September 4, 2011

Heaven Scent

Posted in Eastertide, Holy Week, Lent, Resurrection, Son of God, Suffering Servant at 9:05 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

She knelt in anguish as He took His seat,
He whose earthly life would end in shame,
Because her sins would drive the bitter blame
As nails to bruise His journey-weary feet.

Then with her tears she cleansed away the dust,
And on those feet she used her hair to spread
A spikenard sweet, anointing not His head,
For God’s Anointed He already was.

So in the place of Eve she worshiped Him,
The Seed whom God had promised to supply
To crush the serpent’s head, and though He die,
To live again, His people to defend.

Anointed thus unto His death, He stood,
To shield her against those who scolded sore,
Reminding them His value was much more
Than frankincense and myrrh from rarest wood.

For on the cross He soon would break sin’s bands
And in His dying, Death itself would die.
Soon blood would mix with spikenard raised on high
As life poured forth from wounded feet and hands.

When from the tree His shame was multiplied,
The doleful sun would not illume the scene,
The earth would shake to see Him thus demeaned,
And hosts of hell would triumph as He died.

He would lie three days in the silent tomb
Before the stone rolled back with heaven’s force.
And Mary, bringing herbs to scent his corpse
Would find Him sweeter than the garden’s bloom.

Copyright © 2011 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)

While the king is at his table,
My spikenard sends forth its fragrance.  (Song of Solomon 1:12)

The account of Jesus’ feet being anointed is recorded in only two of the Gospels (see Mark 14 and John 12), and only in John’s Gospel is the woman identified as Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Mary (whose name means “bitter”) had previously spent time at the Lord’s feet, forgetting the business and busy-ness of the world and focusing her attention on learning of Jesus. On that occasion, her sister scolded her for neglecting her guests’ needs, and our Lord defended her for choosing not to neglect His word.

Once again, with the use of this expensive ointment she is out of touch with the rest of the world, and she endures their scolding about “wasting” such a costly substance. And once again, our Lord defends her decision to honor Him. How much we may learn from Mary! Her gift is from the heart, offered to the One who brought her brother back to life and in whom we all may rise from the death of sin. Think of those who might say that we would do better to spend our Sunday mornings filling food baskets for the hungry instead of worshiping Almighty God. While we are not to forget the poor, our service to them must flow from hearts that worship the Lord; otherwise, we have made the poor an idol. One of the most intriguing details in John’s account is the last part of John 12:3, which reads as follows: “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” Worshiping Jesus in spirit and in truth permeates our whole life.

The timing of Mary’s sacrifice just a few short days before Jesus died has always made me wonder whether there was any trace of the scent left on His feet when the soldiers nailed them to the Cross, so I posit that idea in the fifth verse (Soon blood would mix with spikenard raised on high). I have an earlier poem written on that topic, to be posted later. The idea is that the odor of the spikenard, like incense and like our prayers, rises to heaven through the blood of Jesus whose death provides a way for our prayers to be heard.

The final verse brings another Mary into the picture, Mary Magdalene who with several other women visited the tomb of her Lord “to anoint him” (Mark 16:1) only to find that He was not there. Seeing what she thought was the Gardener (John 20), she found instead the Lily of the Valley.

I’ve tried various rhyme schemes, but for some reason I thought this enclosed rhyme (ABBA) worked best for this poem. I have some notes which indicate that I had tried different endings for the lines in the fourth verse, and in a previous version, the first line in that verse didn’t rhyme with the last because I forgot to reassemble the verse after tinkering with it. The next-to-last verse was only partially composed (does that make it decomposed?) when I found the poem tonight, so I finished it. At one point, I had decided the poem was complete without it, and in a sense it is, but I also see some value in pointing out that the whole earth groaned with Mary as she watched Jesus being crucified, yet hell was exultant over His death.

This is another poem that grew out of those dark days after my son died. It was started on 14 April 2008 and completed 16 April, when I emailed it to my priest. At the time, I was doing some renovations in the house James had lived in, and it was almost more than I could bear to spend time in the house because he had also died there. My only comfort then as now is in Jesus Christ.

Finally, I know the title is cheesy, and I apologize. I thought about changing it, but I just couldn’t find anything I liked better. I’m not sure how appropriate it is to have a pun in the title of a serious poem, but that seems to be a part of who I am.

1 Comment »

  1. […] Teresa Roberts Johnson:  Heaven Scent […]


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