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What is the Meaning of the Star of Bethlehem? Why Does Mary Ride a Donkey? Why is There No Room at the Inn? Typology of the New Ark and Christmas

The Great Conjunction is coming December 21st! It's the moment when Jupiter and Saturn will appear at their closest – "a tenth of a degree apart" – according to Chicago's Adler Planetarium

Does this mark a return of the Star of Bethlehem? Star of Bethlehem 2020? Possibly, but there was something much bigger than even Jupiter and Saturn combined with the original Star of Bethlehem. 

This is the amazing part: 

  
Here's the key: 

Do you remember the Glory Cloud of the Old Testament? The Shekinah?

The Shekinah was the Holy Spirit appearing as a tower of fire, lightning, and thunder. It was the unbridled power of God and it absolutely terrified the enemies of the Israelites. 

You may remember it blocking Pharaoh's chariots:


Or atop Mount Sinai with Moses: 


Or, most importantly, "overshadowing" the Ark of the New Covenant at the center of the Israelite encampment: 


Here's the key: 

The Prophet Jeremiah prophesied the Return of the Shekinah

So, when do you remember seeing a tower of light in the New Testament? When does the New Shekinah "overshadow" the New Ark of the Covenant, Mary?

HERE:


The Star of Bethlehem is the NEW SHEKINAH! 

This connection answers all of the following Christmas riddles, too! Check out my new article for answers to all of these:
  • Why is there no room in the Inn?
  • Why are shepherds called to the Manger?
  • Why does Mary ride a donkey to Bethlehem?
  • Why Bethlehem? (there's more going on than just the census)
  • Why are the Wise Men called to Jesus? 
The Star of Bethlehem as the New Shekinah puts a whole new "light" on all these beautiful Christmas moments!

Would you rather listen to this article? Here are Scott and the Catholic Nerds explaining all the mysteries behind the Star of Bethlehem:


Here is a Table of Contents for all the amazing connections between the Star of Bethlehem and the Shekinah Glory Cloud:

Star of Bethlehem Table of Contents

Click the links below for more information:

Mary being the Ark of the New Covenant will completely change the way you understand the Christmas story. Hopefully, after reading this article you will see Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem in a completely different light, even the light of the Star of Bethlehem, itself.

But that's just the beginning!


What is the Meaning of the Star of Bethlehem?

The Star of Bethlehem does some odd things. The Wise Men are able to follow it until it comes to a rest above Jesus’ manger. The star is usually depicted as a tower of light shining down on the nativity scene.



Why is all this happening? We take all this for granted. It’s just God doing His thing, right? It’s just miracles. Sure, but why this particular combination of miracles?

Here is the description of these events from the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew:

When [the Wise Men] had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

Why is the light from the star following Mary and Joseph? Do you remember light following anyone else in the Bible?

Remember the Shekinah, the “Glory Cloud”? It's also described in the article on the Visitation, above. The Glory Cloud was a tower of light and fire which “overshadowed” the Ark of the Covenant. That same word "overshadow" is used at the Annunciation of Mary in Luke 1 - more on that below!

When it was time for the Israelites to leave their camp site and journey to a new one, they would follow the Shekinah:

And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel encamped. (Numbers 9:17)

The tribes of Israel followed the light of the Shekinah to their home. 



The Shekinah was a brilliant beacon of light at the center of the Israelite’s camp. If the shepherds or their flocks strayed too far from the Israelite camp, the light of the Glory Cloud would lead them back.

The Shekinah stayed with Israelites and the Ark of the Covenant for some time, but eventually left them. After the Jews returned from their captivity, a modest Second Temple was completed in 515 BC. But, the visible presence of God as the Shekinah cloud of glory did not return.

However, the Shekinah was prophesied to return ...

The Prophesied Return of the Shekinah 

The 17th blessing of the daily Amidah (Standing) prayer expresses the longing in the Jewish heart that the Shekinah will one day return: “Blessed are You, God, who returns His Presence (Shechinato) to Zion.”

