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The New Ark of the Covenant

Homily of His Excellency the Most Rev. Charles John Brown D.D.,

Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines

Pontifical High Mass and Rite of Canonical Coronation of the Image of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 15, 2023 | Assumption of Our Lady Shrine Parish - Dauis, Bohol, Diocese of Tagbilaran

“God has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and He has lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:52).

Your Excellency the Most Rev. Alberto S. Uy, D.D., Bishop of Tagbilaran; brother bishops who have come from near and far to celebrate with us this day; Rev. Fr. Jose Sinforiano J. Monton, Rector and Parish Priest of this beautiful and splendid Church of La Virgen de la Asuncion, here in Dauis, on this your feast day, this your parish fiesta; concelebrating priests; religious men and women; lay faithful:

For me as your Apostolic Nuncio, it gives me so much happiness and joy to be with you on your Parish Fiesta. Together with my assistant from the Nunciature in Manila, […], who is accompanying me on this pastoral visit to your beautiful diocese. To celebrate today the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, La Virgen de la Asuncion, and not only the feast day, but also the glorious coronation, the crowning of Our Lady, which will take place in a few moments. A Pontifical Coronation, which is the highest form of crowning that the Catholic Church bestows on an image of Our Lady.

Truly, “God has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.” Those are the words of Our Lady herself, which we heard in the Gospel (Lk. 1:39-56) this morning, when she comes to visit her cousin Elizabeth in the town where Elizabeth was living. Mary says, “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has raised up or lifted up the lowly.”

That, indeed, brothers and sisters, that is what the Feast of the Assumption is. In a very literal way, it’s the lifting up of Our Lady. This lowly servant, this teenage girl from Northern Israel, chosen to be the mother of God. Lifted up into heavenly glory today on the Feast of the Assumption. Her lifting up, her Assumption, her raising up is so beautifully portrayed in your wonderful church, here in the image above the high altar, the image of Our Lady being assumed into heaven. Lifted up. She’s the lowly one who has been lifted up.

God chooses the lowly and lifts them up into His glory.

God chooses the lowly. I’m sure this morning, as we celebrate your Fiesta and the Pontifical Coronation of Our Lady, I'm sure that the Holy Spirit is speaking to the hearts of young people today: young men and young women, asking them to allow God to lead them to heavenly glory. To lead them perhaps to the vocation of religious life, to give themselves to God as a religious sister, or as a priest, or as a brother in a religious community.

God lifts up the lowly. God chooses the lowly and raises them into glory, as we celebrate on the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption.

The Ark of Covenant of the Old Testament

Those beautiful words that Mary spoke to Elizabeth took place there, near Jerusalem, where many centuries before, another event took place. What am I referring to? I’m referring to the moment in which King David came to that area.

Pause with me for a moment. When we pray to Our Lady in the Litany of Loreto, we pray to Our Lady. In those constant titles of Mary. We say she is the House of Gold, she is the Ark of the Covenant, she is the Gate of Heaven, she is the mother of Jesus. She is the Ark of the covenant.

What was the Ark of the Covenant? The original Ark of the Covenant is in the Old Testament. It was a container, a beautifully prepared and decorated container, in which the Jewish people kept the most holy things that they had: the bits and pieces of the stone commandments, of the 10 Commandments. Those stone commandments, the bits and pieces were kept in a container, beautifully embroidered, beautifully decorated container with the holy things. Near Jerusalem, King David took the Ark of the Covenant, this container of the holy thing: bits and pieces, pieces of wood, pieces of stone from the 10 Commandments, and brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. When David did that, King David, this great ruler, this king, this incredible leader, this warrior, he danced in front of the Ark of the Covenant, as we read in the Second Book of Samuel in the Old Testament (2 Sm. 6:11-19). King David, this great ruler danced as the Ark of the Covenant, as this container was brought from the town near where Elizabeth would live later on towards Jerusalem. In fact, when King David dance with so much exuberance and joy, the daughter of King Saul looked at him with contempt, and said, “Why are you dancing like a common slave?”, and he said, “God has chosen me, the great king” (cf. 2 Sm. 6:20-22).

The Ark of Covenant of the New Testament

So, we have this idea of the container, the dance scene of King David. Then we fast forward to our Gospel today. What do we see? We see Mary, Mama Mary, pregnant with the baby Jesus in her womb, coming to Elizabeth and Zechariah where they lived. What happens to Elizabeth? We heard in the gospel: the baby in Elizabeth’s womb jumps for joy. Dances, in fact, in front of Mary who was also pregnant. So, we have Elizabeth with her baby, who is Saint John the Baptist. Little John the Baptist jumping, we could say dancing for joy in front of Mary. Then we see that Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant.

The old Ark of the Covenant was a container filled with holy things. Mary is the living human Ark of the Covenant, the one who carries God in her womb. She is the Mother of God. She's the new Ark of the Covenant. In the Old Testament, the great King David dances in front of the container. In the New Testament, little Saint John the Baptist jumps for joy in his mother's womb.

We see how those words of Mary are fulfilled once again: He casts down the mighty from their thrones and raises up the lowly. There's no one, no human being smaller than an unborn baby. The smallest of the small, the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, and that is the one who is the first person outside of Mary herself to welcome Jesus in this world. God cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly.

So, Mary is this new Ark of the Covenant. We hear that in the First Reading that we meditated upon this morning from the Book of Revelation (11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab), in which you hear “God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of the covenant could be seen in the temple. A great sign appeared in heaven, a woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

Mary is our lowly Mother raised up to heavenly glory. Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant who brings us God-made-man: Jesus our Lord and Savior. Mary always leads us to Jesus, because Mary is the one who brought Jesus into the world, who gives us Jesus, her Son.

Children of Our Lady

That’s why for all of us, devotees of Our Lady of the Assumption, all of us here in this beautiful Church of Dauis, here on this glorious day, we rejoice because we are children of Mary. We are children of Our Lady; we are devotees of Mary. It gives us so much joy this morning, doesn’t it? To crown her image. It’s a simple action. We try to do it with as much beauty as possible and look how wonderfully the church is decorated with flowers, everything so beautiful, banners, and we place the crown on Our Lady’s head. We are kind of in a very small way, trying to imitate what happens in heaven, where Mary is the one crowned in heaven: “A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head, a crown of twelve stars.”

If we want to be close to Jesus, we need to be close to Our Lady, because she will lead us to Jesus.

Don't we all know that? Especially you, the wonderful Pueblo Amante de Maria. Filipino Catholics, with your great love for Our Lady. Isn't it so edifying and so encouraging to see how all of us are crowded in the Church of Dauis this morning to celebrate this Fiesta, because all of us are devotees of Our Lady?

We present to her our petitions today, all of our needs, asking her to intercede for us, asking her, the lowly one who is lifted into heaven, to present our petitions to Jesus, her Son, and to the Heavenly Father, so they will be answered.

Again, for me as your Apostolic Nuncio, as the representative of Pope Francis in the Philippines, as you can tell from my enthusiasm, it gives me so much joy and happiness to be part of this celebration today.

I thank once again your Bishop, the Most Rev. Alberto Uy, for having invited me to be the one to crown Our Lady. I ask you, as I always do, to pray for Pope Francis. I will be going to Rome next month to see him; and I will tell him that the Catholics in the Diocese of Tagbilaran are praying for him, especially those of you here in Dauis.

So, God bless you, blessed and happy Fiesta!

transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo

photo from Assumption of Our Lady Shrine Parish - Dauis Facebook page

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