And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at table, there came a woman having an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard very precious; and she broke the flask, and poured it on his head.
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We anoint our Lord’s head when we cherish the glory of his divinity, along with that of his humanity, with the worthy sweetness of faith, hope and charity, [and] when we spread the praise of his name by living uprightly. We anoint our Lord’s feet when we renew his poor by a word of consolation, so that they may not lose hope when they are under duress. We wipe [the feet of] these same ones with our hair when we share some of what is superfluous to us [to alleviate] the wants of the needy.
His head, which Mary anointed, represents the sublimity of his deity. His feet indicate the lowliness of his incarnation. We too anoint his feet when we proclaim with due praise the mystery of the incarnation which he took upon himself. We too anoint his head when we venerate the loftiness of his divinity with a consent fitting to him.
What is accomplished here is what the bride glorifies in the canticle of love, “While the king was resting [on his couch], my spikenard gave forth its fragrance.” Here it is clearly shown that what Mary once did as a type, the entire church and every perfect soul should do always.
We should not doubt that this was that same woman, once a sinner, who, as the Evangelist Luke reports, came to our Lord with an alabaster vase of ointment “and, standing behind him at his feet, began to bathe his feet with her tears, and she wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet and anointed them with ointment.” This is the same woman, but there, she bent over and anointed only our Lord’s feet, and she did this amid her tears of repentance. Here amid the joy of her righteous action she did not hesitate both to anoint his feet and to stand up to anoint his head also.
A woman having an alabaster box of ointment of precious spikenard. "Nard," says Pliny. (l12 , c12), "is a shrub which has a heavy and thick, but short, black, and easily broken root. It has a strong smell, like cypress, and a pungent taste. The leaf is small and thick, and the tops unfold into ears, so that spikenard is spoken of as being doubly endowed with both leaves and ears." From the leaves of nard ointment is made—that which is called foliated; but that made from the ears or spikes is called spikenard; and this is superior to the foliated, because it has more substance and marrow, so to say. Instead of nardus spicatus (Vulg.), the Syriac has nardus copitalis, i.e, chief, excellent, principal. As I have observed, the spikenard is superior to the foliated. The Greek has Ï€Î¹ÏƒÏ„Î¹ÎºÎ·ÌƒÏ‚, which the Vulg. of S. John translates pistici. Pisticus is the same as spiked. Wherefore the Arabic trans, the best.
Of precious spikenard. This was a perfume extracted and distilled from the leaves, tops, or stalks, of the plant or herb called nard. It was the custom of the eastern people to pour such precious perfumes on their own heads, or on the heads of their guests whom they had a mind to honour. (Witham)
This happened six days previous to the pasch. The woman here mentioned was Mary, sister of Lazarus. (John xii. 3.)
This woman has a very special message for you who are about to be baptized. She broke her alabaster jar that Christ may make you “christs,” his anointed. Hear what it says in the Canticle of Canticles: “Your name spoken is a spreading perfume, therefore the maidens love you. We will follow you eagerly in the fragrance of your perfume!” Homilies of St. ,
This woman is outside the temple and carries with her a jar of ointment containing nard, genuine nard, from which she has prepared the ointment. This is why the faithful are called “genuine” or pure nard. The church, gathered from the nations, is offering the Savior the abounding faith of believers. The alabaster jar which had been sealed is broken that all may receive its perfume. Homilies of Saint , Homily