Monday of Holy Week// What is Nard?

On Monday of Holy Week, Mary of Bethany brought about a pint of pure nard (a very expensive perfume) to Jesus as he visited the home she shared with Lazarus and Martha. She poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.

Her actions of pure love and generosity are ones to ponder as we enter into Holy Week.

Why was Nard used on the Monday of Holy Week?

Can you imagine using your entire bottle of costly perfume for Christ? It was so costly the Apostle John makes a point to state it was ‘pure nard.”

That’s because the fragrant oil — a light amber in color — cost a year’s wages, almost $60,000 in our present day. It was  was often mixed with other inferior oils and sometimes substituted with a fake oil.  But Mary gave Christ the best and John makes sure we know that as we use this Gospel to enter into Holy Week.

What kind of perfume is that expensive?

Nard oil comes from an exotic plant that grows in the Himalayas at an altitude of about 9,800 to 16,400 ft. Its rhizomes are crushed and distilled into an intensely aromatic, amber-colored essential oil with a thick consistency.

It was so precious that it was kept in  “an alabaster box of ointment of precious spikenard” (cf. John 12:3). The  Egyptians they were said to retain their fragrance even for centuries, the Catholic Encyclopedia reports.

As we enter into Holy Week, we too can anoint Christ with our love, prayers, and gifts.

As St. Augustine explains:

Anoint Jesus’ feet by a life pleasing to God. Follow in His footsteps; if you have an abundance, give it to the poor. In this way you can wipe the feet of the Lord

Get the Holy Week schedule.