They Have Noses But Do Not Smell

Another monastic moment, unspectacular but meaningful. A Psalm popping into my mind explains to me what I have just experienced. Opening the shampoo bottle, about to wash my hair, I smelled the fragrance. It seemed I had never smelled it before. Not only was my nose opened all of a sudden, but my whole being felt differently. I felt more life within me. It was Psalm 115 that I remembered:

They have ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell.  Psalm 115:6

The psalmist speaks about the idols of the peoples, but I applied it to myself. God gives me more gifts than I use. Smelling is one of these underappreciated gifts. We humans are very much vision oriented. Listening is more difficult; tasting and smelling are usually not at the forefront of our awareness. However, those senses go really deep. We “have a nose for somebody or something”; we have our intuition.

My novice master used to say: If you lose the meaning of your life and nothing makes sense, use your senses! The senses bring back the sense. Evagrius Ponticus, one of the most relevant monastic authors of the 4th century wrote: “If you want to know God, know yourself first” (Migne, PG 40,1267). Whatever we perceive is precious, because it can lead us into a greater knowledge of God. So why be afraid? Why do we close our noses? Because we don’t want to be bothered by bad smells. But how can we know that the smell is really bad and not just in our imagination? Like an idol that exists just in our imagination? At our baptism our senses were opened by the priest or deacon in the Effata-Rite. Christ has given us new life. He invites us to have life to its fullest. (John 10:10) We often don’t live to our fullest potential.

Dear Lord, let me pause for a moment and use my senses. Let me take a deep breath. What do I smell? Open my attention to what is around me. Let me take a moment when I pass by a flower, and smell. Let me smell the fragrance of the forest. Let me take in the air of the morning. Let me smell while I eat. Let me taste how good you are. Every day. Every moment.

Taste and see that the Lord is good

5 thoughts on “They Have Noses But Do Not Smell

  1. This is so meaningful to me. I hope God’s children make an attempt to do this on a daily basis. Be a little child for a moment, how do carrots smell? Taste something new often, maybe sushi–I haven’t had the courage for that one yet. Listen to the quiet—you’ll be surprised the music that comes with the wind blowing through the leaves—or the whistle it makes when your car window is open. Have you ever really touched the petal of a flower? And when is the last time you looked in a mirror and instead of moaning looked at the miracle of your skin that protects not only your face but your entire body. I say all of this because aging is slowly but surely limiting how much I can enjoy these gifts. For some reason I have lost almost all sense of smell, but I enjoy the few I have left with occasional exceptions, a skunk is still a skunk. Hearing aids to help me hear–but really miss so much of what my grandchildren say to me. Glasses are a must but had to have cataract removed to help really see the little lady bugs, Taste is still great, as is touch. All are all still gifts but I enjoy at a different level. A little regret that I didn’t really take that minute every day to enjoy these wondrous gifts. These really are all gifts—take the time every day to open the “package” and see the surprise God has for you each day.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I feel kind of struck by the thought that I would regret one day, too, that I “didn’t really take that minute every day…”.
      How easy it could be to prevent regret, if we had known.
      Thank you for this precious hint and for sharing your insights!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Today I sat on a porch swing in the spring breeze and I held and rocked a precious baby girl. As I quietly hummed “Gentle Woman” and other Marian songs, her eyes met mine and I peered into the face of God until she fell asleep in our mutual embrace. As the fresh smells of spring mingled with the sweet scents of a baby. I was intoxicated by God’s loving presence!

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  3. I really like this thought: “Whatever we perceive is precious, because it can lead us into a greater knowledge of God. ” Isn’t it so true that we rather avoid bad smells? It is so funny, because I came back from vacation when read this. We stayed in an apartment, which was nice. The people in that house were nice, too. Everything was nice, but the hallway smelled so aah!, so moldy. Somehow I felt really bothered by that smell. Why didn’t the owner look for the cause and take care of it? In my mind I already began to tear out the carpet and paint the walls. Reading this post, I thought why should this moldy experience lead me into a greater knowledge of God? After some reflections it was clear to me, that we should take care of our (sometimes moldy?) thoughts and feelings. If we don’t like what we think or feel, we have to look for the cause and take care of it. This is how we start the cleaning process. I pray about it and lay it into God’s hands. Even situations and trials, which smell bad, can be solved in a heavenly way, don’t you think so? -The more heavenly ways we find, the more we perceive God’s presence in our lives.
    Besides bad smells there are so many, many beautiful smells, which make me feel that life is beautiful and so abundant. Some of my favorites are a fresh mowed meadow in the summer morning and later the day the sun-filled hay, or fresh baked yeast-braid … Whatever it is, almost all of them are childhood memories, vivid moments fully experienced in the present moment. Present moments are eternal, as is GOD.


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