The Fragrance of Holy Week

Most of our time and attention in Holy Week are given to the triduum and rightly so. The three days of that period encompass Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. They are, perhaps, the most holy days of the year. If they hold that kind of prominence, then maybe we ought to look at what leads us into those days, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week. There are Eucharistic propers for each of those days.

On Monday Mary anoints Jesus and Judas complains. (John 12:1-11) On Tuesday Jesus says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” He foretells his being lifted up. (John 12:20-36) On Wednesday Jesus feeds, Judas betrays, and night comes. (John 13:21-32)

These three days are held together by the anointing Mary does on Monday. Each day the fragrance of that anointing seeps a little deeper into Jesus. It moves from his body, to his soul, to his spirit. There is no part of Jesus’ humanity that is not anointed and prepared for death. On Monday the fragrant nard is rubbed onto Jesus’ feet. On Tuesday the fragrance of his death has soaked into his soul. “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say– `Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” On Wednesday his spirit is marinated in that fragrance. “At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’”

There is now no turning back. He has become for us “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). That fragrance will waft through Good Friday, permeate the walls of the tomb on Saturday, and fill the world on Sunday. The fragrance of death is, in reality, the perfume of life.


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