Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Effects of Penance

The Season of Lent is now well underway and no doubt we have all faced some kind of temptation to give up on our commitments. It can be tough going, and sometimes we can even fool ourselves into thinking that giving things up for a prolonged period of time can be a real drudgery. But when this happens we need to bring ourselves back into check and remember that Lent is really a time of immense blessing. This is because it is a time of renewed focus and spiritual vigour. It is a preparation for the great Feast of Easter wherein we celebrate our union with the Resurrected Lord. But before we can be raised with the Lord, we first need to die with Him. And that is what Lent is about. It is about learning, in a deeper way, to unite ourselves with the Lord in His Passion – especially as we learn to die to ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Matt 16:24).
We typically do this by taking up some form (or forms) of Penance during the Lenten Season. For example, we might give up a particular type of food that we really enjoy; or we might give up a specific activity so that we can spend more time in prayer or Scripture reading. Whatever we decide to do (or not to do) for Lent can be summarised into three broad categories, or “Acts of Penance”:
·         Prayer

·         Fasting

·         Almsgiving

But why Penance? Are Acts of Penance even effective? And if they are, what exactly do they effect?
There are principally two things that Acts of Penance effectively accomplish in the lives of Christians in a state of grace:

1)      They make satisfaction for our sins

2)      They help us to overcome our spiritual foes

Satisfaction for Sins
Some people might argue that these acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are all external and really have no intrinsic value. Rather than external actions, we should be focussing our efforts on spiritual matters. But I would counter that these external acts are not merely external. Not only are they driven by a deeper desire for an internal spiritual transformation, but they also help to advance it.

Our sins, and their effects, have both internal and external (or physical and spiritual) elements. This is why, in the Confiteor during Mass, we confess that we have greatly sinned in our thoughts and our words; in what we have done and what we have failed to do. This refers to matters both internal and external; physical and spiritual. If we are to make satisfaction for our sins then, the Penance we do needs to correlate. So, Penance can never be only an internal thing – it also needs to be accompanied by outward actions.

So who does satisfaction need to be made to? Well, to whomever we sinned against. And who do we sin against? Well, first and foremost, when we sin, we sin against God (Ps 51:4). But we also sin against others and even ourselves. By virtue of the various acts of Penance, we actually provide the corrective satisfaction for each of these “persons” that we sin against, or as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it:
"Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms [of penance], fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others." (CCC # 1434).

How is this so?

·       Prayer – by spending time with the Lord, we make satisfaction for our sins against God

·       Fasting – by denying ourselves some form of good (e.g. food), we make satisfaction for the sins commit against ourselves

·       Almsgiving – by giving in love, we make satisfaction for our sins against others.

What is really amazing about this is that our Acts of Penance are not only beneficial to ourselves; but they can also be applied to the sins of others [see here for a previous blog where I discuss this further].

Overcoming our Spiritual Foes
Not only do the Acts of Penance make satisfaction for our sins, but they also help to foster holiness so that we might fight against future sin. As Christians in the Church Militant, our enemies have traditionally been categorised as the world, the flesh, and the devil.

The world – referring to the things around us that distract us from loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and loving our neighbour as ourselves.  
The flesh – the tendency of our human nature to pursue its own selfish desires and passions.

The devil – that great foe of mankind whose desire it is to try to lead humanity away from God in his own disobedience in which he and a third of the angels fell.
St. John gives us another way of categorising our spiritual foes in 1 Jn 2:16, where he calls our enemies the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life.

How do the Acts of Penance help us to overcome these foes?

