The Church in her liturgy and tradition has long praised Mary as “the Ark of the New Covenant.” We see biblical roots for this in the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (Cycle C).
Compare Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth with the story of David returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and you’ll hear interesting echoes.
As Mary “set out” for the hill country of Judah, so did David (see Luke 1:19; 2 Samuel 6:2). David, upon seeing the Ark, cries out “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” Elizabeth says the same thing about “the mother of my Lord” (see Luke 1:43; 2 Samuel 6:9).
John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, as David danced before the Ark (see Luke 1:41; 2 Samuel 6:16). And as the Ark stayed three months in “the house of Obed-edom,” Mary stays three months in “the house of Zechariah” (see Luke 1:40,56; 2 Samuel 6:11).
The Greek word Luke uses to describe Elizabeth’s loud cry of joy (anaphoneo) isn’t used anywhere else in the New Testament. And it’s found in only five places in the Greek Old Testament – every time used to describe “exultation” before the Ark (see 1 Chronicles 15:28; 16:4-5; 2 Chronicles 5:13).
Coincidences? Hardly. The old Ark contained the tablets of the Law, the manna from the desert and the priestly staff of Aaron (see Hebrews 9:4). In Mary, the new Ark, we find the Word of God, the Bread of Life and the High Priest of the new people of God (see also Catechism, no. 2676).