One of the most painful and moving passages of the Bible is the loss of the ark of the covenant. This is an icon of pain. It points to the profound mourning over the loss. The whole community is shaken to its core. ‘Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.’ ‘Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart was trembled for the ark of the Lord.’ ‘And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines,…and the ark of God is taken.’ ‘And his daughter in law…named the child I-chabod, saying, The glory of God is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken.’
There is so much to meditate on the life-giving function of that ark. What is the equivalent of that ark in our lives? What would we count, as a community, as a loss of similar scale?
Since we have the holy icons here at Saint Augustine’s, they manifest the power of the ark of covenant, through the mysterious presence they create. Christ, our Lord, who is the judge of the world radiates the gentlest and at the same time most concentrated Life. This Presence communicates with us. The golden background around Jesus’ body dazzles us, and pulsates an unexplainable and inexhaustible Light of love. It is a privilege to have the ark-like presence of the God of History.
And most strangely, this dazzling brightness of the Son pulsates with a message. It sends us out, to see and visit people and clothe them in His healing light. This love will touch the local community, and gently, slowly, invite them to close to this Light. And be part of this Covenant.
(Our second reading, the letter of James gives us a practical way of finding the lost ark: good deeds, the daily service in the church for others, re-energises our love.)
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..