  • Prayer – Sacred Scripture reminds us that pride leads us to fall (Prov 16:18) just as it did the devil (Isa 14:12-15). When we are lifted up in pride, we fall into the same condemnation as the devil (1 Tim 3:6). Prayer is an act of humility in that we acknowledge we are not able to do things in our own strength. In this way, prayer counteracts our pride. And when we give ourselves to prayer, God gives us the grace and spiritual fortitude that we need to overcome the temptations of the devil.
  • Fasting – the best way to overcome our flesh is denying it some form of good. This is because by the denying of good, we learn discipline...and through this discipline, we become less prone to give into our fleshly desires so easily.   
  • Almsgiving the Tenth Commandment is that we should not covet any of our neighbours’ goods. We do this with our eyes when we see what others have and, out of a feeling of entitlement or even jealousy, desire it for ourselves. And it is this sin of covetousness that the world appeals to when it seeks to distract us from God by offering us its wares under the guise of wealth, fame, and power. Through the Act of Almsgiving, we esteem others better than ourselves, and rather that seek to gain we seek to give. In this way, we overcome the temptation of the world which feeds on our covetousness.

So, the effects of the Acts of Penance are that they make satisfaction for sins (our own, and even the sins of others) and they help us to overcome our spiritual foes. But if we dig deeper along these lines, we see that there is more to the story...

Our Acts of Penance only have merit insofar as they are united to the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, it is only because of the infinite merits of His Person and Work that any of our good works have merit at all. Jesus’ redemptive work on the Cross of Calvary makes ultimate satisfaction for sins, and it was through the Cross of Christ that the devil was vanquished (Heb 2:14-15). Therefore, it is only by being united to Christ that we are able to make satisfaction for sins and given the strength and grace to overcome our foes.
But, when we do unite our Acts of Penance with Christ’s redemptive work, by virtue of the fact that they are united to Him, they become meritorious...and through this we are made to share in His redemptive work. In the words of St. Paul, we are made co-workers together with Him (2 Cor 6:1). Co-workers of what? What was Jesus’ mission on this earth? To redeem Creation by defeating the devil, and making satisfaction for the sins of the world (e.g. 1 Jn 2:2; 1 Jn 4:10). If that was the Lord’s mission, and if we are made co-workers together with Him, then guess what? As co-workers united to Christ, our good works accomplish the same things!

So, as we continue along our Lenten journey together as the Body of Christ, may we constantly remind ourselves of the import of the sacrifices we are making. And in all that we say and do, may we continually unite ourselves to Christ so that our good works can have redemptive merit for ourselves and the sins of the whole world.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Justification - are we "declared righteous" or "made righteous"?

The Second Reading for today (First Sunday of Lent, Year C) was taken from Rom 10:8-13:

“Scripture says: The word, that is the faith we proclaim, is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart. If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved. When Scripture says: those who believe in Him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask for His help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This passage of Scripture contains within it a doctrine that was at the heart of the Protestant Reformation – the doctrine of justification. The Catholic Church has always taught that justification is God making the sinner righteous; and that this takes place principally in the waters of baptism where all our sins are washed away and we are made new creatures in Christ by the grace of God.
In opposition to this, the Protestant Reformers began to teach that justification is not about God making a sinner righteous. “NO!” they said – justification is a legal transaction whereby God declares the condemned sinner (who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ) as righteous based solely on the merits of Christ.
In other words, according to the Reformers, the Christian was still naught but a vile and condemned sinner standing before God, his Divine Judge. But instead of God pronouncing rightful damnation upon him, He would see instead the blood of Christ applied by the sinner’s faith and declare the sinner as righteous. For them, the Christian remained incapable of any righteousness; but God would see not his filth but rather the righteousness of Christ which clothed him.
Furthermore, the Reformers went on to teach the separation of justification and sanctification. Justification, according to them, was the once-for-all transaction whereby the sinner was declared righteous; whereas sanctification was the ongoing process whereby the sinner progressively grows in righteousness (or is made righteous) – a process that would continue until the believer is completely conformed to the image of Christ and finally glorified in Heaven. This legal transaction (or justification) they say, took place on the Cross when Jesus took our sin upon Himself, and imputed His righteousness to us in place of our sin. As such, the believer remains a sinner...but a sinner covered by the blood of Christ. Or as Martin Luther put it: We are “snow-covered dung”.
And since it was a once-for-all transaction, the person justified (or “declared righteous”) would remain justified forever [and so they also taught that true Christians could never “lose their salvation”]. In this way they claimed that the Catholic Church (by teaching that justification is God making the sinner righteous) actually confused justification and sanctification.

