FRAGRANCE: (noun) a pleasant, sweet smell . scent . perfume . aroma . bouquet
This week we have a well-known, easily-recognized word. Fragrance carries its own aroma; it appeals to our senses. Some people, both male and female, are perfume aficionados. For them, the perfume counter in department stores is a favorite spot when they go shopping. Even those who aren’t buying anything linger there, attracted by its particular ambiance; they try out the testers and sample their allure. The perfume industry today is huge, but ancient peoples loved their essences too. Archaeologists have discovered that Egyptians were big fans of perfume.
Hieroglyphics in Egyptian tombs have revealed that people were making perfumes as far back as 3,000 B.C. when Egyptian priests, believed to be the fathers of modern perfume, used aromatic resins to cover up the smell of their sacrificial offerings. They ground up ingredients such as myrrh, sweet rush, wine, and juniper to create the desired fragrance. Celebrities today do something similar to make what is often called their signature fragrance. The pharaohs and the high priests of Egypt were buried in fragrant tombs. It is said that the scents floated out when archaeologists opened the tombs in 1897. Famous beauty queen Cleopatra is believed to have had her ship rubbed down with fragrant oils. Starting with the Egyptians, there has always been a trade in scents. Curiously, their use declined in early Christian times, but they again became popular in the medieval period, and by 2008, perfume had become a $10 billion industry. Today many women have a fragrance collection of up to six different kinds of perfume, with one reserved for special occasions.
We may not have thought about it, but, as one writer has observed, we all exude a fragrance from our lives. I don’t think a sweet aroma emanates from everybody’s life, but a large number of people fairly burst with fragrant scents by the very things they do and say. Loveliness surrounds them, and their life’s deeds compel us to draw near and inhale the resulting atmosphere. Take, for instance, the Florida woman who opened up her home to strangers–about 50 of them–after the devastation of Hurricane Michael in 2018. She allowed them to set up tents and other kinds of shelter on her property. They used her kitchen and her bathrooms. It must have been quite an inconvenience for her. Twenty of those displaced people remain living on her premises, and she still seems happy to be helping them. When a reporter asked why she does this, she said she wants to share with those in need, and those in need have nothing but praise for her. Daily they experience her powerful fragrance.
Not everyone has the same intensity of fragrance. For some, it’s a mild sweetness that matches their unassuming personality. Such was the case of my dear friend Lona, who died earlier this year. She was a quiet, lovely, gentle woman. Her giving, selfless life had the delicate scent of roses, whose aroma flowed out to others in her letters, cards, and telephone calls that were greatly appreciated. For others, it’s a bold, spicy scent like that of a friend of mine who is thoughtful, witty and has a wild sense of humor that makes others laugh and feel less “heavy-laden” after talking with him. Or it may be like the gentle scent of spring flowers that floats about my neighbor, who speaks softly and sincerely, and is always willing to help others, doing so with a smile anytime a need arises.
Each of us gives to the world that which God puts in our hearts, and it becomes rich with Christ’s essence. The resulting actions bless the world so that friends, family members, colleagues—all who interact with us— delight in the fragrance of our presence.
“A perfume is like a piece of clothing—a message, a way of presenting oneself.”