Mary: The tabernacle of God
In the wilderness of Sinai, the Lord commanded Moses to build a tent where God could visit his people. Within the tent, there was set aside an especially sacred place, completely covered with veils. No one but the high priest could enter.
In this holy of holies stood a covered box, or ark, which contained stone tablets on which were inscribed the law of God. On the lid that covered the Ark of the Covenant were carved two golden cherubic angels, whose outstretched wings served as the footstool of the throne of God Himself.
This ark, together with the portable tabernacle, or tent of meeting, traveled with Israel throughout the wilderness, carried in the vanguard, and covered by a cloud of glory. It was carried over the Jordan, and shared in the victories and the trials of Israel as she fought to conquer the land God had promised her. At last, David, God’s anointed one, brought the ark to its resting place on Zion, in the city of Jerusalem, where it was ultimately housed in the temple built by his son Solomon.
For Christians, Ark of the Covenant was a foreshadowing of what was to come.
It was not in the ark, but in the womb of the Virgin Mary, that God ultimately took up his abode on earth. It was in the womb of the Virgin that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, filled with grace and truth. The Virgin Mary IS the ark, the tabernacle of God. On August 15, the feast of her ‘falling asleep,’ we what we are remembering is the return of the true ark to its resting place.
Death is not a terminal, but a bridge, an exodus by which she passes over from earthly life to eternal life. She who served as the tabernacle of the word incarnate is taken up into that greater and more perfect tabernacle, into heaven itself
For Orthodox Christians, the late theologian Fr. Alexander Schmemon reminds us, Mary is not an exception…she is an example. She is the quintessential Christian and the icon of the Church. She did only what each of us are called to do each and day. And what is that?
To let things be according to God’s word…to be filled with the grace of God…to magnify the Lord…to be the temple of the Holy Spirit…to rejoice in God our Savior…to stand faithfully by the Cross…to have our souls pierced by the sword of mourning for this fallen, broken, darkened world.
In praising the Theotokos, let us also beg God that we might come to see in her not a great exception to the way we live our lives, but as a great example of how to live them.