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Polecat Aromatherapy

February 04, 2024

Polecat Aromatherapy

Some months ago, I was driving Mother Maria to the church to give a talk on their work at the school in Bethany when we drew near to 6 pounds of dead polecat on the road. The aroma was so intense that it was if we had been trapped with that terrible stench inside a Ziploc bag! Sealed for freshness!! Mother Maria had no idea where the smell had come from and I was hoping she wasn’t thinking it was little ole me. I quickly realized her uncertainty and informed her that the horrible smell that had seeped into the car and made us gasp for fresh air, was from a little black and white critter we have around here. She had never experienced this sensation because skunks don’t live in her region. They have been pretty active lately so I DuckDuckGo’d her a picture of this little rascal, just in case she encountered one face to face in her short stay here in the country. 

 

Back in the early dark mornings when I needed to go back on the bluff and gather the milk cows, I would usually encounter a skunk or two, but as long as I keep my distance, I didn’t smell them. I believe that if I get close enough to that little creature, that their fur is sure to have some type of wild odor! And I am positive that if they had sprayed one of our milk cows that rank odor would find its way into the milk tank somehow. Well, I will try not to get that close again and especially to the little ones who have an itchy trigger finger as I have already been sprayed a time or two. Well that is a smell that even the most powerful frankincense and myrrh can’t cover.
What does all this talk about rank odors have to do with us here today? Well, as I reflect upon my sin habits, I think about that stinking polecat! You may say that these reflections are a bit of aromatherapy for me. In short, I too stink! You may not see my sinfulness but if you get close enough, you may catch a whiff. And then in the darkness as I realign myself on my hope in the life to come, and then in that minute’s reflection and repentance I gasp for air and say: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” [Lk. 18:38]
I am thankful that God allows me a glimpse of my own stench. St. Isaac the Syrian said that the person who has attained to knowledge of his own weakness has reached the summit of humility. (Brock, 1997) Well, like I said, just a glimpse, I have a long way to go! I am for the most part a blind man. I see what I chose to see, of course within the acceptable limitations of my own safe reasoning. I need to be healed of this blindness, as the Gospel reading this morning records: “And immediately he recovered his sight, and began following Him, glorifying God. And all the people, having seen it, gave praise to God.” [Lk. 18:43] Saint Kyril calls it this way: “He was set free, therefore, from double blindness; for not only did he escape bodily blindness, but also from that of the mind and heart. For he would not have glorified Him as God had he not possessed spiritual vision. And further, he became the means of others also giving Him glory.” [Ib., 501.] [Lk. 18:43.]  
My prideful self-worth seems to keep me sightless of who I really am. After all, I do some good, and I try not to harvest unclean thoughts and remembrance of ways I have been wronged. But these prideful distractions limit my salvific work here on Earth. I am too busy self-justifying everything instead of living the words that should be repeatedly coming out of my mouth: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” St. John of the Ladder points out: “Pride makes us forget our sins ... the remembrance of them leads to humility." (John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent.)
If I truly, whole heartedly love Jesus, I will continue this spiritual battle, one day at a time, turning myself again and again from the rancid stench, to that which is holy and most pure. St. Isaac the Syrian says as long as we are in the body, it will never completely go away. But with repeated combat I will hopefully greatly diminish these rancid smells of death as I deeply long to embrace the final healing touch of our Savior. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Fr. Gabriel Weller 2-4-2024

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