Now, this might seem like a nice, neat little system to follow; and it may seem at first glance to give more honour to Christ. But, upon further examination, it can be seen that it is flawed at its very core and that the Catholic position is most consistent with Sacred Scripture and with reason.   
Firstly, to declare that a sinner is righteous (i.e. "not a sinner") is like saying that a murderer is not a murderer; or that a thief is not a thief i.e. it is a lie at worst and a contradiction at best. We know that God cannot lie (Tit 1:2); neither can He deceive nor be deceived (CCC #156). So, He will never declare that something is what it isn’t i.e. He will never declare that a sinner is righteous (or “not a sinner”).

Secondly, the idea that justification is not making the sinner righteous, but only declaring him righteous, is unscriptural. In the passage cited for today’s Second Reading, we read:
“By believing from the heart you are made righteous” – Rom 10:11
Some might argue that the translation used by the Lectionary is biased because other versions say that the one who “believes with the heart is justified” (e.g. NRSV). So, they would say that to translate the word “justified” as “made righteous” is to beg the question. But in response, we can point out that the translation “made righteous” actually fits with what St. Paul said earlier in the same Epistle:
“Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” – Rom 5:18-19 (NRSV)
What St. Paul does in the above passage is show that the work of justification is Jesus Christ’s reversal of the Fall. St. Paul talks about justification, and he talks about it in terms of being made righteous through Christ in the same way that through Adam we are all made sinners. Now, the Reformers didn’t teach that we are simply declared sinners because of the Fall. Rather, they taught that through Adam’s sin, we are all made sinners. But in this they were inconsistent with St. Paul who taught that Christ’s righteous act made us righteous in the same way that Adam’s sin made us sinners.

On this note, I would add that the Reformed position is not completely wrong. There is nothing wrong with saying that justification is God’s declaration that we are righteous. However, it is not the contradictory legal declaration that the Reformers insisted on. Rather, according to the Catholic Church’s teaching, God’s declaration that we are righteous is based on truth. In other words, God declares that we are righteous, because He has already made us righteous. Not unlike the fact that St. John elsewhere tells us that “we are called the children of God; because that is what we are” (see 1 Jn 3:1).

Thirdly, justification and sanctification cannot be separated as neatly as the Protestant Reformers devised. Rather, what we see in Scripture is that justification and sanctification are often used interchangeably and, in essence, they deal with the same thing e.g.:

“ were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Cor 6:11

Sadly, the Protestant Reformers, in their misguided zeal, got the doctrine of justification wrong. Whilst their intention was to give more honour and glory to Christ, what they actually achieved was a detraction of glory because their teaching on justification leads logically to the implication that God is a liar. And because of this, we should never cease to pray for our Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ, that God would allow the scales of “Catholic antagonism” to fall from their eyes and to see that the Holy Catholic Church has always been, and will always remain, the pillar and foundation of Truth – because she is nothing less than the Body of our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Why is Water Added to Wine in the Holy Mass?

Many people who witness the Holy Mass, but don’t fully understand it, will often come away thinking that it is a beautiful ritual – but nothing more than that. Then there are others who, in their misguided zeal, say that the Holy Mass is far from fact they claim that it is naught but an idolatrous religious affair filled with empty and pagan rituals. Fortunately, those who understand the depth of what is taking place in the Mass know better...
When we celebrate Mass, time and space are transcended, and we in fact enter into the Heavenly Jerusalem where we celebrate the Heavenly Liturgy with the Angels and Saints of all ages (see Heb 12:22). This is one reason for the responsorial at different points in the Mass:
“Lift up your hearts”......“We lift them up to the Lord”.
When we understand that time and space are transcended in the Holy Mass, we also starts to see how it is possible for the Sacrifice of the Mass to be none other than the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross at Calvary. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is not a re-sacrificing of Jesus Christ. Our Blessed Lord was sacrified once-for-all on Golgotha Hill 2,000 years ago. No! The Mass and Calvary are the selfsame sacrifice. In other words, what happened 2,000 years ago on Calvary is made present to us in every single Mass. [For example, see here, here, here, and here.]

