In our previous post, we discussed the earliest patristic linkage between the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Mother of God. We continue here with the thoughts of Saint Dionysius of Alexandria.
Saint Dionysius was bishop of Alexandria in the middle of the third century. A letter bearing his name and written against Paul of Samosata is thought by many to be spurious. However, Bishop Bull makes a compelling case for the authenticity of this letter, making it worthy of a quick inspection.1 While not a direct reference to the Ark of the Covenant, we start to see the Theotokos likened to the tabernacle in which the Ark itself rested, in the middle of the third century.
As Christ our priest was not chosen by hand of man, so neither was His tabernacle framed by men, but was established by the Holy Ghost; and by the power of God is that tabernacle protected, to be had in everlasting remembrance, Mary, God’s Virgin Mother.2
This is not inconsistent with earlier views. If the Ark is a type of Christ and the tabernacle a type of His mother, the analogy remains consistent, for the tabernacle contained the ark. Thus we call Mary the Theotokos, or God Bearer.
In our next post in this series, we will examine what Saint Gregory the Wonderworker contributed to this discussion.
1 Bishop George Bull, Defensio Fidei Niceænæ, (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1851), v. 1, p. 320.
2 Qtd. in Thomas Livius, The Blessed Virgin in the Fathers of the First Six Centuries, (London: Burns and Oates, Limited 1893), p. 81.