Blog of Ewa Bartosiewicz

Month: November 2021

The scent of Advent

One of the most important passages in the Gospel for me is the anointment in Bethany. Mary breaks a bottle of precious Nard oil and its scent fills the whole house. This fragrance accompanies me every year during the Holy Week, because a creative Franciscan priest from Poznań once decided to give all participants of the liturgy a tiny vial of real nard, and since then I always solemnly open it on Holy Monday. This scene was also the subject of my contemplation at this year’s retreat and made me realise how much I have recently focused on caring for the bottle, and not for the precious oil inside. It was then that I desired the experience of Paschal fragrance to spread over more of my life.

Recently I realised that Advent also has its fragrances. The smell of incense and candles, orange and cinnamon, pine needles and hay, honey and ginger, frosty air in the morning … These are not the smells that accompanied Jesus during His birth (maybe apart from the hay ;)), but they are the smells that correspond with the time of waiting for Him to come back. They express a longing for warmth, for the sun, for closeness. They make life brighter on these gloomy days.

Earlier this year, I was inspired to pray with the book “Touch, Feel, Taste” by Ginny Kubitz Moyer, which offers simple prayers based on all 5 senses. When my head was full of different thoughts, I needed an encounter with God that would involve my body and allow me to experience a God who transcends what is logical and understandable, penetrating everything with His Presence. On the threshold of this year’s Advent, this thought came back to me, especially in terms of fragrances. They have been with me for some time thanks to the aromatherapy diffuser that I received from my students and which immediately caught on in my everyday life, relaxing my shattered nerves in a bit of cedar, rosewood and marjoram. There is also raspberry seed oil on my cupboard and lavender bath salt in the bathroom. At the desk, an Advent calendar with teas inside, waiting to be opened (brilliant idea!), so that my home can fill up with new fragrances that stimulate the senses and open up the soul.

There is something about smells that makes it possible for us to remember the circumstances in which we smelt something for many years. They can also clearly influence our mood and are literally responsible for the fact that life has a taste (maybe it is worth appreciating at a time when many people have lost their sense of smell and taste, at least for a moment). Fragrances also have a special property – they quickly reveal the company we have spent our time with. Pope Francis said that it would be good for the shepherds to smell like their sheep. I think it would be very good if each of us would be filled with the scent of God. May this be our Advent experience.

In the end it doesn’t even matter

This year, for the first time in 11 years, during this November time, I visited the graves of my relatives in my home region. Well-known cemeteries with a thousand lights make an impression and provoke reflection on life and death.

I visited a friend of mine from elementary school, who was severely depressed in high school and committed suicide in her freshman year. I visited the vice-principal of my high school, who died on the day when he was supposed to be on the board of my oral Polish baccalaureate exam. I visited my Grandma, who passed away 2 years ago when I had definitely too many difficult goodbyes in one week. Each of these people and each of these deaths somehow influenced me and broadened my horizon of thinking. Over the last few weeks, I have been drowning in a sea of ​​small things to do, tests to be checked, lessons to be prepared, and tasks to be checked off my list. I desperately need a change of perspective and a constant reminder of what is really important. When looking at the end of life, questions arise about what is worth living for and what would be worth dying for.

At one of the cemeteries in Białystok, we found a piece of paper surrounded by a handful of candles. It read: “Victims of the humanitarian crisis at the border.” Is putting my own candle there really the only thing I can do? Am I sure that I couldn’t have done more? My conscience bothers me when I think about someone dying pointlessly. Because of political games, because of a drunk driver, because of a madman with a gun in his hand, because of war, because of a pandemic… Could it have been avoided? I can’t save everyone, but haven’t I neglected the opportunity to save anyone at all?

A song from many years ago came back to me.

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

In the end, nothing will matter. Only if I proved to be human at the right moment.