This past Sunday was the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Our local priest gave an amazing homily where I learned so many things. The first thing I learned is that my priest is a fan of the Indiana Jones movies.
He began his homily discussing the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark to explain to us the details of the real Ark of the Covenant being “lost”. The second thing I learned were those details.
The Ark was created while the Israelites were at the base of Mount Sinai. It was said to hold the tablets (the 10 commandments), the manna from heaven, and the staff of Aaron (which gave them drink). Everywhere the Israelites went they carried this Ark with them which, thanks to these items, was said to contain the real, true presence of God.
When the Israelites were camped, the Ark was placed in a sacred tent. Later, during the reign of King Solomon, he decided the Ark needed a more permanent residence so he added a special inner room called “The Holy of Holies” to plans of a temple he was building.
Then in 587 BC the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s Temple. After this point the Ark became “lost”. Some thought it destroyed, others think it was taken up to heaven, still others believe it to have been taken, leading to all the rumors of where it could be now and leading to movies like Indiana Jones.
After the Babylonian captivity, the Hebrews rebuilt the Temple and the Holy of Holies. Unfortunately, it was now more of a symbol since the Ark, the true presence of God, was no longer there… until the Presentation. This is when Jesus enters the temple, God and his true presence re-entered the temple. When the priest put all of these pieces together, I was astounded how the stories of history that we find in the Bible are so complete, to come full circle.
But then he taught me one more thing that I didn’t know, the meaning of metallurgy. It sounds like an allergy to mets? But metallurgy is actually a branch of science. It is a field that is concerned with the properties of metal, especially their purification. Okay, so I’ve heard of metal-working. I’ve heard of smelting, which is a chemical process where heat and a chemical agent are applied to a compound in order to extract a pure metal from it.
Smelting is apparently a type of metallurgy. But along with teaching me the term “metallurgy”, this priest taught us that long before we had advanced scientific practices, the smelters were still able to get purified metals. The test they used in order to know when a metal was fully purified was when the smelter was able to look into the metal and see his own image.
When I heard this, it really resonated with me, especially after everything I had just heard. Originally the Lord wanted to reside with the Israelites, so he came down and was present in the form of the Ark which eventually was placed in the temple. When the Ark was lost or destroyed the Lord came down to be present in a more physical way. He gave us Jesus. Jesus was only on this earth for a short time, but His presence still remains. It is at every Mass in the Eucharist, and it is in each of us. Each of us are being purified by God. He is working in our hearts to purify us, to bring us closer to Himself. Just like the smelter, the test of how we are doing in our purification is how well Jesus, the purifier, can be seen within us.
We are in ordinary time for a few more weeks before Lent begins. As we prepare for this penitential season, it is important for us to choose the target of our Lenten fast carefully through prayer. How is God wanting to purify you during this upcoming season of Lent? I invite you to pray for clarity, asking the Lord what you should give up this year. Or maybe the Lord is calling you to take on something extra, like adding a daily rosary. The Lord is trying to purify you, just as the smelters purify their metal. Don’t just fall back onto that thing you give up every year, especially if it hasn’t made a lasting change in your life. I invite you to really pray about it this year, what is God calling you to do?