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Friday, March 22, 2013

The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume



The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 


Of our five senses, our sense of smell is the most underrated, the one we think of the least.
Yet it is one that when we lose it, we really notice.
Think about winter when you have a cold.
You can’t smell anything, and you can’t taste anything.

Think about the change of seasons.
That first smell of spring.
The smell of rain of warm concrete.
Think of the smell of a crisp frosty morning.

Think too of the power of smell in regards to bringing back memories. Or rather, how a certain smell can take you back to a place instantaneously.

The other week, I visited a family who were smokers and they had many dogs. I haven’t smelt that particular combination since visiting my grandparents when I was a child. Straight away, I was in their lounge. In my mind I could see how the sun used to hit the wall above my granny’s couch. I could feel the texture of their leather chairs. I could hear the classical radio station. All of this in a split second by smelling stale cigarette smoke and dog.

And think of dogs. Their sense of smell is 100 times more powerful than ours. Yet they love the smell of revolting things. Yet it is through their sense of smell that dogs work out whether someone is ok or not, whether to trust them or not. They can smell fear, joy, and sadness.


Our sense of smell is a remarkable thing.

Our sense of smell bypasses our intellect and our understanding.
It is primal and it gives us information that none of our other senses can.

In the Bible, smell is recorded in mainly two types of occasions:
love and death.
The Song of Songs repeatedly speaks of fragrances and scents in terms of love, and incidentally is the only other place in the bible where nard, or spikenard, what Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with, is mentioned.

But it is mentioned in terms of death, most often in terms of corpses.
It is not the fragrance of death, but rather the stench of death.

John in his gospel uses the sense of smell only twice:
once in today’s reading and the other in the section that immediately precedes it.
He uses the sense of smell to convey information to us that goes beyond our initial reading, goes beyond our intellect, and taps into our primal instincts.

John places two smells side by side.
The stench of death and the fragrance of love.
And he places them together.

At the raising of Lazarus, it is Mary’s sister who speaks of the sense of smell.

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days."

This is Martha who busied herself in the kitchen, while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet.
When Martha complained to Jesus, he said:

"Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."
Lk 10:41-42

There, Jesus is telling her she is missing the point.
And at the raising of Lazarus, she has made the same mistake.
She is concerned about the smell of death, how the situation is hopeless. Jesus reminds her:

 "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" 

She is focused on the death, not the promise of resurrection.

John uses the sense of smell to link this to the next scene.
The type of smell has changed.
It is not a stench, but a fragrance.
The sister has changed; it is Mary instead of Martha.
Mary, who chose the better part.


Instead of the stench of death, now the smell is nard.
This smell is associated with love.

Martha speaking about the stench shows us her not getting it.

"Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" 

The smell of the nard that fills the room shows how Mary has got it; she has chosen the best part.


Mary’s gesture of anointing is an act of adoration. It is an act of overwhelming devotion. It is an act of abundance and extravagance. It is an act of love.

If our lives are filled with love for Christ, a love that is full of adoration and worship, we like Mary, have chosen the best part.

It is then that our lives will be filled with the fragrance of love of Christ, and fragrance that will permeate all aspects of our life. It is the fragrance of faith. It is the fragrance of love.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

beautiful painting...any idea who is the artist??

Christopher Orczy said...

No sorry, it came up as unknown. It is a fantastic painting. I would love to find out who did it and see more of their work. Imagine a whole series like this.

Kristopher Loewen said...

I wondered the same thing. Beautiful piece of art. Thank-you for sharing.