To begin to understand the Mass, we first need to understand that it is not just some human ritual invented by the Apostles or Church Fathers. On the contrary, the Mass is the Divine Liturgy that has been instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ for His Holy Church; and all the rituals contained within the Mass have as their Author the Holy Spirit. As such, they can never be empty or idolatrous. In fact, to even say that the Mass is simply “beautiful” would be a gross understatement. The Mass is not simply beautiful – it is so much more than is Divine!
To illustrate this, I’d like to take a look at just one very “small” ritual within the Mass – so small that it can easily go unnoticed...but if we miss it, we also miss something that has the deepest theological significance. I am speaking of the moment in the Mass when the priest adds the water to the wine before the Consecration.

To casual onlookers, this little act may seem a bit peculiar, and they may shrug it off without thinking much of it; but the truth is that this little act carries with it amazing relevance. For example, when the water is added to the wine, it is basically turned into wine – and this might remind us of the first sign performed by our Blessed Lord – when He miraculously turned the water into wine (see Jn 2:1-11). And if He can turn water into wine, then we have no reason to doubt that He can also turn the same wine into His Most Precious Blood.
But wait...there's more...

The Catechism of the Council of Trent reminds us that this practice of adding water to the wine for Consecration is actually derived from Apostolic tradition. And the Catechism goes on to provides us with three principal reasons for this practice:
Firstly, water must be added to the wine in imitation of Our Lord; who mingled water with wine at the Last Supper. This was attested to by St. Cyprian:

“[Solomon] declares the wine mingled [referring to Prov 9:1-2], that is, he foretells with prophetic voice the cup of the Lord mingled with water and wine, that it may appear that that was done in our Lord’s Passion which had been before predicted.” – Epistle 62, Chapter 5

Secondly, by adding the water to the wine, the faithful are reminded of the blood and water that issued from the side of Christ when He was pierced through with the lance (Jn 19:34).

Thirdly, water in Scripture often symbolises “the peoples, and multitudes, and nations” (e.g. Rev 17:15). It is the same “peoples, and multitudes, and nations” that Jesus Christ died for, and so the water mingled with wine signifies the union of the redeemed with Christ their head.

Without even going into any great detail in respect of the above points raised by the Catechism of the Council of Trent, one can begin to appreciate that there is a depth of Mystery in this simple little action in the Mass.
But wait...there's more...
The points raised by the Catechism are just a beginning. There is another point that I believe is worth adding, derived from the ritual itself.
When the priest (or deacon, if present) adds the water to the wine, he silently prays the following prayer:
“By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.”
In reversal of the third point raised by the Catechism, in this prayer the people are symbolised by the wine in the chalice; and the divinity of Christ is symbolised by the pure water descending from above. Thus the mingling of water and wine serves to remind us of the Incarnation – the pure water descends from on high to be mingled with the wine, and this mingling is so complete that once they are mingled they cannot be separated. In the same way, God the Son descended from the Highest Heaven to make His tabernacle with men (Jn 1:14).

But wait...there’s more...
By this mingling of water and wine, we are not only being reminded of the Incarnation, but we are being reminded of the very reason for the Incarnation. But not only that...we are also being reminded of the very reason for the Mass!

