Daily Devotion to the Theotokos
Sixth Day of the Month
shalt make an ark of cypress wood…and shall overlay it with
gold...and thou shall put into the ark the testimony which I will
thee...and I will meet with thee and commune with thee there."
(Exodus 25:10, 15, 22)
In the Holy Scripture we read of the Ark of the Covenant. God commanded Moses to make a beautiful ark-chest of fine wood and cover it with gold. He commanded Moses to place in this ark testimonies of His promise: the tables of the law, a container of manna, that heavenly bread with which He fed His people, and the rod that had budded forth like a living tree, and through which He had worked such great wonders.
On top of this ark, God told Moses to place a symbolic "Mercy Seat," with an icon of a cherub on each side of it. This beautiful, sacred chest became the ark of the Old Testament, the testimony of the promises given by God to His people. And God told Moses, "I will meet with you and commune with you on the Mercy Seat of the ark."
Let your mind ponder this sacred ark, O believers, and wonder at its meaning. As you read the Bible, notice what great reverence was shown to this ark. See how deeply the children of Israel venerated it and how God protected it from the touch of unsanctified hands. Yet it was only a box which contained symbols of the great promise of God. The greatest attribute of the ark was that God would come and meet and commune with His priests through the Mercy Seat of the ark.
When, in the fullness of time, God chose to fulfill that great promise and send a Saviour, bestowing upon us a new covenant and a new testament, He chose an ark higher and more wondrous than that wooden chest of old. He chose the Holy Virgin Mary, a living vessel, a living ark, a living and sanctified Mercy Seat where He would come and meet with all mankind face to face and commune with us in the flesh.
Do you wish to understand, O believer, how that ark of old was a likeness of the Virgin? The book of the law which no man could truly fulfill was placed in that old ark, but the Lawgiver Himself dwelt in Mary's womb. He came, through her to fulfill the law of righteousness for us and free us from the burden of the law. In that chest of old, the container of manna, the physical bread, was placed as a memorial, but in the womb of the Virgin, the Living Bread, the Bread of Life, was formed in the flesh to feed the souls of His people. In that ark of the covenant, God placed the rod of Moses, that staff of dead wood which budded like a living tree and worked wonders, to set His people free of their bondage. See, now, how the Tree of Life has budded forth in the Virgin's womb, and come forth to set His people free? Recall how God, of old, came to meet with His priests on the Mercy Seat of that ark, but understand that through the Virgin, He came forth to meet and commune with all mankind.
What awesome mystery is this, O Theotokos. For in that Old Testament, God gave an ark of covenant made of wood and precious metal, but for His New Testament, He provided a living ark, made in His own likeness and covered with the pure gold of virginity.
If you are the true and perfect ark, O Theotokos, the fulfillment of the prophecy of the ark of the old covenant, can we regard you with less awe, reverence and veneration than God's people had for that ark of old which was only a likeness of you? How foolish and vain are those who will not venerate and reverence you, O Most Pure one, but let those of us who have faith and understanding magnify the Most Pure and Holy Theotokos in Orthodox fashion, crying out:
O Mother of the Promise, Most Pure and living ark, dwelling place of the Redeemer, look with compassion upon us sinners and hear our prayer. You who are the Mercy Seat in which God the Word appeared to meet and commune with His people, have mercy on us, your servants, and intercede for us before God that we be set free of bondage and find the promised salvation.
* * *"God commanded the Hebrews to fashion the ark of the promise and the old covenant, in the wilderness. But He made thee, O Theotokos, the fulfillment of the fulfillment of the promise and the Ark of the New Covenant. For He Who is the Living and Heavenly Manna came forth from thee to fulfill the promise for all who, in faith, cry to Him: Alleluia." (Kontakion Six, Akathist to the Joy of Canada)