Friday 25 March: Lent 2011


You are encouraged to pray the prayer, pause, read the scripture, pause, read the reflection, and then pray the prayer again.

The Breastplate Prayer

May the yoke of the Law of God be upon this shoulder,
The coming of the Holy Spirit be on this head,
The sign of Christ be on this forehead,
The hearing of the Holy Spirit be in these ears,
The smelling of the Holy Spirit in this nose.
The vision that the people of heaven have be in these eyes,
The speech of the people of heaven in this mouth,
The work of the Church of God in these hands
The good of God and of neighbour in these feet.
May God dwell in this heart,
And this person belong entirely to God the Father.

‘May the smelling of the Holy Spirit be in this nose.’

Hebrews 12:1-3

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Today I am asked to dedicate to God even this most subjective of my physical senses.

A smell is a hard thing to quantify yet we know how powerful and precise a sense it can be. A smell will take us back immediately to some event powerfully locked in our memory.

In the past smells could carry important information. Your nose might tell you if this was safe land on which to walk or build. Smell could protect you against bacteria and pestilence, from poisoning and illnesses. Subjective this sense might be but it was important in detecting dangers that would otherwise go undiscerned. Such discernment could be life saving.

In Jesus’ day there were people who were so unable to discern the presence of God that even when the very incarnation of his Word was standing in front of them, they failed to see. Some of these people were teachers and experts in law. They sought answers to every kind of question only from the black-and-whiteness of words on a page: in laws, edicts, etiquette, precedent and protocol. ‘There is no precedent for a Messiah from Galilee’, they said.

They were the bureaucrats and lawyers and what they wanted was law, cut and dried. They were considerably less comfortable thinking imaginatively or seeking information from their senses.

So it was that, as Jesus stood before their very eyes, they not only failed to discern him but dismissed him.

Our prayer is to discern daily the presence of the Holy Spirit, and not to miss or dismiss one single thing his is doing.

In his letter to Rome, Paul says that it is the failure to recognise the reality of God that lies at the heart of a society’s sin. God is like a 24/7 radio station, broadcasting through the airwaves all around the clock. Yet the radio will not detect what is in the air, invisibly all around it, until its power switch is turned on. I will not hear what is playing until I listen. The airwaves can be full of music and yet I will never know until I take some action myself in order to tune in.

The Holy Spirit is there to be discerned and to that task we commits this surprising and sometimes overlooked body part, the nose.

‘Let the smelling of the Holy Spirit be in this nose.’

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