The first reading occurs following the Exodus when God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. It speaks of the Lord blessing His people even as they wander through the desert. In the Second reading, we reflect on a spiritual Exodus from slavery to sin, one that allows us to call upon God as our Father, as Jesus did.
So what do these readings have to do with the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God? The connection lies in the Ark of the Covenant.
After the Israelites left Egypt, they are given very specific instructions from the Lord to craft a beautiful ark, decorated with pure gold. At its completion, a cloud - the visible presence of God - “overshadows” the Ark signifying that He is dwelling within it. As the Israelites move from place to place, they carry the Ark containing three things: the word of God in the form of the commandments, the manna that nourishes them, and the rod of Aaron, the high priest.
During our spiritual Exodus, Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. She is beautiful and pure and at the annunciation, the spirit of God “overshadows” her and begins to dwell within her. From that time until Jesus’ birth, he that is Word Made Flesh, Bread of Life, and High Priest resides within her.
Just as the Ark became holy and important because of the presence of God within it, so Mary also is made holy and important because of Jesus within her. As the Ark received a special place within the Temple, and the tabernacle receives a special place within our churches, so Mary stands on a pedestal in our Catholic faith.
In becoming the physical dwelling place of God Made Man, not only is Mary elevated, but so also is all of humanity. You and I can never claim motherhood of Christ in the way Mary can, but we can all live that role in small ways. Each time we consume the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we become tabernacles of the physical presence of God, and can let his love shine forth from within. And when we spread the word of God, we bear Jesus into this world.
Let us strive, then, to be bearers of Christ in our lives, following in the footsteps of Mary, Our Mother.