It is Christmas Eve, that most fragrant of times. Beautiful and delicious smells have filled the air for weeks, wrapping us in anticipation and hope, arresting us in our busyness, reminding us to breathe, reorienting us to the present. Today, Christ is born to the most fragrant of human beings, a woman whose name means ‘myrrh’, a woman whose soul was a cave of purity, peace, and prayer, a woman who said yes and raised the world to the God’s descent.
We can become just as fragrant. In fact, this is our only calling – to smell like Christians, to be what St. Theophan calls “roses who don’t speak, but have a fragrance that spreads far in silence.”
I have a friend who is allergic to all inorganic or processed scents. This allergy is extremely debilitating for her because she can’t go anywhere in public without being accosted by the scents around her and most of them are inorganic and processed. Without medication, one breath of scent can put her to bed with an intense migraine. I am never more conscious of how I smell than when I am with her. I should always be this conscious though, careful of what I anoint myself with, knowing that my ‘fragrance’ imposes itself on everyone I come into contact with throughout each day. I am sure I have given many people intense ‘migraines’. I long to be the fragrance of God.
What does being the fragrance of God mean? It means being a vessel or atomizer so that, through us, Christ diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place (2 Cor. 2:14, 15) . It means being further clothed by life (virtue) so that our mortality (all that smells) is swallowed up by all that is fragrant (2 Cor. 5:4). It means being anointed by the Holy Spirit – we cannot become the fragrance of God without God. It means being pierced by sorrow (myrrh is made from resin that runs from a small thorn-bush that is pierced with sharp instruments, over and over again). It means being ‘aromatherapy’ in that the grace of peace fully abounds in us like the pleasant scent of sweet spices that fills the air around it with its own fragrance, so that our lives may heal the sickness of others St. Gregory of Nyssa). It means to have a heart that is an enclosed garden that the Holy Spirit can blow through (Song of Songs 4). It means to “see God in others, (to) go forth from ourself to seek the good of others. All of the virtues are at the service of this response to love. (Without this) the message will run the risk of losing its freshness and will cease to have the ‘fragrance of the gospel’ (Pope Francis, Evangelii gaudium). It means to let our hearts be stirred by Christ’s knocking and to open the door with hands dripping with myrrh (Song of Songs 5:2-5).
There is more that the scriptures and saints reveal, but the list is already mysterious enough – who is sufficient for these things (2 Cor. 2:15)? Thank God, that with God, all things are possible (Luke 18: 27). Like Mary, our ‘fiat’ is required – again and again. We prepare the ‘stable of our hearts’ with prayer (like incense) and repentance, and God does the rest, Christ is born in us through the Holy Spirit. May we become a fragrant presence others can breathe like gentle and pure air, filling the universe with invisible goodness (Fr. Lev Gillet).
Christ is born, glorify Him!