Mary, the Ark of God – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

1 Chronicles 15: 3-4, 15-15; 16: 1-2
Psalm 113
Luke 1: 26-38

It is our custom here at the monastery to keep many Saturdays during the year as mini feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Lord. We do this, not because it is an ancient monastic tradition, although it is; rather it is an ancient monastic tradition because what we say and believe about Mary and her role in the mystery of the Incarnation says a great deal about the mystery of God and our vocation as Christians.

As you may know Mary has a variety of titles, and not just “blessed virgin” or “mother of God” or “mother of the Lord”. One of my favourite ones is “Ark of God”.

For the Israelites of the Old Testament, the Ark of God was a physical reminder of the presence of God it their midst. It was the Ark that rested in the very centre of the Tent of Meeting, the Holy of Holies, and it was the Ark over which God’s glory hovered, for within the Ark was kept some manna from the wilderness; the two tablets of the Ten Commandments; and the staff of Aaron the High Priest.

Now in themselves, stale bread, a couple of stones and an old stick don’t signify much, but for the Christian we see in them signs of not only what God has done, but what God will do for us, in the person of Jesus. We see in the story of the manna in the wildness, how God fed His pilgrim people and we see in Jesus how God feeds us with His very life. We see in the tablets of stone how God revealed Himself to His people in the word and law of God, and we see in Jesus the one whom God has  revealed as Word made flesh and Law made love. We see in the staff of wood how God lead His people out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land and we see in Jesus how God continues to lead His people from the bondage of sin and death into the land of love and life.All of these Mary carried in her womb when she carried Christ within her body.

But if Mary’s vocation was to be the Ark of God, then so too is ours. For when Mary assented to God’s choice that she bear, and carry and give birth to the One who is the Bread of Life, the Word made Flesh and the Redeemer of God’s People God’s very self was implanted in her womb and she became the Ark of God. When we say ‘yes’ to God, then Bread and Word and Staff in the person of Jesus is planted in our hearts and we too become Arks of God.

We remember today Mary as the Ark of God because in so doing, we remember our true vocation: to bear and carry and give birth to the One who is Bread, Word and Redeemer. It was Mary’s vocation to bear God for the world. And every time you say ‘yes’ to God this becomes your vocation as well: to bear, carry and give birth to Bread, Word and Redeemer.

We keep today as a mini feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, because when we remember what her vocation was, we are reminded what our vocation is.


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  1. Daniel on August 16, 2021 at 07:48

    Thank you Brother James…’s a question prompted by your sermon. You say “when we say ‘yes’ to God…” then certain things follow. What I am wondering is—how much of that spirituality is already inside us independent of our saying yes or not? Let’s say I spend my whole life as a Hindu and never hear a word about what we Christians call God, as one example. Is God’s gift to me then different in some way?

    • Donald Buxton on August 15, 2023 at 17:04

      I never before thought that my belief (Aka faith, calling, spirit, &…) was the birthing of Christ. Not sure 🤔 I can live up to this idea but it is an amazing idea all the same. Thank you.

      • rowan on August 16, 2023 at 12:54

        Am reminded of Ana Hernandez’s beautiful “If you make a manger”

  2. Elizabeth Clifford on August 15, 2020 at 11:55

    Beautiful, Br. James. As a former Roman Catholic, devotion to Mary, Mother of the Lord, is imprinted deep within my soul. I appreciate the Anglican/Episcopal honoring of this woman among women who has so much to teach us all.

  3. rowan on August 15, 2020 at 09:47

    If you do a search in youtube for “if in your heart Ana Hernandez” you will find a beautiful performance by the Virgina Girls Choir of a chant by Ana Hernandez on this subject.

  4. Kitty Whitman on August 15, 2020 at 07:56

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. How beautifully and succinctly expressed. Your words this morning were a direct outreach to my soul. I had never heard this role and calling expressed so cogently and patently.

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