WelCom October 2023
The 16th century Litany of Loreto contains several titles given to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. These are being explored by Fr James Lyons for WelCom. This month we meet two kinds of dwellings, house and ark.
House of Gold
Golden lie the meadows;
Golden run the streams.
[George Meredith 1828–1909]
Our Sacred Scriptures describe the temple build by King Solomon as a house of gold [see 1 Kings 7:48-50; 2 Chronicles 4:19-22]. The altar, the lampstands, the cups, the dishes, the doors in this ‘most holy place’ were all of pure gold. This was the House of God, demanding only the best of precious metals; it was a house filled with ‘the glory of the Lord’ [2 Ch. 5:14].
The Blessed Virgin Mary’s title, House of Gold, traditionally refers to her womb in which the Son of God took human flesh. The prologue to St John’s gospel announces, ‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth’ [John 1:14].
Mary herself can be seen as a golden house, a temple of the Lord, for she not only carried Jesus to birth but ‘housed’ him in her heart and home, nurtured and raise him to adulthood.
As the one closest to Jesus, she is indeed a holy temple and ‘gold’ is the best word we humans can find to describe the beauty, value and dignity of this house.
Chosen to be the mother of the Saviour of the world, Mary is likened to the tabernacle within the temple, the Holy of Holies, the sacred space of the presence of God. Its walls were overlaid with gold.
In honouring Mary as House of Gold, we recognise her unique vocation. As the one closest to Jesus, she is indeed a holy temple and ‘gold’ is the best word we humans can find to describe the beauty, value and dignity of this house.
‘Golden’ in the poem quoted above depicts the wonder, magnificence and tranquility of a scene. The reader instinctively knows this from that one word. It conveys peace, strength and awe. There is a completeness about ‘golden’ that is quite breathtaking.
In this regard, Mary’s title, while unique, is not exclusive. Every baptised person is a golden house! Baptism creates anew; the baptised ‘put on Christ’ and the Holy Spirit makes a home in them.
With Mary’s help and guidance, we can each give witness to a way of life proper to our golden dignity as Christians – making the life that is your ‘house’ truly golden, by being what you would expect any house to be: a shelter and a haven, a warm, healing and faithful presence, a comfort in darkness, a joy in welcome, a proven friend.
House of Gold, treasured home
Creating memories of life to hold.
A timeless journey from room to room
Sheltering love against the cold.
A peaceful presence everywhere
Enriched by young, enjoyed by old.
Simple blessings coloured with care
A golden home, a house of gold.
Mary, House of God, pray for us.
St John Henry Newman explains the name House of Gold that Christian tradition has given to the Mother of God. She is compared to gold because it is the most precious metal. ‘Therefore it is that Mary too is called golden; because her graces, her virtues, her innocence, her purity, are of that transcendent brilliancy and dazzling perfection.’ She is more than this; she is a House of Gold or Golden Palace because ‘She is the house and the palace of the Great King, of God Himself.’ Jesus was born in this holy house; he took his flesh and blood from this house.
Ark of the Covenant
This title finds an echo in the previous one, House of Gold. Gold features in both. They point to Mary’s role as the one who brought Jesus to birth, ‘housed’ him in her womb, enabling God to become present among us in human form.
The Ark of the Covenant, however, has a special relationship to Mary’s ancestry, the Hebrew people. From the time of Moses, the Ark accompanied the people and marked the presence of God in their midst. The Ark was a visible reminder of their agreement with God, the covenant sealing an unbreakable bond: ‘I will take you as my people and I will be your God.’ [Exodus 6:7; Genesis 17:7; See also Exodus 19:7]
His awareness of the Ark’s sacredness and his own unworthiness, caused King David to hesitate before accepting it in his own house: ‘How can the ark of the Lord come into my care?’ [2 Samuel 6:1-11]. This can be put alongside Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary: ‘…why has this happened that the mother of my Lord comes to me?’ [Luke 1:39-45]
According to the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews [9:1-5], the Ark was ‘…overlaid on all sides with gold, in which there were a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant…’.
The contents of the Ark were crucial items relating to the salvation of the people. Manna fed the people on their journey; the rod, symbol of the power of God that secured their freedom from slavery; the stone tablets signaled the establishment of the covenant.
We seek Mary’s intercession as one closest to God. We seek to imitate her holiness by gifting ourselves, as she did, to the will of God. She represents God’s agreement (covenant) to be always with us. May we, as Mary did, proclaim the greatness of God and the great things God has done for us. [Luke 1:49]
Mary’s womb held Jesus, the Bread of life and Saviour of the world. The new covenant, bringing freedom from the slavery of sin, was announced through his presence and life, and established through his passion, death and resurrection.
We approach Mary as Ark of the Covenant, the woman who held Jesus the Christ, Son of God and Saviour of the world.
We seek her intercession as one closest to God. We seek to imitate her holiness by gifting ourselves, as she did, to the will of God. She represents God’s agreement (covenant) to be always with us. May we, as Mary did, proclaim the greatness of God and the great things God has done for us. [Luke 1:49]
For the Hebrew people, the Ark gave assurance of both the presence and protection of God. For Christians, Mary, as Ark, gives that same assurance.
Ark of the Covenant
Shrouded in mystery
Announcing a Presence
Uniting a people
Urging them forward
Ark of the Covenant,
pray for us.
Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation.– Pope Francis, 25 March 2022