Scripture Verse

Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. John 12:3

Introduction

portrait
Carolyn W. Gillette
(1961–)

Words: Car­o­lyn W. Gil­lette, 2010.

Music: El­la­combe Ge­sang­buch der Herz­ogl. Wir­tem­berg­isch­en Ka­thol­isch­en Hof­ka­pe­lle (Würt­tem­berg, Ger­ma­ny: 1784). Adapt­ed & har­mo­nized by Will­iam H. Monk in the 1868 ap­pendix to Hymns An­cient and Mo­dern, num­ber 366 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Alternate Tune:

illustration
Mary Magdalene’s Box of Very Precious Ointment
James J. J. Tissot (1836–1902)

Faithful people in Jesus’ day memorized many passages of the Bible. Jesus, and the gospel writers who quote him, often would quote part of a verse with the expectation that people would know what follows. It is like when you hear the expression, Four score and seven years ago… you naturally think of what follows—the rest of [Abraham] Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. What Jesus was quoting to Judas is Deuteronomy 15:11, Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land. Rather than saying there is nothing we should do about the poor, the Bible makes clear that we are called to help those in need.

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

Lyrics

When Mary poured a rich perfume
On Jesus’ weary feet,
Her caring filled that humble room;
The fragrance there was sweet.
But full of anger, Judas said,
We could have used this more!
Why was her gift not sold instead
And given to the poor?

The Lord replied, Leave her alone!
She bought it for this day.
This caring love that she has shown
Is faithful to God’s way.
The poor will always be with you,
But you will not have me
;
He blessed her and he thanked her, too,
For giving lavishly.

O Christ, what can your people bring
To show you thanks and love?
You need no fragrant offering;
For now you reign above.
Since there will never cease to be
The poor throughout the land,
May we, your church, serve faithfully
By offering them our hand.