On the Anointing of Our Lord’s Feet by Mary Magdalen.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Anointing of Our Lord’s Feet by Mary Magdalen.
Represent to yourself to-day the remarkable scene which took place in the house of Simon the leper in Bethania, shortly before our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem. St. John describes it as follows: “And they made Him a supper there, and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that were at table with Him. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” (St. John xii. 2-4.) Be present in spirit at this singular anointing whilst you make your meditation on the subject.
1st. Observe the gratitude of the two sisters Martha and Mary for the raising of their brother Lazarus. Martha showed her gratitude by serving the Lord at table; by not leaving this duty to the servants, as Theophylact observes, but waiting upon Him in person out of reverence. Mary went further, for she poured a precious unguent over His head and feet. It was considered a mark of special friendliness and hospitality, one of which our Lord felt the absence in the house of Simon the Pharisee, when the feet of the guests were merely washed; but to anoint the head and feet of a guest with ointment of spikenard so costly that the disciples estimated its value at fully three hundred pence (over fifty dollars), and then to wipe the parts anointed not with a cloth but with her own hair, was something quite exceptional. Our Lord Himself did not conceal His surprise at so striking a mark of veneration, of love and of gratitude; He exclaimed: “Amen I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which she hath done shall be told for a memory of her.” (St. Matt. xxvi. 13.) May this not have been told in vain for you! Have you less for which to thank Jesus than those two sisters had? How often He has lovingly entered into your house, how often He has called you, when spiritually dead, to life again, how often He has cast out the evil spirit from you as He did from Mary. And how have you shown your thankfulness? Alas! not to speak of Mary’s memorable act you do not even serve Him as Martha did, you are not, as she was, a grateful handmaid of the Lord in your vocation.
2d. Consider how Mary broke the alabaster box of ointment and poured it all to the very last drop upon our Lord’s head and feet. In like manner, my soul, you ought, in your love and gratitude, to break your heart in sorrow and contrition, you ought to break your self-will, your self-love by bodily and spiritual mortification, and then giving to Jesus your whole and undivided self, to pour out your soul in holy aspirations and fervent desires. That is the manner in which you ought to anoint our Lord’s head with precious ointment of spikenard. But if you would anoint His feet also do not rest satisfied with giving your whole heart to Him with all its affections, wholly and solely in pious devotion, self-denial and mortification, but bethink yourself of what the God-fearing Alcuin says: “By the head Christ Himself is signified; by the feet are signified the poor, who are His members.” Not therefore until you unite charity to your neighbor with charity towards God, not until over and above the oblations which you offer to God, you remember to bestow alms both temporal and spiritual upon His brethren the poor, can you be said truly to imitate Mary in her piety. Let it be your resolution to-day never to let a day pass without in this mystic manner anointing our Lord’s head and feet.
3d. Consider that the Evangelist records that “the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” Two thoughts here present themselves for your meditation. According to the explanation given by St. Cyril of Alexandria the fragrant odor of the ointment which pervaded the whole house signifies how soon after this incident had taken place, when the sacred and immaculate body of Christ like an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard had been broken in His Passion, the celestial perfume of His doctrine and His grace would fill the whole house, that is, the whole Church. Or again the sweet odor of this ointment may be regarded as emblematic of the sweet odor of good works, which, performed by individual members of a family, of a Community, of the Church, like ointment of spikenard fill the whole house with their fragrance, i.e., they serve for the edification of others, for a good example to their brethren. And if you take for granted that the Mary in question was the same as Magdalen, formerly a sinner, observe how that which in times past was employed in gratification of her sensuality and vanity, is now literally appropriated to the service of God; and that which once was, as the Apostle says, to many “the odor of death unto death,” that is to say gave scandal to many, is now “the odor of life unto life” (II. Cor. ii. 16) a good example for all to whom it is known. With what valuable suggestions and admonitions these considerations will furnish you, my soul. Lay them to heart, and ask yourself whether you fill the house where you are with the sweet odor of your good works. Or are you perhaps an odor of death unto death to those around you on account of the bad example you give?
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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