For the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant is the symbol of God's presence in the midst of his people. However, the symbol has given way to reality. Thus the New Testament tells us that the true Ark of the Covenant is a living, real person: it is the Virgin Mary. God does not dwell in a piece of furniture, he dwells in a person, in a heart: Mary, the one who carried in her womb the eternal Son of God made man, Jesus our Lord and Saviour.
Today the Church praises God's immense love for his creature: he chose her as a true "Ark of the Covenant", as the one who continues to generate and to give Christ the Saviour to humanity, as the one who in Heaven shares in the fullness of the glory and enjoys the very happiness of God and, at the same time, also invites us to become, in our modest way, an "ark" in which the Word of God is present, transformed and quickened by his presence, a place of the presence of God, so that men and women may find God's closeness in the other person, and thus live in communion with God and know the reality of Heaven.
It was the Holy Spirit who opened Elizabeth's eyes and caused her to recognise Mary as the true Ark of the Covenant, the Mother of God, who was coming to visit her. Thus her elderly kinswoman welcomed her exclaiming with "a loud cry": "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Lk 1:42-43).
We are speaking of Mary, but in a certain sense we are also speaking of ourselves, of each one of us: we too are recipients of that immense love which God reserved - of course, in an absolutely unique and unrepeatable way - for Mary. On this Solemnity of the Assumption let us look to Mary who opens us to hope, to a future full of joy and teaches us the way to achieve it: welcoming in faith by welcoming her Son with faith; by never losing the friendship with him but letting ourselves be illuminated and guided by his word; by following him every day, even in moments when we feel that our crosses are growing heavy.
Mary, Ark of the Covenant which is in the sanctuary of Heaven, show us with luminous clarity that we are on our way towards our true home, the communion of joy and peace with God.
These are extracts from Benedict XVI's homily for the Feast of the Assumption, 15 August 2011, in St Peter's Basilica.