St. Athanasius reminds us what the reason for the Incarnation was:
“God was made man, so that we might be made God” - On the Incarnation; Chapter 54:3

And as I have pointed out previously , this reality is brought about most especially in Most Blessed Sacrament when we receive the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion. We bring our gifts of bread and wine, as symbols of all that we are and have; then the Lord Jesus Christ turns these gifts into His Own Precious Body and Blood, which He in turn offers to us in Holy Communion...and in this Holy Communion we become united with Him so that we can be drawn more and more into His Divine Nature and be conformed to His image.

Isn’t that amazing? Who would’ve thought that all this could be represented by the simple act of adding a few drops of water to a chalice filled with wine? Often it’s the little things that teach us the greatest lessons...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mary - the Ark of the Covenant

From the earliest times, the Church has believed and taught that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the fulfilment of the Ark of the Covenant. For example:

“...the Saviour appeared and showed His own body to the world, born of the Virgin, who was the Ark overlaid with pure gold, with the Word within and the Holy Spirit without; so that the truth is demonstrated, and the Ark made manifest.” – St. Hippolytus (d. 236AD), Second Fragment on Daniel, Chapter 6
“Arise, O Lord, into Your rest; You, and the Ark of Your Sanctuary. For the Holy Virgin is in truth the Ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the Sanctuary.” – St Gregory Thaumaturgus (d. 275AD), Homily On the Annunciation

There are many more quotes available here, for any who are interested in digging deeper.

Well, as Catholics, it seems pretty obvious to us that Mary is the New Ark. The Ark was made of the purest gold – fulfilled in Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Mary bore within her womb the Lord Jesus Christ; and the Ark of the Covenant bore within it three things, which are fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ:

1)    The Rod of Aaron – Jesus the Eternal High Priest

2)    The Ten Commandments – Jesus the Great Prophet and Giver of the Law

3)    The Manna – Jesus the Bread of Life which comes from heaven

For Catholics, the idea that Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant is simply a logical conclusion. But is there more to it? What about Sacred Scripture – does the Bible back up what we claim? After all, whilst we don’t hold to the notion of Sola Scriptura, we do believe that what the Holy Catholic Church teaches will never contradict Sacred Scripture.
So what does Scripture have to say on this subject then? We know that the New Testament clearly points to the Lord Jesus Christ as the fulfilment of many Old Testament types e.g. the New Adam (1 Cor 15:45), the Eternal High Priest (Heb 6:20), the New Temple (Jn 2:19-21), the New Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7), etc. But Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant? Did the Church Fathers simply dream this up? Where did they get such an idea? The New Testament never specifically says that Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant…or does it?
In his Apocalypse, St. John tells us that he saw the Temple of God open up in heaven, and he beheld the Ark of the Covenant (Rev 11:19). Then he goes on to elaborate on what he saw…he saw a great sign in heaven, a Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head (Rev 12:1). Because of the chapter and verse divisions in our modern Bibles, we often miss the connection that St. John is making here. But, St. John didn’t write the Book of Revelation with chapter and verse divisions in mind. So, when he tells us about the Woman, he is developing what he saw in respect of the Ark of the Covenant.
So who is this Woman? Well, the Book of Revelation is a multi-layered prophecy with the images portrayed by St. John as being able to refer to various things all at the same time (e.g. the seven-headed dragon refers to seven mountains as well as seven kings, according to Rev 17:9). In a similar way, the image of the Woman is able to refer to multiple things (including Israel and the Church). But one thing that the image of the Woman undoubtedly refers to is the Blessed Virgin Mary. After all, if child referred to in Rev 12:4-5 is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, then it stands to reason that the Woman who gives birth to Him is none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary. So, St. John was telling us that Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant.

