by Howard Hain
Rembrandt, “Beggar Seated on a Bank”, (1630)
For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing…
—2 Corinthians 2:15
We see so many images of Christ Crucified. Museums and churches are full of them. And they should be. It is the greatest paradox ever told.
And to go along with the abundance of visual representations, there are of course also many artworks in written form depicting the Passion of Jesus Christ. Shelf after shelf can be filled with books containing the seemingly endless repertoire of poems, plays, and musical compositions based on the subject.
But none can capture the stench of death.
Smell moves us like no other sense.
It is so powerful. So quick. So nauseating.
Think of that the next time you’re riding the subway on your way to a museum. Think of that when a homeless man enters your subway car. Think of that when you’re tempted to switch trains at the next stop due to the stench.
Breathe deep instead.
Think of the stench. Think of that poor man—that poor sorrowful man dying right in front of you. The stench of rotting flesh. The stench of death.
No artwork that you’re on your way to see will bring Jesus and His Cross more to life.
Take a deep breath, and pray. You’re on holy ground.
Pray for yourself. Pray for the man. Pray for all those on board. Pray for the entire world.
Pray that that particular stench, that stench of death, right then and there, brings life.
That it brings life to hardened hearts.
That it brings life to senses numbed to the utter poverty of human suffering—suffering that manifests itself in oh so many ways.
That it brings life to what the world says can’t and shouldn’t be redeemed.
And give that gentleman a few bucks.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art recommends an entrance fee of twenty-five dollars. Do you know how much consolation that poor suffering Christ riding right next to you would receive if you gave him that much?
Do you know how cheap a price that is to pay to be able to get so close to a living breathing masterpiece of sacrificial life?
Dig in deep. Dig into your pockets. Dig deep into the reserves of your heart.
You will be amazed how such a prayer, such an act of compassion, such a “living faith”, will transform the stench of death into the aroma of life.
Breathe deep. Pick up your cross. Die daily.
Get over yourself.
What a breath of fresh air!
Now that’s truly an entrance fee.
And it’s worth every drop.
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com
Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain http://www.twitter.com/HowardDHain
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