I was reading Dr. Arthur A. Just’s commentary on Luke 1:1-9:50 in preparation for my sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent. The alternate text for the Gospel reading is Luke 1:36-59 (The Visitation and the Magnificat) and I am preaching on this text this year instead of the historic Gospel (GASP!) from John. I had heard Mary compared to the Ark of the Covenant before, but I had never seen the exegetical support for this until I read the textual notes for v. 39 in Just’s commentary, where he includes the following quote from J. McHugh, The Mother of Jesus, 62:
The two stories open with the statement that David and Mary “arose and made a journey” (2 Sam 6:2; Lk 1:39) up into the hill country, into the land of Judah. On arrival, both the Ark and Mary are greeted with “shouts” of joy (2 Sam 6:12, 15; Lk 1:42, 44). The verb used for Elizabeth’s greeting in Lk 1:42, (anephoneisen) is, in the LXX, used only in connection with liturgical ceremonies centred around the Ark; it is best translated as “intoned“. The Ark, on its way to Jerusalem, was taken into the house of Obededom, and became a source of blessing for his house (2 Sam 6:10-12); Mary’s entry into the house of Elizabeth is also seen as a source of blessing for the house (Lk 1:41, 43-4). David, in terror at the untouchable holiness of the Ark, cried out: “How shall the Ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Sam 6:9); Elizabeth, in awe before the mother of her Lord, says, “Why should this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43). Finally, we read that “the Ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obededeom three months” (2 Sam 6:11), and that Mary stayed with Elizabeth “about three months” (Lk 1:56).
Just writes in response: “As a temporary and portable vessel housing the immanent presence of the true God, Mary appears to fulfill the purpose of the ark of the covenant.”