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Halving toil and trouble

“Here’s the smell of blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh. Oh. Oh!”

Lady Macbeth speaks the truth. All the botanical powers of a frankincense forest cannot mask the smell of guilt. It is like the armpit of an old shirt when the humidity rises. The sweaty-scent makes an unwelcome return, and will not take its leave.

How hard it is to pacify a troubled conscience. Shakespeare’s Scottish lady had caught a glimpse of power, and reached for it with a deadly blade, but found that the guilt of her deeds could not be washed so easily from her hands as the physical blood of innocent men. And now she was haunted and could find no remedy.

Is there one? Is there relief from blood-guilt, or does the stain of sin run too deeply?

There is a cure, but it lies beyond the arts of the old bard. There is a perfume that will not just sweeten the hand but also quiet the heart, but it does not come from Arabia. Nor is it to be found in a witch’s brew with the ‘eye of a newt and the toe of a frog’. Nor is it to be found in the pure waters that flow from Scottish crags.

The grace-giving fragrance that we need is to be found in a courageous deed that bloodied the hands of Him who did it: ‘Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.’ And what shall we say, but “Oh. Oh. Oh! What amazing love and grace!”

DM 26th October 2016

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