Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I was taken by this mornings Gospel readings (John 12:1-11 or Mark 14:3-9) in today's lectionary. Both passages cover the same event from slightly different corners of the room. John, the beloved disciple provides us with the account of one who was there in the room, perhaps even standing there besides the Master. Mark provides us the account, as it was told to him by St. Peter before his martyrdom at the hands of Nero's goons. While mark seems to tell the story in a more detached fashion, the emotion of St. John seems to drip of the page of his account (sparing nothing towards the Iscariot). Regardless of vantage point, both Evangelists capture the central focus of the moment, this being the worship offered up by one devout woman.
I strongly suspect that this is the same incident though seen from different angles. I don't know that incidental info provided by St. Peter is enough to divide his account into a separate incident. Too, this vignette is seen across both the Synoptics and the Johanine account. So, since this episode was important enough to be covered by the four Evangelists, what is the point of it all?
- Worship is Costly
- Worship is Visceral
- Worship is Fragrant
Mary opened a one pound jar of ointment. This wasn't your aveeno or vaseline intensive care. No, this was a near priceless item by contemporary standards that cost nearly an entire year's wages. Imagine if you can, a $48,000.00 beauty product. The essential elements of the perfumed ointment came by caravan from as far as Nepal, and was highly treasured by contemporary Romans. Even the jar itself would have been considered a treasure as it was likely from the ancient Egyptian city of Alabastron and carved by hand from native Oriental alabaster. The jar was broken and poured out onto the master, both head and feet received the rich, aromatic perfume. In moments, and to the chagrin of many in the room, the Rabbi in the room was now covered in costly nard.
Mary offered up her most treasured possession in this act of worship. It was her nest egg and would not be replaced in this lifetime. This was second only to her own life when it came to value and the act of adoration was harrumphed by thief and supersaint alike.
This was no casual, detached act on Mary's part. No, this wasn't like your typical foot washing at any given Cleveland, TN Church of God (Ya' know what I'm cookin'). The thick nard was spreading across the Master's feet as Mary doffed her head covering, then used her own hair to make sure that no drop was wasted or no part of Christ's feet were missed. Mary worshipped, body, mind and soul.
Mary's act of worship filled the entire house that day. Everyone, detractors not withstanding, were effected by her sincere, unfeigned act. The fragrant aroma of the nard quickly spread from the object of her adoration (Jesus), and wafted onto every corner of the home where they met.
So... How does this stack up against the pathetic whiny me-monkey prayers that we're so wont to offer up? Something to ponder this Holy Week.