The Prophet Jeremiah also prophesies the return of the Glory Cloud AND the Ark of the Covenant at 2 Maccabees 2. After hiding the Ark of the Covenant, he rebukes those that followed him, saying the following:

When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: “The place shall be unknown until God (1) gathers his people together again and (2) shows his mercy. And then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated.” (2 Maccabees 2:7-8) [numbers added]

So when did the Shekinah return? When do we a see a tower of light and fire rising above the Ark of the New Covenant? A tower of light rising above a place that is "specially consecrated"? That is, when do we see a tower of light above the Virgin Mary? 

That’s right! The Star of Bethlehem. 


The light of the star, the tower of light, illuminates the birth of the “light of the world”.

And how is the Blessed Mother "specially consecrated"? She is the Immaculate Conception ... more on this below:

The Book of Revelation Confirms the Return of the Shekinah Glory Cloud at Christmas

The prophesied return of the Ark of the Covenant, described at 2 Maccabees 2 above, is traditionally described as occurring at the 11th chapter of the Book of Revelation. 

Revelation 11:15-19 describes the re-appearance of the Ark of the Covenant:

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,

“We give thanks to thee, Lord God Almighty, who art and who wast,
    that thou hast taken thy great power and begun to reign.
The nations raged, but thy wrath came,
    and the time for the dead to be judged,
for rewarding thy servants, the prophets and saints,
    and those who fear thy name, both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

The "ark of his covenant" is seen again. Along with it, there are "flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder" - the Glory Cloud! The Shekinah.


2 Maccabees 2 describes that the Ark will return when "God (1) gathers his people together again and (2) shows his mercy." This is being described above when the 7th trumpet is blown and God "gathers his people" together as the kingdom of God. 

And BOOM the Ark of the Covenant reappears in heaven! 

Then something weird happens:


The Ark of the Covenant is described as a Woman

The Ark of the Covenant is described in the next verses, Revelation 12:1-6 (chapter breaks are a recent addition to the Bible): 

[1] And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; [2] she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. [3] And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. [4] His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; [5] she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, [6] and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

Wait, what? The Ark of the Covenant is being described as a golden box of purest gold? No - it's being described as "A WOMAN". The Ark returns as a woman.   

But which woman? This woman is the queen of heaven, because she is wearing "a crown" in heaven. This woman is also the queen of Israel, because she is wearing a crown of "twelve stars". 


Who is this Queen of Heaven? Well, what is she doing? 

She is giving birth. To whom is she giving birth? Verse 5 answers this: "she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron". Who is this man who rules the world with "a rod of iron"? JESUS!

So, who is the woman? The mother of Jesus! The Ark is Mary. Mary is the Queen of Heaven. Boom. 

But when is the glory cloud appearing? 

Christmas Described in the Book of Revelation

Time is a unity in the Book of Revelation. Past, present, future are all happening simultaneously in the Book of Revelation. 

That being said, the birth of Jesus is being described in Revelation 12, as well as all the events surrounding Jesus' birth. Mary is giving birth in this chapter. Revelation, therefore, is describing the events of Christmas. So what "light" can Revelation shed on the events of Christ's birth?

Revelation 11-12 describes the following sequence of events: 
  • The Annunciation of Mary (Revelation 11:19 - "Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.") - This reappearance of the Glory Cloud (Shekinah) first occurs at the Annunciation of Mary, as will be described in greater depth below.
  • The Birth of Jesus (Revelation 12:2 - "she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery")
  • King Herod trying to kill Jesus (Revelation 12:4 - "And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth") - This is King Herod trying to kill baby Jesus, the "slaughter of the innocents"
  • Flight into Egypt (Revelation 12:6 - "and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days" AND Revelation 12:14 - "But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.") - After Jesus' birth, St. Joseph leads the Holy Family into Egypt to flee from King David. This is called the "flight into Egypt" using the same verb as Revelation. The Three Wise Men follow the Star/Shekinah to the Holy Family's "house" (Matthew 2:12), i.e. the house of hiding. After a period of time - perhaps this 260 days described in  Rev 12:6 - St. Joseph is told to bring the Holy Family back to Nazareth.   


