The Woman Anointing Jesus’ Head

While I was studying toward ordination about 15 years ago, I wrote this poem, based on Mark 14:3-9. I was very moved by Mark’s account of the woman who anointed Jesus’ head, and Jesus’ support of her despite criticism. I came from an Anglican Diocese which still does not ordain women priests, so was seeking ordination in the Diocese of Adelaide, and I was inspired by the courage it would have taken this woman to take this priestly and prophetic action in a culture that did not empower women for religious leadership. Seeing in the lectionary that one of the Passion gospels for this Sunday started with the anointing, I remembered writing this poem and how much it meant to me at the time.

Fear and silence
suggest a gesture
to be traced
in the space
beyond. There
at the table where
I had no place,
I shall break open,
pour out and give,
share with him
all that I have;
there at the table
honour his body
as though at an altar;
there at the shared meal,
foretell his absence,
prepare him for the grave.

At the crack
of dawn and doom,
at the once sealed
mouth of the tomb,
priest and prophet,
I stand between
two worlds, crossing
the line, profligate
with what I bring,
turning upside down
the rites of honour,
anointing a king
in a leper’s house,
accepting a suffering
messiah, God’s son
in one about to die.

My silence would leave
him unacknowledged:
this fear offers me no choice
but to act on what I know.
Here I proclaim, for his sake,
my love without words,
my grief without song.
Fear and silence
will not stay my hand or
keep him from hearing me
into gospel memory.
Though I speak no name
and have no voice,
it is Jesus who calls me
beyond myself, beyond
my accustomed place.
Lift up the vessel
about to be broken;
arise! arise and walk!

2 thoughts on “The Woman Anointing Jesus’ Head

  1. A powerful poem and one of my favorite stories — the “she will be remembered” is also the basis for “do this in remembrance” a few days later.

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  2. Ironic that “she will be remembered” but her name is not mentioned, and that anointing his head turns into perfuming his feet in other versions – regarded as more lowly and feminine no doubt. So often, Mark’s gospel is more radical and surprising; i’m glad we are in the year of Mark.

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