April 14, 2023
“….and they took with them the aromatic spices they had prepared.”
When the execution was finished on the Friday after the body had been removed from the cross and taken to the tomb, the women went home and prepared the spices and perfumes that afternoon before sundown. The spices and perfumes were for the body of Jesus. This mixture was made of fragrant wood pounded into dust, known as aloes. This aromatic dust was then mixed with myrrh, a gum resin that comes from small thorny trees. It is most familiar to us as one of the gifts the Magi brought to the infant Jesus. Myrrh has been used in history as a perfume and incense and as medicine for pain relief.
When hearts experience grief, trauma, and loss, doing something practical can be a comfort. For these women, the physical engagement of pounding the wood into powder, pouring in the myrrh, and mixing it to a consistency for its purpose of corpse care no doubt provided a brief and perhaps a surprisingly welcome distraction from the devastation they carried.
The action of doing something practical and purposeful in a time of grief is a way to care for the heart. Perhaps you know something of this in your experience.
What these women prepared was for the care of the dead body of Jesus. It would counter and cover the smell of decomposition. It was also used as a salve to honor the corpse. Imagine the experience of preparing this mixture. The smell of the wood, the gumminess of the myrrh. The physical act of pounding and grinding, pouring, and stirring. The aroma filling the home as it is transferred to the jars for carrying to the tomb. Death given a heavenly scent.
For these women, the aromatic care of the body of Jesus was a way to honor his death and an act of care for the living who would come to the grave. Providing a beautiful smell to the stench of death was kindness. They came that morning with what they had prepared. And as we will see as the story continues to unfold, it wasn’t needed, as the body was not there.
The sense of smell holds great power for memory and recall. From this day forward, for these women, the aroma of the mixture used in burial would trigger the memory of a time of tremendous transformation. The smell of death was now the scent of resurrection.
What does resurrection smell like to you?
Prayer: Holy One, in times of grief and loss, give me tasks that honor and comfort. Surround me with the aroma of life and resurrection, that I may be in glory with the Risen Christ. Amen.
Photo: Dosseman, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Though I had never thought about it, what I imagine is the clean scent of fresh grass and other greenery, indicating new life.
Thank you for this reflection!