When does the Shekinah First Re-Appear? The Star of Bethlehem or the Star of Nazareth? The INVISIBLE Star of Bethlehem

I interviewed one of the world's foremost mariologists, Monsignor Arthur Calkins, for his thoughts on the Shekinah Star of Bethlehem. 

Monsignor Calkins added this very important insight: the Shekinah returns long before Bethlehem. Monsignor Calkins stated the following:

I believe that the shekinah is specifically referred to in the Annunciation narrative where Gabriel states that "the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (Lk. 1:35). That happened when Mary said her fiat. From that moment she was overshadowed with the shekinah, even if invisible externally.

The invisible Star of Bethlehem! The Shekinah followed Mary from the Annunciation, to the Visitation of St. Elizabeth, and all the way to Bethlehem and into Egypt, too! At some point, the shekinah becomes visible.


The word "overshadow" used at Luke 1:35 is the same word used repeatedly in the Old Testament to describe the Glory Cloud "overshadowing" the Ark of the Covenant: 

The cherubs' wings extended over the place where the ark sat; the cherubs overshadowed the ark and its poles. (1 Kings 8:7)

The cherubs' wings extended over the place where the ark sat; the cherubs overshadowed the ark and its poles. (2 Chronicles 5:8)

Therefore, according to Monsignor Calkins, the Shekinah Glory Cloud overshadowed Mary from the moment of Jesus' conception and followed her all the way to Bethlehem and beyond. This fits with the order of Revelation described above, too. 

What Guided the Shepherds to the Manger? The Annunciation of the Shepherds

Did the Shekinah Star of Bethlehem guide the shepherds to the manger? You might be thinking - wait, it was the angels that appeared to the shepherds. 

First off, think back to the Shekinah appearing over the Israelite encampment. The Israelites brought their flocks of sheep with them when they left Egypt. Here is Exodus 12:52, Pharaoh said after the 10th Plague:

Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone; and bless me also!”

With all these flocks of sheep, there were many shepherds among the Israelite encampment. Their encampment would move from place to place, in part, for fresh grazing lands. Shepherds would need to move their flocks farther and farther from the main encampment to avoid over-grazing any one location. This was the nomadic lifestyle so common to this region of the world. 

As the shepherds traveled farther and farther from the main encampment, how did the shepherds find their way back to the camp? What light guided the way back home and to the Ark?

This light: 


So what light guided the shepherds to the New Ark? The New Shekinah Star of Bethlehem!

Here is the passage from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, concerning the shepherds:

[8] And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. [9] And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. [10] And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; [11] for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [12] And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” [13] And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

[14] “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”

[15] When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” [16] And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. [17] And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; [18] and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. [19] But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. [20] And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

What appeared to the shepherds based on the above Gospel passage? Verse 9 above tells us that "an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear." An "angel of the Lord" appeared to the shepherds AND "the glory of the Lord shone around them". The "glory of the Lord" is the Shekinah Glory Cloud.

The angel came with the Shekinah! 

Note, also, how both Mary and the Shepherds responded with fear. The Shepherds were "filled with fear" (Luke 2:9) and Mary was "greatly troubled" (Luke 1:29) and the angel told her "Do not be afraid" (Luke 1:30).


The Shepherds and Mary both responded in fear to the appearance of the same entities: (1) the Angel and (2) the Shekinah Glory Cloud ("the glory of the Lord"). The response is the same, because the same things are appearing. Also, both accounts likely came from the same eyewitness: Mary. Mary is known to have been a primary source for Luke's Gospel.    

Also, how did the Shepherds find the "babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12)? Did the angel guide them? No, there is no further description of the Shepherds interacting with the angel. In fact, Luke 2:15 tells us the angel(s) left the Shepherds: "When the angels went away from them into heaven". The angels "went away"! 

