ďAfter the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.Ē Isaiah 53:11
Every year during the Holy Week, we receive a Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of our Vicariate. This Lenten season, the Bishopís letter was addressed towards the Fragrance of the Oil used by Mary to anoint Jesus before his passion and death. As we all know, the fragrance used was an expensive perfume made of aromatic nard and when Mary had finished anointing the feet of Jesus, she wiped his feet with her hair. As it is mentioned in the Bible, the whole house was filled with the fragrance of this oil.
When Judas Iscariot made an issue about the cost of the perfume and how it could have been put to a better use, Jesus admonishes him by saying that they would always have the poor with them but they would not have Jesus with them and thus she should be allowed to prepare his body for burial. In another instance when the people had complained about how Johnís disciples used to always fast but the disciples of Jesus would never do so, Jesus pointed out that as long as the bridegroom was with them, how could they fast as in any wedding feast, they could only do so once the bridegroom was taken from them after his death.
At the time of Jesusí burial, Joseph of Arimathea anointed the body of Jesus before his Mother placed him in the garden tomb. On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene and the two other women rushed to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus with spices and herbs as it was in their tradition.
I have been pondering over the instances of Jesus being anointed with the aromatic oil and spices before his passion and after his death. It struck me that during His passion while he was in the bitter agony of pain and suffering, his body badly bruised and bleeding, his wounds were not tended to with oil or bound up. Blood was streaming right from the crowning of his head to the soles of his feet as he trudged along with the heavy cross. There was no fragrant oil to be applied at that time because Jesus himself was the Fragrance being offered to the Father on behalf of mankind. He was the aromatic perfume, the spice of earth being lifted up as an offering to the Heavenly Father for the redemption of us all.
Truly, on this day we can only think and reflect on the Lordís passion and all that He endured for the sake of a chosen race of people whom He lovingly wished to save. The Suffering Servant was He, who kissed the Cross on he which he had to be pierced. The Prophet Isaiah described Him as the lamb who stood quiet and defenseless in front of his oppressors; the shearers. He said not a word as He was led to his death because he knew this was the purpose of his very existence as man on earth.
I have been a person always drawn to this Anointing Oil, attracted to the balming scent of this perfume and a daily application of the oil on my forehead in anointing. I recall on my visit to the Holy Land some years ago how the Stone on which the body of Jesus was laid was completely covered with this anointing oil and how the fragrance had filled the whole place over. As I placed my hand on this stone in reverence and remembrance of a vital event of Calvary, it was as if Jesus really was present at that moment on this stone, his spirit having yielded to the Father and his lifeless body a Testimony to his great love. The fragrance of the anointing oil took my mind into a flash back of Golgotha and the Crucifixion of our Lord.
In a recent occurrence, after the sad demise of my Mother whose sufferings were truly joined with that of the Suffering Servant, my home has been filled with the fragrance of lilies with no visible presence of the flower. In my heart, I have always known that this fragrance stands for the presence of my Mother in spirit who still watches over us from above, her love being manifested to us even after her death.
The fragrance of love spread by our Lord on the Cross is by all means the greatest fragrance the earth can ever hold. It surpasses any aromatic fragrance or even the fragrance of flowers. This fragrance given by the Lord is not meant to fill us only with a feeling of happiness at all times, as there will be times of pain and sadness as well in keeping with the Lordís suffering as the fragrance of salvation. Love is after all the scent of both joy and pain as well.
There will be times in our lives when the fragrance of the Cross will fill our senses. In such moments, we should recall the passion of the Suffering Servant and offer our own sufferings as our individual fragrance on the road to Calvary and allow the Lordís fragrant offering of himself to be merged with our own because only when His fragrance is joined with ours, he can lift us up as a heavenly scent before the Fatherís throne.
We can also spread the fragrance of the love that the Lord has instilled in us amongst our brethren who come across our path, in whatever way that they can be filled with the scent of our loving deeds just as the Mother of Christ, his favorite disciple John, Mary Magdalene, the woman Veronica who wiped his face, the grieving women of Jerusalem who followed Jesus and even the reluctant Simon who helped the Lord to carry His cross, they were all spreading their own fragrance of loyalty and sharing in the Lordís pain, their loving hearts pierced with the fragrance of pain, they stood resolutely by our Lord in solidarity and companionship. May we follow in their footsteps and vow to stand by the Lord at every moment in life.
Let us not be dissuaded when trials come because when they do come, it means we are being given our own day of Golgotha, we are not leaving the Lord to walk alone on this road, we are very much there with him, we too are offering our little sufferings as a way of expressing our own love for him in return for the insurmountable pain that he went through as the Suffering Servant who humbled himself before the Cross in service to his people on earth, who came with the sole purpose of serving rather than to be served, who laid down his life in the most unimaginable sacrifice of love, who loved us even while he hung from the Cross in three hours of physical, mental and emotional anguish. This purity of love was the main ingredient of the fragrant offering which filled not just the four corners of the Universe but every nook and corner in Heaven as well. On this day; Good Friday, the Suffering Servant accomplished His mission both on earth and to the purpose of Heaven.
Today let us join the suffering servant in the journey of his last few hours that he spent on earth as man. Let our gaze be fixed on the Cross alone as we take in the fragrance of His love, his pain, his abandonment on the Cross, his hunger and thirst, the trauma of his physical wounds, the fragrance of his every breath until his last one and most of all the scent of his spirit which he did not take along with him forever but left this heavenly perfume of the Holy Spirit to be filled into the hearts and souls of every human being. May His fragrance always cling to us and may we be always adorned with this beautiful scent every day that we live on earth until the day when we will be given a new heavenly fragrance of the resurrection in the garden of heaven.