John 12 1-8 tells us of how Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus.I love this intense and beautiful moment in the Gospels, The God of the Cosmos enters as a vulnerable man into all the particular fragility of our human friendships and intimacy. I love the way Jesus responds to Mary’s beautiful, useless gesture and recognises it as something that is always worth while, something that will live forever, for all the carping and criticism of Judas, then and now.
This sonnet, and the others I will be posting for Holy Week are all drawn from my collection Sounding the Seasons, published by Canterbury Press here in England. The book is now back in stock on both Amazon UK and USA and physical copies are shortly to be available in Canada via Steve Bell‘s Signpost Music. The book is now also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of these sonnets in church services and to copy and share them. If you can mention the book from which they are taken that would be great.
I am grateful to Oliver Neale for the image above and to Margot Krebs Neale for the one below. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button
The Anointing at Bethany
Come close with Mary, Martha , Lazarus
So close the candles stir with their soft breath
And kindle heart and soul to flame within us
Lit by these mysteries of life and death.
For beauty now begins the final movement
In quietness and intimate encounter
The alabaster jar of precious ointment
Is broken open for the world’s true lover,
The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
With all the yearning such a fragrance brings,
The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
Here at the very centre of all things,
Here at the meeting place of love and loss
We all foresee, and see beyond the cross.
7 responses to “Holy Week: The Anointing at Bethany”
Thank you, Malcolm for sharing your poem commemorating this beautiful moment of adoration. This is my favorite scripture in the Gospels. Oh, how I wish to adore Him as she did.
Thanks Christine yes. Beautiful is the best word for this unique gospel moment.
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Stunning. Thank you Malcolm, for seeing and speaking that indeed “beauty now begins the final movement . . . of the world’s true lover.” My nostrils are filled with the fragrance that makes the spirit dance beyond the Cross.
“here at the very center of things”
“The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” — one of my favorite phrases in Holy Scripture. Thank you for capturing the moment so beautifully here.
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