So what led the Shepherds to Jesus? The Shekinah Star of Bethlehem!  

Note, also, that the Shepherds found Jesus quickly and directly (Luke 2:15):

And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

The Shepherds were not searching throughout Bethlehem for Jesus. They went "with haste" and found Jesus. How could the Shepherds go so quickly and so directly to Jesus? Because the Shekinah Star was pointing out the way like Heaven's own searchlight!



BUT note this, also ... to what did the Shekinah Star lead the Shepherds? To Jesus? Yes, sort of. 

The Shekinah Star of Bethlehem led the Shepherds "with haste" to find MARY ... and Joseph and the babe. Mary is listed first for a reason. The Shekinah always led to the Ark. The New Shekinah leads to the New Ark.

What was the quickest, most direct, easiest, safest, and surest route for the Shepherds to find Jesus? Through Mary! 

This is a page right out of St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary. Please consider consecrating yourself to the Blessed Mother as the best person to take you to "the babe lying in [the] manger". Here is the updated translation I put together of St. Louis de Montfort's Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, as well as Journal edition:    




Was the Star of Bethlehem Visible to God's People and Invisible to King Herod? Who Else Could See the Shekinah Star of Bethlehem?

Inasmuch as the Shepherds were led directly and quickly to the Christ-child, King Herod was NOT. King Herod and all those King Herod sent to kill Jesus were NOT able to follow the light of the Shekinah Star of Bethlehem. 

Why?

God's light appears to whom He wills. Also, as described above by Monsignor Calkins, the Shekinah Star began to "overshadow" Mary from the moment of Jesus' conception, though it was not yet visible at this time.

Saint Joseph and the Angel (The Dream of St. Joseph), c.1635/40 by Georges de La Tour


There was likely a sequence of people to whom the Shekinah Star became visible. This sequence likely corresponded with the appearances of the angels: 
  1. Annunciation of Mary: I would speculate that Mary was the first to see the light of the Shekinah Star, as it was "overshadowing" her. This began at her Annunciation when the angel Gabriel appeared to her.
  2. Annunciation of Joseph: Joseph would be next after Mary. An angel also appeared to St. Joseph, explaining why he should not divorce Mary. This is considered by many to be the Annunciation of St. Joseph (Matt 1:19-21).[1]
  3. Elizabeth: St. Elizabeth words to Mary at the Visitation reveal deep spiritual insights. Elizabeth exclaims "Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?", quoting King David, who said, "Who am I that the Ark of my Lord should come to me?" (2 Samuel 6). King David also said this at nearly the same location! There are many more connections between Mary and the Ark made by Elizabeth at the Visitation, which I have written about HERE.
  4. Annunciation of the Shepherds, as discussed above.
  5. Three Wise Men, as discussed below: the Star is "a light to ALL nations"     

At some point, the Shekinah, which is the Holy Spirit, disappears again to abide in Jesus. The appearance of the Holy Spirit at Jesus' Baptism, Transfiguration, etc. may actually be the reappearance of the Shekinah Star of Bethlehem. 

There is A LOT more going on here than merely a star:

Christmas Explained: Everything that Makes More Sense with the Shekinah-Star of Bethlehem Connection


Why does Mary Travel on a Donkey to Bethlehem?

This is one of the most iconic scenes in human history. It is at the core of the Christmas story. Joseph is walking on foot and leading the donkey. Mary, fully pregnant, is traveling on the donkey’s back.

But why?

Some dispute that the Blessed Mother even rode on the back of a donkey, as the Gospels do not mention it.[2] This idea is nevertheless corroborated by the apocryphal Protoevangelium of St. James:

The day of the Lord shall itself bring it to pass as the Lord will. And he saddled the ass, and set her upon it; and his son led it, and Joseph followed. (verse 17)

But what's going on behind the scenes? Is the Virgin Mary riding a donkey only because she is so close to giving birth?

Have you ever wondered if there was a hidden meaning behind simple scene? There is.


