Zion biblically symbolizing our Holy Mother Saint Mary originally refers to Mount Zion, a hill in Jerusalem, where Prophet David’s Palace is built and the Ark of Covenant is found. (2 Samuel 5:7, 1 Chronicles 11:5, 1 Kings 8:1, 2, Chronicles 5:2)
Subsequent to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, God gave Prophet Mosses the tablet of the Ten Commandments (Ark of the Covenant) in the mount of Sanai to use it as a sacred instrument to worship God. The Ark was carried by the Israelites during their 40 years of journey to the land of hope. During their camping, the Ark was placed in a sacred tent known as the ‘Tabernacle.’ The Hebrew word for ark means simply “box, chest, coffin,” as is indicated by its use for the coffin of Joseph (Genesis 50:26) and for the Temple collection box of King Joash. The word ‘covenant’ in the name defines the ark from its original purpose as a container for the stone tablets upon which the Ten Commandments (sometimes called the “testimony”) were inscribed. Sometimes it is identified with many names but most ornately known by “the Ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim.” (2 Kings 12:9-10, 1 Samuel 4:4)
Since the Ark of the Covenant is the place of the presence of God, in comparison, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the living Ark who bears in herself not the word of God written ‘on stone’, but the very Word of God, the Logos, made flesh, become her son; who carries in herself; who carries in herself the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Eucharist Christ.
The prophets foretold the fulfillment of God’s Promise to save mankind through the Incarnation of the Son of God from the Virgin Mary and they personified Her by ‘Zion’ symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant.
Unfortunately, amid the reign of Priest Elli, his sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the LORD. Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.” If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.” This sin of the young men was very great in the LORD’s sight, for they were treating the LORD’s offering with contempt.
But Samuel was ministering before the LORD a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the LORD give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to[b] the LORD.” Then they would go home. And the LORD was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD.
Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the LORD’s people is not good. If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the LORD, who will intercede for them?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the LORD’s will to put them to death. And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with people.
Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to your ancestor’s family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? I chose your ancestor out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites. Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’ “Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life. “‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day. I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always. Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread and plead, “Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat.” (1 Samuel 2:12-36)
The Philistines then attacked Israel. “They deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, defeated Israel, killing about four thousand of them on the battlefield, capturing the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites and killing Eli’s sons, who accompanied the Ark to the battle as priests.” (1 Samuel 4:2-11)
The Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. The ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. There ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head. When he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, the entire city cried out. When Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, what mean the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli.
Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see. And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to day out of the army. And he said, what is there done, my son? The messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken. It came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.
Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, due to be delivered; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and gave birth, for her labor pains came upon her. And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not fear, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer, nor did she regard it. Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”(1 Samuel 4:1-22)
The Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant to their home land. But, then it was placed the temple in Ashdom of Dagon under the idol in which the following morning was found prostrate bowing down before the Ark of the Covenant. Thus, the restored the idol to its original places but again they found Dagon broken into pieces.
Again David gathered all the choice men of Israel, thirty thousand. David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name, the LORD of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals.
When they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God. David became angry because of the LORD’s outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day.
David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” So David would not move the ark of the LORD with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. The LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household.
Now it was told King David, saying, “The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness. And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. 14 Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet. (1 Samuel 6:1-15)
Onwards, King and Prophet David’s son, wise Solomon reigned and his fame grew all the way through our land Ethiopia, where the then Queen Sheba, Makeda heard his legend who had great wish of witnessing his presence. In the century B.C. she travelled to Israeli in search of wisdom. As in scripted, “When she heard about Solomon’s name; God’s name; she came to test him with riddle.” (I Kings 10:1-13)
The wise King Solomon taught the queen everything about wisdom. As their relationship, Queen of Sheba conceived a child. Unfortunately, she had to turn back to her kingdom as her people awaits for their leader. She then said to the King, “Permit me to leave.” Sadden as he was, he permitted her leave and he gave her his ring as a souvenir escorting her with honor. (Kibre Nigeset, 30-31)
The Queen reached Bala, a town in Dizeria, after nine months and five days passed, where she gave birth to a baby boy. When she arrived at Ethiopia, she taught her people about wisdom and Pentateuch law and ruled her dynasty by the law of GOD.
Twelve years passed and her son Menilik grew to a fine boy, often asking about his father. By then, the queen was unable to bare it and worried of losing him. So, her only offer was to raise him as both parents.But, when Menilik become 22 years old, he traveled to Israel, Jerusalem with the merchant Tamrin. On his arrival, he was welcomed by King Solomon who witnessed in his own eyes Menilik’s graceful face which looked like his own. The young man showed him the ring his mother gave him for proof tough the King kindly stated their semblance is enough, hugging and kissing him.
Young Menilik was living under the kingdom of his father and three years had passed when he learned the language, culture of Israeli, as well as religion and liturgy; whilst dearly missing his mother. It was of no secret to the King Solomon what his son’s heart was craving for, but still couldn’t seize his return. Sadly, the wise King discussed it with his noblemen, later on sending him back to his home land after blessing and sanctifying him by the name of David along with 1200 other first born and 318 Persists under the leadership of Azariah.
Unfortunate to King Solomon for he did not just loose his son but also the Ark of the Covenant; without the ware about of Menilik, Azariah and other few Priests went to the temple to take it and on reaching their, the door was opened on its own and filled with light, the Ark of the covenant, rose high from its sacred place signifying their thought was the will of God. Then, they took it. On the beginning of their journey, a great sound filled the Israeli and while the people escorted them, the King’s heart was filled with fright. He called upon Zadok and ordered him to go the temple and check for the Ark of the Covenant. Zadok went there to only find the temple empty and in disbelief, fall to the ground.
When Zadok didn’t return back to the King, he sent other servants to bring him his ware abouts. The people reach to the temple and find him lying on the ground. They lifted him up and asked what has happened. He told them everything for they foretold the King about the misfortune. In Furious, he summoned his soldiers ordering them to bring those Ethiopians who took it, but, if they had crossed the red sea, to seize back.
Meanwhile, he was pleading God, asking why their denied their blessing. As much as their horses were fast, they were unable to reach them for they were carrying the Ark of the Covenant, carrying them with fire chariot, traveling fast as wind. According to the Holy book The Glory of Kings (Kebera Negset), they were travelling one inch high from the ground.
After they crossed red sea, Azarias told King Menilik the first, that they had brought the Ark of the Covenant and on one even the King or him could take it back since it is the will of God. Menilik’s heart was filled with joy hearing this, where he announced to the people for they could all praise God. They travelled all the way to Ethiopia praising and singing from Egypt. On November 30, they reached Axum city, where they were welcomed by his mother Queen Sheba. Noticing his happiness, she asked of what they have gotten. They then told her about bringing Art of the Covenant that made her happiness twin.
Based on these miraculous events, the Ethiopian Church celebrates the feast of the Ark of the Covenant locally known as ‘Tabote Tsion’ and built temple in situating it and in dedication to Saint Mary named as Zion Mary.
May the intercession and blessings of Saint Mary be up on us all!
Source: King James Bible Dictionary New version and The Glory of Kings (Kebera Negest)