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“The Anointing at Bethany” – A Sonnet for Holy Week by Malcolm Guite

April 16, 2014

Come close …

I first came across the sonnets of Malcolm Guite a year ago, and am deeply grateful for the gift they have been in my life. Among my favourites are his sonnets for Holy Week and Easter, which I’ve been posting on this blog throughout this week.

Here’s the introduction Malcolm gives the sonnet embedded below, “The Anointing at Bethany,” on his blog:

John 12 1-8 tells us of how Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus.I love this intense and beautiful moment in the Gospels, The God of the Cosmos enters as a vulnerable man into all the particular fragility of our human friendships and intimacy. I love the way Jesus responds to Mary’s beautiful, useless gesture and recognises it as something that is always worth while, something that will live forever, for all the carping and criticism of Judas, then and now.


The Anointing at Bethany

Come close with Mary, Martha, Lazarus,

So close the candles flare with their soft breath,

And kindle heart and soul to flame within us,

Lit by these mysteries of life and death.

For beauty now begins the final movement,

In quietness and intimate encounter,

The alabaster jar of precious ointment

Is broken open for the world’s true lover.

The whole room richly fills to feast the senses

With all the yearning such a fragrance brings,

The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,

Here at the very centre of all things,

Here at the meeting place of love and loss

We all foresee and see beyond the cross.


malcom-guiteMalcolm Guite is a poet, priest, and singer-songwriter. This sonnet from his book Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year, and this excerpt from his blog, are reproduced with permission. The first image in this posting was chosen by Oliver Neale, and the second by Margot Krebs Neale, both for Malcolm’s blog, and are posted there. On his blog, there’s also an audio recording of his reading this sonnet.


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