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Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday of Holy Week

John 12:3
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

Luke 7:37-49
Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
38 she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner."

I think I understand why this woman did this; I think that I have been given a new "vision" into this Biblical scene. I have always come away from this reading considering the grateful heart of the woman who wept at Jesus' feet. And I have always sensed His compassion, imagining that, as she wiped His feet, he spoke softly, so as not to alarm her, even as He rebuked her detractors. Had Jesus spoken a sharp word, even though it was not directed towards this sorrowful woman, she would have drawn away, terrified, for she knew who and what she was, and she knew who Jesus was.

It was her faith that drew her to Christ; it was His Mercy, it was His Divine Charity that alighted the fire in her own heart. So she wept, allowing her tears to wash over the feet that would soon be pierced, torn, supporting the weight of Christ as he struggled to breathe upon the cross. Her tears contained sorrow for herself and others; they contained the joy of hope, the gratitude of her spirit. And wrapped up in all of that, the fear of forgetting, of falling away and returning to the darkness of the past.

If she could reach out to Jesus, she could realize, once again, the reality of what He had done for her; if she could only touch him, she would be strengthened in her resolve to resist temptation. If she could sacrifice for him, she knew she could express her love through the purity of her intent. She could be made whole...through Jesus.

She wanted to console, to comfort, to show mercy to the one who had been so merciful to her. She did not speak; she wept, and her tears were a deeper prayer than that which could ever be composed by mere words.

On Sunday, an image came to mind, one I've been pondering and will continue to ponder throughout this week and beyond. I will not share this image because it is far too personal. I mention it because the image, while it did not resemble today's Gospel, it has given me a glimpse into what was happening, and it has caused me to be able to see a little more than I ever have before.

This is the holiest week of our year. We are invited to approach the cross; we are invited to deeply consider the suffering and death of Christ, and we are welcome to unite ourselves to His suffering, to engage, to become a part of it. And I have begun this week by seeing the blood on my very hands. The woman in the Gospel washed Jesus' feet with her tears...I can do the same, but I can't wash the blood away. The woman in the Gospel annointed the head of Christ with an expensive, fragrant oil. All I can offer Him is His own blood. I am so impoverished that I can offer nothing other than His own sacrifice of atonement.

I tried to bring the image in my mind to life; I tried to sketch it out, but I do not have the ability. When I close my eyes, I can see every line, I can see textures, I can see colors, I can see emotion. But when I put my pencil to paper, it all disappears.

I used to be an artist of sorts; a few of the drawings that I've done have made their appearances here. But I can no longer create such things.

Many years ago, I remember sitting at my desk at work, during Lent, I think. I remember looking at a crucifix, maybe a necklace. I remember the image that came to mind, and I HAD to create the image. I used my own hand as a model...drawing my left hand...with my right hand. I was reaching for Jesus Crucified, reaching out of the flames. I even find it significant that the picture reveals my weaker hand as being the one to rise first toward Christ.

It took a few years, but I think I have discerned the meaning of that image, and sketching it was a doorway that lead into further contemplation. The sketch itself was a prayer, although I didn't realize it at the time. I was begging for mercy. I was deserving of condemnation...but reaching towards our Savior.

This week, we should all take stock of our lives, and reach upward from the flames that consume us, lest they become the true flames of Hell that will seperate us from our Lord for eternity. Jesus was not crucified so that we might live in comfort; he suffered so that we would be free. That requires us to make a choice.

Even our tears are not enough to quench the eternal fires that seek to consume us; so we reach to Christ, who, in His mercy and compassion, will respond to our contrite hearts and lift us into His enternal embrace. God never spurned a contrite heart...ever. And when others refused to forgive, Jesus provided the example. Even if all we have to offer is His own blood, Jesus will recognize our true poverty and He will pull us from the flames.


Melody said...

Adoro, you say you can no longer create art. But it's still inside you; it's like a muscle that needs exercise. I say that to myself, too, looking in the mirror. I have also done art, through the years. but not lately. We got water in our basement several months ago, and it ruined several pictures that I had stored. I was heartbroken, but my husband said maybe (hint, hint)it was a sign I should try some new artistic ventures. I haven't done it yet; but maybe we both should.
BTW, I like the examples you have posted!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: I agree with Melody. That's a powerful sketch.