Sermon by by St. Augustine the Bishop
Lest men should deem that it was but by an ocular delusion that they had seen him arise from the dead, Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table. He lived therefore, spake, and ate; to the manifestation of the truth, and the confusion of the unbelieving Jews. Jesus, then, sat down to meat with Lazarus and others, and Martha, being one of Lazarus' sisters, served. But Mary, Lazarus' other sister, took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. We have now heard that which was done; let us search out the mystic meaning thereof.
Whosoever thou art that wilt be a faithful soul, seek with Mary to anoint the feet of the Lord with costly ointment. This ointment was a figure of justice, and therefore is said to have been a pound thereof. The word Pistikes used by the Evangelist as the name of this ointment, we must believe to be that of some place, from which this costly perfume was imported. Neither is this name meaningless for us, but agreeth well with our mystic interpretation, since Pístis is the Greek word which signifieth Faith, and whosoever will do justice must know that the just shall live by faith. Anoint therefore, the feet of Jesus by thy good life, following in the marks which those feet of the Lord have traced. Wipe his feet likewise with thy hair; that is, if thou have aught which is not needful to thee, give it to the poor; and then thou hast wiped the feet of Jesus with thy hair, that is, with that which thou needest not, and which is therefore to thee as is hair, being a needless out-growth to the body. Here thou hast what to do with that which thou needest not. To thee it is needless, but the Lord's feet have need of it; yea, the feet which the Lord hath on earth are sorely needy.
For of whom save of his members, will he say at the latter day: Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. That is, ye have spent nothing save that which ye needed not, but ye have ministered unto my feet. And the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. That is, the fragrance of your good example filleth the world; for this odour is a figure of reputation. They which are called Christians, and yet live bad lives, cast a slur on Christ: and it is even such as they unto whom it is said: The Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you. But if, through such, the Name of God be blasphemed, through the godly is praise ascribed to the Same his Holy Name, as the Apostle doth likewise say: In every place we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ.