Some have defined it the “house of poverty” or the “house ofAnania" and others “the house of friendship". Holy Week in the Land of Jesus starts in Bethany, the town of Lazarus, Martha and Mary – where they lived and cultivated a bond of friendship with Jesus – and begins with the blessing of the Oils.
This celebration recalls the episode narrated in the passage of the Gospel according to John (12, 1-11) in which, six days before Passover, Jesus went to Bethany to his friends and Mary sprinkled his feet with precious oil of nard which she dried with her hair. The blessed oil is the same oil of nard that today, as then, is sprinkled in homes and in churches, to commemorate that episode because, as Jesus says, “you do not always have me”. The memory is also linked to death: this oil recalls the unction of the body of Jesus and is a reference for the ritual of the commemoration of the Passion and Death and the Burial of the Lord on Good Friday in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.
"The perfume wasted by Mary becomes a powerful prophecy,” emphasized the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, who presided the celebration. "It becomes the symbol of how beautiful and agreeable it is to be with Jesus, in friendship, without any other concern and without anxiety, without jobs to be done [...]it even cancels the odour of death and of the fear of death, which is an odour that all of us inevitably have on ourselves, and it expresses how true it is that love is stronger than death."
As the liturgy of the place suggests, we are speaking of a “prophetic gesture, a waste that recognized the royalty of Jesus, the honour and the respect due to the king of the universe." It is precisely thanks to this gesture that the house is filled with the perfume of royalty, that remains forever and transforms the house of Poverty into a house of beautiful, full and genuine life. "Allow us to follow the example of Mary of Bethany,” Fr. Patton concluded, “so that we are able to waste what we have that is most precious, our very life, to show that we love you.”
From Bethany, the house of the friends of Lord Jesus, the aromas and the perfume will then be taken to the parish churches and to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.