Walk into my house this week and you will be overcome by the fragrance of flowers.
It’s narcissus, mainly, “paperwhites” — masses of delicate white petals with tiny yellow centers, clustered at the top of graceful stems. Tall straight leaves rise among the flowers and point upward as though directing their beauty to heaven.
I love these winter bulbs. By mid-January I’m tired of winter and they remind me that something else is coming. Beauty, right around the corner.
This year, though, I overdid it. Instead of three bulbs in a china pot in the window I had bushels of them. Wide, shallow pots that showed off masses of flowers instead of a simple few. And they were perfect! Encouraged by the warmth of my house, they burst into glorious bloom all at once.
Within an hour I knew it was a mistake. It smelled like someone emptied a bottle of perfume on the floor. My son ran choking through the room. “Mom. Get rid of that SMELL!”
I moved most of them outside, but the perfume lingers. They come to mind as I read from the Canticle of Sirach:
Listen, my faithful children: open up your petals,
Like roses planted near running waters;
Send up the sweet odor of incense,
Break forth in blossoms like the lily.
Send up the sweet odor of your hymn of praise;
Bless the Lord for all he has done! (39:13-14)
It’s not known what the “lily” is in this verse (the Hebrew — shushan, shoshannah — means “whiteness”) but this song could easily be describing the paperwhites in my kitchen with their “sweet odor” and the way they “break forth into blossoms.” Even their strong upright habit suggests a hymn of praise.
“Listen, my faithful children: open up your petals…”
This is addressed to me. It’s addressed to you. Our Heavenly Father wants us to “open our petals” and send up praise to him. Exposed to the warmth of his love, like those flowers to the warmth of my kitchen, we should “break forth” in “blossoms” of blessing, in singing and praise to our God.
“Proclaim the greatness of his name,” Sirach continues:
Loudly sing his praises,
With music on the harp and all stringed instruments;
sing out with joy as you proclaim:
The works of God are all of them good” (39:15-16)
As I ponder this and look at my blooming narcissus, it hits me: like them, I can’t stay confined in my living room, singing my praises to God just in private. I can sing and give thanks here, of course, and I should. But praising God only here, day after day without taking it outside to the world, the fragrance of my prayer might build up to an odor. It needs to be exposed to the air and the wind, to be sent out to bless others. Praise is meant to be heard. Hymns are meant to be shared.
“If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”
I ask something like that of my praise.
“Sing out with joy as you proclaim: the works of God are all of them good,” Sirach tells us. A proclamation, by definition, goes out to the world. It is loud. It is open. It’s meant to be heard by all.
If me praising God is like a bulb breaking forth in bloom and sending up incense – that incense is meant not only to go “up” to bless God, it’s also meant to go “out” so others can catch a whiff of the sweetness of the goodness of the Lord.
God, help me “open up my petals.” Help me praise you and proclaim your goodness where the wind of the Spirit can carry its fragrance to the world!
© 2016 Sarah Christmyer