The answer begins with the curious incident with Uzzah. Do you remember Uzzah from 2 Samuel 6? Uzzah was killed just for just touching the Ark of the Covenant. Why?

Why Was a Man Killed for Touching the Ark of the Covenant?

The Bible records a curious incident of a man named Uzzah being struck dead for touching the Old Ark of the Covenant. This occurred at 2 Samuel 6: 

(6) And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. (7) And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there because he put forth his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God. (8) And David was angry because the Lord had broken forth upon Uzzah; and that place is called Pe′rez-uz′zah, to this day.

The reason for God’s smiting of Uzzah was that he “put forth his hand to the Ark”. Uzzah had some other things going against him, as well. 

Uzzah happened to be a Kohathite. Numbers 4:15 specifically designated the Kohathites to carry the Ark on poles. Unfortunately, Numbers 4:15 also specifically forbade the Kohathites from touching the Ark and "the holy things, or they will die." God always remembers his promises. Gulp.

Here’s the bottom line, though …

Adorazione dei Magi by Gentile da Fabriano (middle section)

The bottom line was this: Only the priests were allowed to carry the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was "specially consecrated". The Ark was not supposed to be carried on a cart, pulled by oxen. 

Why? Well, would you like to be downwind of a team of oxen? Is that a fitting place for the golden box which carried the presence of God, Himself? No.

Also, the Ark was definitely not supposed to be touched by even lower-order priests, like Uzzah. The Ark was never supposed to be in situation in which it could tumble off a cart, requiring someone like Uzzah to “put forth his hand.”

Now, compare the travels of the Old Ark through Israel on an ox cart to the travels of the New Ark, the Virgin Mary. Any similarities?

Why Does Mary Ride to Bethlehem on a Donkey? Saint Joseph Carries the New Ark

Saint Joseph, therefore, is serving in the role of priest and carrying the Ark of the New Covenant on the back of a donkey. Joseph, as you will remember, is also a descendent of King David. It is fitting, then, that Joseph should accompany the Ark of the New Covenant, just as his forebear traveled with the Ark of the Old Covenant.

That’s why Mary travels on the back of a donkey. 

This also speaks to the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary. The Ark of the Covenant, the Holy of Holies, was not to be touched by any man, except the High Priest. Even Joseph did not carry this title. The High Priest was the male that Mary carried in her womb. Only Jesus was permitted in this holy place.


Why Does the New Ark, the Virgin Mary, Go to Bethlehem?

There’s more. What about Bethlehem? Was there perhaps a notable journey of David and the Old Ark to Bethlehem?

Absolutely.

Here are a few verses of King David singing of the Old Ark’s journey to Bethlehem from Psalm 132, verses 1-7:

Remember, O Lord, in David’s favor,
all the hardships he endured;
how he swore to the Lord
and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
“I will not enter my house
or get into my bed;
I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
until I find a place for the Lord,
a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Lo, we heard of it in Eph′rathah,
we found it in the fields of Ja′ar.
“Let us go to his dwelling place;
let us worship at his footstool!”

Wait, you might be saying, where’s the mention of Bethlehem? In the time of King David, Bethlehem was known as Eph′rathah, or it is elsewhere named in the Psalms “Ephratah-Bethlehem”.[3][4]

Also, what’s David mean when he says “I will not enter my house or get into my bed … until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob”? In short, it means that the Old Ark will be in want of a dwelling place or a roof over its head. More on that in a moment …

Lastly, there’s a great amount of humility contained in this comparison. This Ark of God, which traveled through Israel with King David, himself, and which was carried before all of Israel’s victorious armies, is now a simple woman, on a the back of a plain donkey, being led by a carpenter.

We should be struck by the majesty contained in such a simple caravan.

But there’s still more. This also tells us something about the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.


Perpetual Virginity of Mary - Mary & Joseph: No Ordinary Marriage

Remember, this is no ordinary marriage between Mary and Joseph. Joseph never physically consummates the marriage covenant with Mary. The Holy Spirit enters Mary’s womb, but never mortal man. Mary’s womb is the birthplace of God. It is the new Holy of Holies. No mortal man is permitted there, except the high priest, namely Jesus. It is the most sacred of sacred grounds.

