The Smells of Holy Week

April 18, 2011 § 4 Comments

Vladimir Nabokov once wrote, “Smells are surer than sights or sounds to make your heartstrings crack.”  John 12:1-11 leads us into Holy Week with the smells of life and death.  At a dinner in honor of Jesus, Mary anointed him with an extravagant amount of extremely expensive perfume (12:3).  She combines the smells of life and death.  She does not anoint a king; she anoints a corpse.  One that is about to die for the sake of the life of us all.  This anointment is the beginning of a journey of death; and yet, Lazarus, the most recent sign of life, is also present at the dinner table.  This strange logic of mixing the beautiful scent of Mary’s perfume and the deathly smell of an impending crucifixion is simply to bring us to the truth of our own journey with Jesus.  Our holy week is filled with the aroma of the messiness of our lives mixed with the fragrance of life that Jesus achieved through his death.  What does Jesus smell like for you this holy week?  Will this holy week be a smell that you will never forget?  Mary’s gift was not only extravagant (a pound of perfume valued at the yearly income of a manual laborer of that time), but it was also a sign of the utmost intimacy.  Wiping his feet with her hair would have caught the attention of everyone present as the smell of love.  The smells of life and death brought Mary to passionately devoting her whole self to Jesus – down to every last strand of hair.  Will you during this holy week?


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