Anointings in Bethany. Jn 12:1-8

Solemnly, Mary entered the room,

holding high the alabaster jar.

It gleamed in the lamplight as she circled the room,

incensing the disciples, blessing Martha’s banquet.

“A splendid table!” Mary called with her eyes

as she whirled past her sister.

She came to a halt at last before Jesus,

bowed profoundly and knelt at his feet.

Deftly, she filled her right hand with nard,

placed the jar on the floor,

took one foot in her hands

and moved fragrant fingers across his instep.

Over and over she made the journey

from heel to toes, thanking him

for every step he had made

on Judea’s stony hills,

for every stop at their home,

for bringing back Lazarus.

She poured out more nard,

took his other foot in her hands

and started again with strong, rhythmic strokes.

She felt her hands’ heat draw out his tiredness,

take away the rebuffs he had known —

the shut doors, the shut hearts.

Energy flowed like a river between them.

His saturated skin gleamed with oil!

But she had no towel!

In an instant she pulled off her veil,

pulled the pins from her hair,

shook it out till it fell in cascades

and once more cradled each foot,

dried the ankles, the insteps,

drew the strands between his toes.

Without warning, Judas Iscariot

spat out his anger, the words hissing

like lightning above her unveiled head:

“Why was this perfume not sold

for three hundred denarii

and the money given to the poor?”

“Leave her alone!”

Jesus silenced the usurper.

“She bought it so that she might keep

for the day of my burial.”

The words poured like oil,

anointing her from head to foot.

Incarnation: New and Selected Poems for Spiritual Reflection

page 88

Art: Table in Bethany, Refektorium des Aletti-Zentrums, Rom