This is why Uzzah was smote for touching the old Ark of the Covenant. Uzzah wasn’t just trespassing on sacred ground. It was as if he had violated the Ark’s virginity.

Joseph does not make the mistake of Uzzah! Joseph has no children by Mary. Mary remains a virgin.


The Virgin Mary's Perpetual Vow of Virginity

In fact, Mary indicates that she has taken a perpetual vow of virginity. The Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible gives us the following for at Luke 1:34: “And Mary said to the angel: ‘How shall this be done, because I know not man?’”

“I know not man” is the literal translation from the Greek text. Other translations try “because I am a virgin” or “because I know not man,” but these alternatives don’t quite cut the mustard.

Mary’s question to the angel makes no sense unless Mary had professed a vow of virginity.

Just a few verses back at verse 27, we are told that Mary and Joseph are already “espoused”. Mary and Joseph already have what would be akin to a ratified marriage in Jewish culture. They were married. Joseph would have had the right to the marriage bed.

How can we account then for Mary’s confusion? Mary did not say simply: “How can I bear a son? Since I have not yet known a man but intend to soon enter into relations with Joseph.” She would have just presumed that the child would be the son of Joseph.

If Mary and Joseph were part of an ordinary Jewish marriage, she would not be asking about the father of the child. Joseph would be the father of the child, unless they were to be celibate in marriage.

Normally, after the espousal the husband would go off and prepare a home for his new bride and then come and receive her into his home where the union would be consummated. This is precisely why Joseph intended to “divorce her quietly” (Mt 1:19) when he later discovered she was pregnant.

This background is significant because a newly married woman would not ask the question “How shall this be?” She would know. Unless, of course, that woman had taken a vow of virginity and the vow was continuing into the marriage.

Mary believed the angel’s message in faith, but had no idea how this was going to be accomplished in light of her vow. This also indicates she was not planning on the normal course of events for her future with Joseph.



Christmas and the New Ark: Why Was There No Room at the Inn?

Remember how I said I would return to King David’s somewhat confusing statement from Psalm 132: “I will not enter my house or get into my bed … until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place” for the Ark? Here we go.
 
There is another strange detail that we take for granted in the Christmas Story. Why was there no room at the inn in Bethlehem for Mary and Joseph?


It was foretold in the Old Testament that there would be no room for Mary and Joseph at the inns of Bethlehem. In addition to Psalm 132, the readings from the Christmas liturgy give us a special insight into the Nativity Story.

The First Reading from Morning Mass on December 24 (Cycle A) comes from 2 Samuel 7:

When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.” But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in?’"

King David returns home from his victories on the battlefield. These victories were won because David's armies carried the Ark of the Covenant before them into battle. Now David wonders at how the Ark of God dwells in a tent, while he dwells in a palace. 



So what do King David's musings have to do with the Christmas story which won't occur for another 1,000 years?

We covered some of David’s journeys with the Ark of the Covenant in this article, “What’s Really Happening at the Visitation?”

Here, at last, the Ark is done at the end of its long journey. Its journey began at Mount Sinai, where God through Moses first ordered it constructed. The Ark wandered with the Israelites through their forty years in the desert. The Ark crossed the River Jordan ahead of them and parted the waters, just as before with the Red Sea. The Ark was carried before all of Israel’s armies through battle after battle. And now, it has finally arrived in Jerusalem.     

So, back to David dwelling in a palace while the Ark of God dwells in a tent. Mary is the New Ark, and where is she forced to dwell? There is no room for Mary and Joseph at the Inn of Bethlehem. The New Ark dwells in a stable. Neither the Old Ark nor the New Ark are permitted a palace, but must dwell outdoors. 


Or, the New Ark dwells in a cave to give birth ...


Never fear! The First Reading from December 24, still from 2 Samuel 7, goes on to make a promise:

The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.

