READ: Mark 14:3-9
“While Jesus and His disciples were sharing the Passover in the house of Simon, a man suffering from leprosy, a woman entered the upper room, bringing with her an alabaster jar of expensive anointing oil. She then broke open the jar and poured the oil on the head of Jesus. Some of the disciples were troubled by this extravagance, complaining, ‘Why this waste? This jar of oil cold have been sold for over three denarii, and the proceeds then given to the poor.’ Jesus spoke up, “Why are you troubling her? Leave her be, for what she has done for me is something beautiful. As for the poor, you will always have them to care for, but you will not always have me. She has done what she could, anointing my body for its burial. I tell you this, my brothers, wherever throughout the world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will be proclaimed as well, in remembrance of her.'” — Mark 14:3-9
She has done something beautiful! In the midst of the treachery, betrayal, injustice, whipping, cursing, mocking, thorns, nails, and crosses, we remember someone and something beautiful.
When I look around AT the monks of Greyfriars’ Abbey, “beauty” might not be the first descriptive which comes to mind. We all tend to look a bit grizzly, a bit weather-worn, a bit on the grey side. Our daily wear of faded denim shirts and work jeans would not be described as the latest in fashion. Though our worship robes are beautiful in their simplicity, they are but constructed of plain, coarse linen. Our buildings are clean and scrubbed, yet quite sparse and spartan. But with of all of that … I find great beauty in the souls of these brothers and in the holy presence of this place.
I reckon some might think it irony, but Benedictine monastics have always spoken of “beauty”. Many of the early Benedictine writers would speak of the beauty of Christ and the beauty of holiness. Many Benedictine writers were known for their beautiful writing, both the penmanship and the language. Most monasteries, especially nowadays, have among their number many craftsmen and artisans.
What is beauty? What is beautiful?
When I write poetry, the few souls that still read poetry will, at times, respond positively to a work I have written. Sometimes, when I send out these devotionals, a few of you will write a reply (not as many as I would like, but a few). And I have observed that the most oft-used response or reply is simply the word ...”Beautiful.” I suppose that does observe that I do find that the Christian life, the pure, deep, Christian life is meant to be something beautiful, beautiful in a certain holy way.
But again what is beauty and what is beautiful?
Tomorrow night at Greyfriars’ Abbey, we will once again relive the experience of Maundy Thursday. The brothers will sit in the Holy Quiet and experience the washing of feet. And it will be something beautiful in the holy sense of the Beautiful. We will then share the ancient Latin rite of Maundy Thursday that begins with the Latin word, Mandamus, “This I command you“. And it will be something beautiful in the holy sense of the Beautiful. Good Friday will come … and in the midst of all its horror, cruelty and suffering … there will be something beautiful within it all, in a certain holy sense of the Beautiful.
When I was a young Pastor, an elderly woman of profound devotion, said to me in a most serious way, “I pray that the Lord will help you lead this Beautiful Life of ministry.” At the time, I couldn’t appreciate her words, her beautiful act of anointing me for my work. Now years later, when I remember her anointing words, I am beginning to appreciate their divine grace.
Whatever became of the “beauty” of the faith and the “beauty” of the life that faith was meant to create? Whatever became of the Beauty of the holy way?
To live the Beautiful Life … is something beautiful.
Brother Anthony of the Cross