Today we hear the account of the sinful woman who came to Jesus and anointed Him with a jar of expensive ointment. Although the disciples thought this wasteful, Jesus defended her, pointing out that she was anointing Him for burial.
This was certainly an extravagant act, and it points to the depths of her love and devotion, which the texts of today’s Matins contrast to the betrayal of Judas, going so far as to say that this act would be recounted wherever the Gospel is preached. Moreover, it is no coincidence that this woman is presented to us as a sinner, for, in anointing Jesus, she is actually pouring out her whole life before Him and expressing not only her love, but also her gratitude for the healing that she has found in Him.
As we continue into Holy Week, this woman’s reckless generosity is held up to us as an example. For, it is only by laying our own lives before Him, by being prepared to have our own hearts torn open, that we too will be able to find the healing that He offers.
The woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving Thy divinity, O Lord, fulfilled the part of a myrrh-bearer; and with lamentations she brought sweet-smelling oil of myrrh to Thee before Thy burial. ‘Woe is me,’ she said, ‘for night surrounds me, dark and moonless, and stings my lustful passion with the lust of sin. Accept the fountain of my tears, O Thou who drawest down from the clouds the waters of the sea. Incline to the groanings of my heart, O Thou who in Thine ineffable self-emptying hast bowed down the heavens. I shall kiss Thy most pure feet and wipe them with the hairs of my head, those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise, and hid herself for fear. Who can search out the multitude of my sins and the abyss of Thy judgements, O Saviour of my soul? Despise me not, Thine handmaiden, for Thou hast mercy without measure.
Saint Kassiani the Hymnographer
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 26:6-16:
When Jesus was at Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.