August 2019 Allocutio
Mary, the Ark of the Covenant, leads us on our Pilgrim Journey.
Fr. Liam Ó Cuív
Today I want to speak of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, which has been the specific theme of Fr. Bede McGregor’s August Allocutios in the years 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and last August also, and in which he has invariably spoken to us of Mary as a sign of hope for our troubled world.
In the book of Exodus the Ark of the Covenant was a wooden box or chest overlaid with gold inside and out, which contained two tablets of stone of the Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments. The Ark was created by the Israelites according to the instructions given by God to Moses (Ex 25:10ff). God made His presence especially manifest over the ark, above what was called the “mercy seat”. The Ark was carried at the head of the column of the people of Israel when they journeyed through the wilderness towards the Promised Land (Num. 10:33ff), or ahead of the army when it headed into battle.
The Ark was carried by the priests at the front as the people crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership (Jos 3:3). In the time of King David, the ark was carried from Kirjath-jearim to Zion. On the journey it stopped off for three months at the house of Obed-Edom in the Hill country of Judah. God blessed Obed Edom for housing the ark for these three months at his home. When David was having the ark taken by the Levites to Zion he danced before the ark. Later the Ark was kept in the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem.
In the Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse, John says “The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the Ark of the Covenant could be seen inside it” (11, 19). At this time nobody had seen the ark for over five centuries. But instead of speaking of a golden casket or box, he says “a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown” (12:1). Here the Church sees that Mary, the pregnant Mother of God, is the Ark of the New Covenant. In fact, if we read the account in the Gospel of Luke of the visitation of the pregnant Virgin Mary to her kinswoman Elizabeth, we see the same thing. The angel Gabriel had spoken of the power of the Most High overshadowing her (Luke 1:35). Mary goes out to where? – To the Hill Country of Judah. As soon as Mary enters the child, John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb leaps or dances before her and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:42). St Luke even tells us that Mary stayed about three months.
As we celebrate and contemplate in these days the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the temple of Heaven, she is leading us into the Promised Land. She is brought into the Holy of Holies and is crowned as Queen of Heaven. For us it reminds us that our homeland, our destiny, is Heaven, not some earthly kingdom with an ephemeral, passing happiness.
The Israelites would carry the Ark at their head in times of battle as a sign that they would conquer with God’s help. For us, legionaries, we know that victory is through Mary, who brings her Son, Jesus into our world, as the woman of the Apocalypse gave birth to the one who would defeat the Dragon. As Fr. Bede wrote in August 2006 “in the constant battle to be generous and faithful in the apostolate, Mary in heaven is the luminous sign of hope: in her and through her we will win through in the end.”
In her heavenly glory Mary is now closer to us than ever. Once again Fr. Bede tells us, “As Legionaries we must ask for the grace to proclaim by our devotion and lives the great sign of hope for mankind that is Mary in her Assumption.”
The Constitution Lumen Gentium of Vatican II states, “The Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and the beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise, she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come” (no. 68).
As Pope Francis has stated “In Mary, all God’s promises have been proved trustworthy. Enthroned in glory, she shows us that our hope is real.” This hope he has told us, “Is the antidote to the spirit of despair that seems to grow like a cancer in societies which are outwardly affluent, yet often experience inner sadness and emptiness”.
As legionaries let us never be fearful and lose hope. Let us ponder this mystery of the Assumption and understand its meaning for us. Let us share this hope with all those who are around us, at this time when people may fear that the Dragon will win out!
If the Handbook spells out for us that as legionaries we must be at the forefront of the Church’s battle, the Blessed Virgin, crowned in heavenly glory, leads us to victory through her Son.