A Sweet Fragrance of Christ unto God

Thursday, April 01, 2021 03:49am

“The pure soul is a beautiful rose, and the Three Divine Persons descend from heaven to inhale its fragrance.”

— St John Vianney

Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ! April literally begins with the holy Triduum, preparing us for the Great Sunday (Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!) and 50 days of celebration!  Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph 5:2). Our JOY overflows and cannot be contained in one day! He is Risen! Let us not tire in the jubilation!

Every so often I open the carved door of a vintage cabinet in my bedroom and reach for a bottle of my mother’s perfume.  She entered eternal life in May 2007.  A whiff of the still-intact scent sends me remembering, and imparts a strength only a mother’s presence carries.

St Paul reminds us that we are a sweet fragrance of Christ unto God (II Cor 2:15).  All that we do should carry the aroma of who and what we are.  Afterall, fragrant chrism sealed us in the Holy Spirit the day we became children of God.  At Confirmation we were once again marked with chrism, this time sent with this precious perfume of heaven to affect the oft-unsavory and bewildering airs of the world.

On a natural level, scents – like my mother’s perfume, the tang of yesterday’s garbage or even liturgical incense – present a difficulty when attempting to describe them or how they illicit certain responses.  What about the fragrance of Christ?  Here the heart is at work.  While all are created to desire the character of our Lord, St Paul reminds: For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life (II Cor 2:16).  Christ’s presence assuredly affects those in proximity.  For some, a peace is experienced, a hope perceived, a void filled. He is the Person of peace, hope, fulfillment.  For others, the experience is unsettling, misconstrued, rejected.  We are called to accept this gift of living as generous conduits of His love; regardless of how it may be received by others.

Our offering of the fragrance of Christ is unto God Himself. Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men… (Col 3:13).   The Apostolate work conveys the fragrance of life from heaven, satisfying the Father and blessing the earth. Experience proves even a wee bit of liturgical incense fills the highest apse.  Likewise, our offerings are magnified because of the touch of the Father’s Heart.  The pervading effect of the evidence of the life of Christ within us is predestined to influence those whom we interface with and pray for -and reach beyond!

 As Seven Sisters we look to St Mary Magdalene in the lavish outpouring of pure nard upon her Lord.  Likely no one in the room noticed as she knelt at the feet of her Lord, but once the scent of the costly oil filled the room (Jn 12:3), heads turned and opinions were vocalized.  So too, our prayer offerings are not initially noticed.  Eventually …the waft of the incense of our prayers begins to affect the heart of the priest/bishop, the heart of the parish, the heart of our Diocese, the heart of the Church, the heart of the world.

It is said that the perfumes of ancient days were so well crafted that the aromas lingered for centuries. The offerings of our veiled Holy Hours live eternally!  “Jesus loves hidden souls,” writes St Faustina, “a hidden flower is the most fragrant. I must strive to make the interior of my soul a resting place for the Heart of Jesus.” Our interior lives are endowed with the heavenly deposit of the very scent of the character of God.  It is not cultivated by the right words or doing the right things, but by the constant renewal and deepening of our interior life in Christ.  As Seven Sisters the disciplines of our prayers foster this growth.  We are set to affect our very surroundings with fresh breezes of sanctity and beseech the same to be true for the priest/bishop for whom we pray.

The ancient perfumer carefully bruised and crushed petals and herbs in order to release even more scent to concoct a vibrant and enduring blend.  So too, the interior fragrance which marks Christians is a gift nurtured and put to the test of suffering.  An understanding and experience of this in our own lives is set to help form prayers for the clergy for whom we commit our Hours. How sweet the scent of the one crushed for the sake of Christ!  Our priests indeed daily mount the cross with Christ!

Penned to her sister Celine, St Therese of Lisieux emboldens her (and us!) to live love with extravagance. … “The Apostles murmured against Magdalen. This still happens, for so do men murmur against us. Even some fervent Catholics who think our ways are exaggerated, and that – with Martha – we ought to wait upon Jesus, instead of pouring out on Him the odorous ointment of our lives. Yet what does it matter if these ointment jars – our lives – be broken, since Our Lord is consoled; and the world in spite of itself is forced to inhale the perfumes they give forth? It has much need of these perfumes to purify the unwholesome air it breathes” (XIX of the Theresian Letters).

Dear Sisters, let us love our priests by loving Jesus with total abandon! The fragrance of our prayers and lives will be sweeter still.  Our world and Church itself are in desperate need of our fragrant offerings. Ah, that we and the recipients of our Holy Hours may exude the eternal odor of sanctity!

United in prayer and mission…that our prayers may find the heart of every bishop and priest…

 … eternal gratitude continues as you each remember to offer a wee Hail Mary for me every day….  “One Ave Maria makes hell tremble” (St John Vianney). Pray that I will not ‘spoil the beautiful work that God has entrusted…’  (St Teresa of Calcutta)

… your kind emails and notes and phone calls and generous support always arrive to my heart door at the right moment! Your financial sacrifices are for 100% furtherance of Apostolate.  THANK YOU!  The letters of testimony are so beautiful and edifying! What glory is given to God through your writing!

 Eternal gratitude is mine for YOU!

Be assured of my continued daily prayers for you at the altar.

Janette (Howe)