In the Eastern Church, last night began the celebration of the Bridegroom which continues through Holy Tuesday. In the Latin Roman Church, today’s Gospel expresses this same sentiment in a more veiled way.
Today’s Gospel not only demonstrates the magnanimous love of Mary Magdelene but also prepares Christ our Bridegroom for His marriage to the Church upon the cross.
Of note, is the verse 3:
Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. (John 12:3)
The term νάρδος or “nard” is very specific and only explicitly mentioned five times. Twice as a spice (Sng 4:12 and 13) and the three times related to the subject at hand (Mk 14:3, Jn 12: 3 and Sng 1:12) Four verses later in Jn 12:7, found in today’s Gospel though it is also allude to that it was used as His Burial,
Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial.
The first instance in Song of Songs 1:12 is important because it gives us a clue to the Bridegroom imagery:
While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance…
In the ancient world, nard was used to anoint a Bridegroom on his wedding night. It was not the common myrrh and spices used in burial. This of course is curious considering our Lord asked that Mary Magdalene was encouraged to hold it for his burial.
I desire to be more like Mary Magdalene in this reading. What I most desire is her recklessness and gift of compunction. You and I, if we were in the same situation, it is likely that we would pour out the nard drop by drop to ensure that its value was made known. We would keep our tears for the privacy of our own home because we are afraid that it would be seen as weakness or sentimentality. But she did not care, because is a true lover. Lovers could care less about cost, protocol and image. They just love recklessly without regard.
I wonder, when our Lord looked upon her and their eyes met, what went through her mind. For me, the Gospel today encouraged me how to live the rest of Holy Week: Recklessly, passionately, forgetting cost and my own pride.
Lord, St. Augustine’s words are so fitting, “Late have I loved thee.” Please gift me this week with the gift of tears and a reckless love.