels between the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament and the Blessed Virgin Mary in the New Testament are a branch of scripture study known as “typology”. In other words, events and people in the New Testament are prefigured by events and people in the Old Testament.
One such typology revolves around Revelation 12 and Genesis 37:9. In Genesis, Joseph says, "Behold, I have dreamed another dream; and behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me."
“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.”
The obvious parallel is that the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars in Joseph’s dream represent his 11 brothers and all of Israel, while THE WOMAN in Revelation is adorned with these symbols of Israel. So who is the “WOMAN”? The first clue is the term “a great portent”. In Isaiah 7:14 in the Old Testament, it says,
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.”
The great portent of Revelation and the sign of Isaiah are one and the same – A Virgin who will give birth to the leader of Israel, Jesus Christ. That woman is the Blessed Virgin Mary. The writer of the book of Revelation, St. John the Apostle, was given by Jesus on the cross to Mary as her son, and Mary was given to John as his Mother, in John 19:26-27. This means that John knew Mary better than anyone, except for Jesus, and he is trying to tell us all something about her status in heaven. In the preceding verse, Revelation 11:19, John tells us that he sees the Ark of the Covenant. In the next verse, Revelation 12:1, he describes the Ark for us as “A woman clothed with the sun”, a term that could only mean the immaculately conceived Virgin Mary. The rest of Revelation 12 talks about the enmity prefigured in Genesis 3:15 between the devil and THE WOMAN, and how Satan can’t get to her. In Revelation 12:17, it says that we are her children if we follow the commandments and bear testimony to Jesus.
Advent has just began, let us continue to seek the Christ Child until he comes.