The Lord says he will raise up an heir to David "sprung from [his own] loins." But how can this be? King David has been dead from a thousand years when Mary gives birth in Bethlehem. Also, the Lord says that He will be father to the "heir". How can the heir be the child of both King David and God? 

Because Christ is born into the family of David. Mary is a descendant of David, as the Angel Gabriel confirms at Luke 1:31-33. Also, Christ is the Son of God, confirming both parts of the prophesy. Through the New Ark and Christ, therefore, the throne of David "shall stand firm forever.

The Shekinah Rests Above and "Overshadows" the Ark of the Covenant

We have already discussed how the Gospel of Luke connects Mary to the Shekinah. The Holy Spirit “overshadowed” the Virgin Mary when Jesus was conceived in her womb. The word “overshadow” was used in the Old Testament specifically to describe the Shekinah Glory Cloud resting above the Ark of the Covenant. Now it rests upon the Ark of the New Covenant, Mary.  



Also, in her Magnificat, Mary further fulfills Jeremiah's prophecies. She describes the (1) gathering of God's people and (2) God's "mercy" twice to Elizabeth, who has already described the Virgin Mary as the Ark:

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy
,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.

Why is Jesus Visited by the Three Kings? How the Glory Cloud is a Light to All Nations

But the original Shekinah stood as a light to all Israel. The conception of Jesus was a private affair, as was the Visitation. When does the Shekinah shine again for all Israel to see? Even for all the world to see?



That's right ...

The Shekinah returns as the Star of Bethlehem. Notice the strange behavior of the Star of Bethlehem:
  • The star is a tower of light “overshadowing” the Virgin Mary and the entire Holy Family before, during, and after the Nativity.
  • The star is a sign to all Israel, to the shepherds and even to the evil King Herod; and
  • The star is visible to the entire world! The Magi, the Kings of the East, are guided by the star to Christ’s manger.

What does this tell us about Christ and His mission? Christ will bring light to all of Israel and the entire world!

Also, as amazing as Moses was, Jesus is far superior. He is God. The Ark of Jesus, too, is far superior to the Ark of Moses. She is a human being. Even Moses’ Shekinah, as amazing a sight as it was, it is also far exceeded by Jesus’ Shekinah, the Star of Bethlehem. Moses had a tornado. Jesus had an entire star!



Footnotes: What is the Meaning of the Star of Bethlehem? Why No Room at the Inn? Why Does Mary Ride a Donkey? Typology of the New Ark and Christmas

[1] The Annunciation of St. Joseph occurs at Matthew 1:19-21, "[19] and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. [20] But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; [21] she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

[2] Some also suggest that Joseph would have been too poor to possess a donkey. This is due to the fact that the Holy Family was allowed to offer the less costly of the sacrificial options at the Presentation at the Temple. There are other possibilities, however, including that Joseph simply borrowed the donkey. One can easily imagine a kind person letting the pregnant mother borrow a donkey for her long ride. Additionally, there was already talk spreading about Mary's baby and her virgin birth. Ensuring Mary's safe travels may have been paramount in the minds of many in Nazareth.

[3] Biblical scholar Joseph Addison Alexander argues for this understanding: “The only explanation, equally agreeable to usage and the context, is that which makes Ephratah the ancient name of Bethlehem (Genesis 48:7), here mentioned as the place where David spent his youth, and where he used to hear of the ark, although he never saw it till long afterwards, when he found it in the fields of the wood, in the neighbourhood of Kirjathjearim, which name means Forest town, or City of the Woods. Compare 1 Samuel 7:1 with 2 Samuel 6:3-4."

[4] Another Biblical scholar, Christopher Wordsworth, states the following: “The Psalmist says, that David himself, even when a youth in Bethlehem Ephratah, heard of the sojourn of the ark in Kirjathjearim, and that it was a fond dream of David's boyhood to be permitted to bring up the ark to some settled habitation, which he desired to find (Psalms 132:5).”  

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