Mary’s Visit to Elizabeth, Ark Imagery and the Fathers


Mary as the Ark of the Covenant in Patristic Sources

First, let me establish the assertion I made above, namely, that patristic writers linked Mary with the ark. A few citations will do. Note that this is by no means an exhaustive survey.

Hippolytus (c. a.d. 170–c. a.d. 236): “At that time, the Savior coming from the Virgin, the Ark, brought forth His own body into the world from that Ark, which was gilded with pure gold within by the Word, and without by the Holy Ghost; so that the truth was shown forth, and the Ark was manifested….And the Savior came into the world bearing the incorruptible Ark, that is to say His own body” [Dan .vi].

Athanasius of Alexandria (c. a.d. 296– c. a.d. 373): “O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O [Ark of the] Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides” (Homily of the Papyrus of Turin).

Gregory the Wonder Worker (c. a.d. 213– c. a.d. 270): “Let us chant the melody that has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, ‘Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy sanctuary.’ For the Holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary” (Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary).

John Damascene (c. a.d. 676–c. a.d. 749): “This day the Holy and Singular Virgin is presented in the sublime and heavenly Temple… This day the sacred and living Ark of the Living God, who bore within her womb her own Creator, took up her rest within that temple of the Lord that was not made with hands… And David her forefather, and her father in God, dances with joy…” [Oration on the Glorious Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God the Ever-Virgin Mary, 2].

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