Unable to sleep last night, listening to the autumnal drizzle in the darkness. Into Resurrection season, joy a little clouded with anxiety, the wait for the Ascension. The slow Ascent of Mount Carmel, thinking about Elijah in the cave, about St John of the Cross writing poetry in his prison cell. The beauty of Marian prayers and the growing influence of Carmelite spirituality in my life, the love I have had since teenage years for the Little Way of St Therese of Lisieux and the vision of the great Teresa’s Interior Castle.
As I was praying, the sudden warmth and invitation of a loved memory amidst the aridity and darkness, recalling the woman drying Jesus feet with her hair, that alabaster jar of sweet nard poured out and the house filled with perfume, such fragrance and intimacy in the anointing of the Loved One’s body for death, this always to be told in memory of her. The fragrance of which I have so long dreamed, since the weekend at G seven years ago. That mysterious command: ‘Let your faith be like a fragrance, so delicate and not floral but dry, the sweetness all interior,’
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”