This past week has been kind of rough. Within three days of returning from my retreat at St Gregory's Abbey, I got sick, and was not all that functional for the next three days. In the illness and as I tried to make some sense of the Lectionary texts for the Fifth Sunday in Lent I found myself in a deep longing for things saturated with beauty and feeling that so little even that which purports to be beautiful is truly saturated in it. Mary's extravagant action of anointing Jesus' feet with very expensive perfume had me transfixed and the result of her action as described by John The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume." (John 12:3) In all my preparation for this sermon I tried to focus on Isaiah 43, or the Philippians passage, or both Isaiah and Philippians, but to no avail. This one verse describing Mary's astounding and seemingly incomprehensible act of extravagance wouldn't let me be. Mary just kept saying contemplate what I did there, take in the fragrance of Christs burial, take in the olfactory beauty.
Today as I was preparing for service and attempting to get some order to my thoughts for the sermon, I was astounded at how deeply I was longing for beauty and how despairing I was feeling that one could actually find things truly saturated with it. I was truly feeling a sense of a world devoid of beauty even as I reflected on things that I would usually think beautiful, or recent movies. It was quite troubling.
After service and weaving John 12:3 and Mary's action throughout a sermon in which I also touched on Isaiah 43 and Philipians 3:4-14, it occurred to me that this longing and desire for beauty to fill the world and feeling its absence, was a desert experience. Something to be expected to some degree in Lent, and in the midst of various forms of fasting and discipline. I am thirsty and hungry, as we are in the last stretch of Lent things are feeling a bit barren, I am finding this expressed in myself in this experience of a world devoid of beauty. So, we'll see what Holy Week and Easter bring. But until then I think I'll remain thirsting for beauty and finding a world devoid of it.