But that’s not the only reference we have. In St. Luke’s Gospel, when speaking about the visitation of the Blessed Virgin to St. Elisabeth (Lk 1:39-45), he subtly makes use an episode in Israel’s history for his backdrop. The parallel event that St. Luke draws upon is the relocating of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (see 2 Sam 6:1-16). There is so much overlap between these two passages that it is impossible to deny that St. Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wanted us to see Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant. For example, here are just a few brief parallels to consider:

  • Mary arose and went into the hill country of Judea (Lk 1:39); David and his men go up into the same region (2 Sam 6:2)
  • The baby leaped in Elisabeth’s womb (Lk 1:41); David leaped with dancing (2 Sam 6:16)
  • Elisabeth’s exultation at Mary’s arrival (Lk 1:42); the people’s exultation at the Ark’s arrival (1 Chron 15:28)
  • Elisabeth asks: “How could it be that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Lk 1:43); David asks: “How could the Ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Sam 6:9)
  • Mary remains in the house of Elisabeth for three months (Lk 1:56); The Ark remained in the house of Obededom for three months (2 Sam 6:11)
[I should add that 1 Sam 6:6-8 mentions Uzzah putting forth his hand to touch the Ark, which was forbidden. In like manner, the Blessed Virgin was “untouched” by any man.]

These passages from St. John’s Apocalypse and St. Lukes Gospel show clearly that the early Church’s belief that Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant has a solid Scriptural foundation; and these passages often form the basic Catholic apologetic to Protestants who think otherwise.

But earlier this week, as I started reading Pope Benedict’s “Jesus of Nazareth - the Infancy Narratives”, I learned that there is even more in St. Luke’s account that points to Our Lady as the New Testament fulfilment of the Ark of the Covenant.  In fact, it is the first thing that St. Luke does to introduce us to the Blessed Virgin Mary – almost as if that was a fundamental point that he was trying to get across.
St. Luke introduces Mary to us in the words of Gabriel: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee!” (Lk 1:28). These words are uttered by the Lord God, through the words of His messenger Gabriel, in fulfilment of the prophecy in Zeph 3:14-17:
Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
he has cast out your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear evil no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not fear, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

The Greek word used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament that St. Luke would have been familiar with) for “Sing aloud!” in Zeph 3:14 is the word “chairo!”. It means to “be full of cheer” or to “rejoice”. Why must the daughter of Zion rejoice? Zeph 3:17 tells us – because the Lord is in her midst. The Hebrew word for “in the midst of” is “qereb” and literally translated, it means “in the womb”. And it is the same word (“qereb”) that is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe how God dwells with His people in....(guess what???)...the Ark of the Covenant! So, Zephaniah prophesies for the daughter of Zion to rejoice because God will dwell within her womb.
Now, you’ll never guess what word St. Luke uses for Gabriel’s “Hail!” in his greeting of the Blessed Virgin? You got it! It is “chairo!”.  And why must Mary rejoice? Because she – the handmaid of the Lord – has God with her, in her midst, in her womb.

[Noting this, we also see that the Blessed Virgin becomes the fulfilment of the “daughter of Zion” – which has implications that point us back to the Woman in Rev 12:1.]
Note also that in Zeph 3:16, the prophet says to the people: “Fear not” (Zeph 3:16); and so too does Gabriel to Mary (Lk 1:30).

I just need to raise one more point needs to be made that would no doubt have been at the forefront of St. Luke’s mind as he was penning this narrative...
St. Luke knew that the Presence of God came to dwell in the midst (or in the womb) of His people by the cloud covering (or overshadowing) the Tabernacle / Temple (e.g. Ex 40:34; 2 Chron 5:13). And that is exactly how God came to dwell in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary i.e. by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35).

Now, this is all just merely scratching the surface regarding the Scriptural basis for Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant. At the very least what it shows is that the Church Fathers, in teaching that Mary was the Ark of God, were simply being faithful in preserving and developing true Apostolic doctrine, handed down through the teaching of the Church. And this same doctrine has also been preserved for us within Sacred Scripture – if only we are prepared to go looking...

As the Ark of the Covenant brought peace to God’s people because it was the sign that God was in their midst; so too may the presence of Our Lady in your life bring peace to your soul...because she is always with the Lord, who is the Great Prince of Peace!