This is a time to recover the mystique of the senses; to step down to our heart and penetrate into the sacredness of everything. This is the thrust of meditation and reflection in a different way. This is an appropriate time to return home, within, rooted in what sustains us, tall and strong, without fear, confident of our identity, in touch with our hearth. We need it.
The indigenous peoples teach us “the mystique of nature”. It is the type of mystique that guides our consciousness towards an attitude of reverence for the earth, for the Planet, and from there towards everything else. This is also a time to discover nature as part of ourselves.
Having these kinds of experiences restructures our psychic. Everything takes on another dimension, which includes the sacred, not only the economic, the financial, the technological, not even the religious dimension of our being.
The attitude of respect towards the sacredness of everything, a contemplative attitude, does not mean passivity rather a reverent action, an action of intimacy with everything, of knowing, feeling, treating everything and treating yourself as part of everything and everyone.
Today’s context is a summary of the whole teaching and committed life of Jesus. Each gesture, each word is a clarification, loud and clear, of who he is, and of how we are invited to be and live as his disciples. We sit with them, also in this difficult time, being part of the table of the community, where we all arrive after having walked a long path.
John 12, 1-9, is a very illuminating story to focus on the beginning of the Passion from a less patriarchal mentality; a story more identified with Jesus’ intentionality. For this reason, it is very important to deepen on the gestures, in addition to listening to the words, and in the meaning of those gestures in the historical moment and in the culture where everything happened.
Some exegetical notes:
Bethany is the place of the community of Jesus. It is the place where he finds refuge, rest, retreat and close friendship. It is in the community of Jesus where life has overcome death.
Martha represents the community where love translates into service.
Lazarus is present in the community, locus of the presence of the Abba and of the overcome death.
Mary represents the community in her intimate relationship with Jesus. Her gesture shows her appreciation for the gift of life; the price of the perfume is a symbol of her love without measure. She assumes the role of the Bride with respect to Jesus, the Bridegroom (John 3:29). This is a figurative language revealing God’s personal relationship with God’s people.
The perfume portrays the community’s love for Jesus; “she dried his feet with her hair” (Song of Songs 7.6). “The house was filled…” the atmosphere in the community is permeated with the fragrance of love / Spirit.
Judas intends to oppose the poor to Jesus. The splurged perfume/love bothers him because it hinders his personal gain.
We can see a gesture: she perfumes the feet of a wayfarer, at the end of his journey. Perfume is water with scents of nature, with its sedative and pleasant effects on the senses, especially comforting to the feet. She is comforting the feet of the Master, the one who walked the rough path towards freedom, preparing this way, the path for us.
She has received that imprint from him, and the perfume she offers him is her way of expressing how she receives his presence: her perfume, her love, her dedication. The perfume symbolizes love and gratuitousness. The gesture, because of being “different and sensual” invites us to contemplation.
Contemplation not only with the eyes, but with the other senses as well:
-What does she see? A kind and a just man battered by the persecution of a religiosity intoxicated with fear and power. A human being who suffers and whom she loves because he has taught her how to find her own way towards freedom…
-What does she touch? She comforts the feet of an exhausted pilgrim. She anoints with her perfumed oil the One who has given new meaning to her life. She tenderly touches the One that do not ask for sacrifices or donations or prayers … but instead he offers her the tools for a process of inner growth, which will enable her to be a free and empowered woman vulnerable to the pain beyond herself.
-What does she hear? This is a difficult question. Supposedly she hears conversations of all kinds. In this case Judas represents the criticism of the hypocrites. But beyond that chapter so used in this kind of celebrations, we would like to enter in what the priests usually do not enter: what she hears from within through the intimacy which has been established between them. According to other texts, she assumes the role of a wife, that is, of an intimate person.
We are addressing in this way, the theme of “affective prayer”. Our prayer may consist of silent meditation, and of reading the Word, but all of this, if it is not done from an experience of friendship and intimacy, not intimism, it can become cold and easy to abandon. If it hardly attracts the person, it might be very difficult to remain constant to it.
Many people stop praying just at the threshold of beginning to enjoy that affective relationship that has nothing to do with listening to music and feeling comfortable. It is much more than that.
And, this year, it is different. Jesus’ gestures are prohibited; an unheard of pain is shaking humanity: we cannot get close; we cannot share the bread or drink from the same cup. Gestures that became liturgical, now they are forbidden.
Is there anything we may certainly do?
Yes. To breathe in the fragrance of the perfume and breathe out whatever feeling or emotion which may try to taint it with negativity.
This year, as it was in the origins, we should get in Cenacle and Catacomb “mode”. This type of experiences is what gave rise to domestic churches. This is an opportunity to launch this year and continue doing so since the renewal of Christianity lies in this way of doing church.
United by the perfume we recover the mystique of the senses, we open ourselves to the sacredness of life in everything. And from that fragrance, we follow the Master, looking for something that no virus can destroy or prevent: the perfume of love, of the beloved, of those who love and we love.
And if you can celebrate this liturgy in the forest, or in the garden or in the balcony, imagine that the beauty you see is the Temple of God full of life, ready to ignite passion and joy for life and ready to offer its resources only if we begin to be One with the whole.
Today we remember those that due to the lethal pandemic will not sit at our table of Holy Thursday.