Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste and Touch

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Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste and Touch

  • Gérard de Lairesse - Allegory of the Five Senses

“Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste and Touch”

(reminder-links to both God and His message)

by Lois Donahue

We have all heard it said that God works in “mysterious” ways and, quite often, He certainly does. However, it seems equally true that there are also many times when the “way” He works with us is both simple and obvious.

Think about it…think of Jesus and the people of His day. The way He talked to them – the way He taught them. For example, when He wanted them to know how important each of them was to “the Father”, He spoke to them of sparrows, saying that not one sparrow has “escaped the notice of God” (Lk. 12:6) and therefore they should “not be afraid” because to God “you are worth more than many sparrows” (Mt. 10:29 Lk. 12:6-7).

He called their attention to flowers, which neither “toil nor spin”, and yet they are “clothed” by God in such beauty and then adds the assuring words in the form of this question, “will He not much more provide for you….?” (Lk. 12:28) Most likely after that, whenever they saw a sparrow or a flower we can well imagine of what they were reminded.

Also when He spoke of Himself as their “shepherd” (Jn. 10) — told them to follow Him — that He would willingly give up His life for them, don’t you imagine from then on whenever they heard a sheep bleating, His message would come back to them? Again, when He called them “the salt of the earth” and added that should salt “lose its flavor” – in other words, if they would not both exemplify and spread His message, they would be as useless as flavorless salt (Mt. 5:13.) Strong words but very likely words which would echo in their mind each time they tasted salt.

To personalize these thoughts just a bit let’s zero in on some familiar individuals and try to imagine how the same kind of simple reminders might have stirred their memories. The most obvious of course, is Peter. After the crucifixion what must have crossed his mind each time he heard the sound of a cock crowing? (Lk. 22:60). And then, too, there was the “steward/headwaiter” at the Cana wedding (Jn. 2:1). Having learned of the “water-made-wine” miracle, don’t you imagine he was reminded of it whenever he again tasted wine?

Finally, I don’t imagine it took a great length of time for the paralytic whom Jesus cured (Mk. 2:1-12) to take for granted his ability to walk; but up until the time that he did, he must have been reminded of Jesus each time he felt the miraculous sensation of walking. And let us not forget Mary Magdalene. I’ll bet for the rest of her life whenever she smelled “nard” she thought about the time she was being reprimanded by Judas for not selling this “costly perfumed oil” and giving the money to the poor instead of using it to anoint the feet of Jesus, and Jesus Himself defended her with these words, “leave her alone.” (Jn. 12:3-7)

Well — combining my title, my underlining and the thoughts I have already passed along, I guess it’s pretty much apparent where I’m headed — so here goes —

Since part of God’s creative plan was to give us the ability to see, hear, smell, taste and touch everyday things, it would seem that our five human senses must have been meant to serve a purpose in our relationship with Him. The incidents from the past which I mentioned above, convinced me that was true and, consequently, I believe the Holy Spirit continues to provide such “sense-conscious” reminders for us today. Naming them all would take hours and fill volumes so I’ll hardly scratch the surface by mentioning just a few very obvious architectural confines of most any of our churches.

For instance, we see the lighted Sanctuary Lamp which tells us that Jesus is present for us in the Tabernacle. We see the Stations of the Cross and the Crucifix which remind us of the agonizing price paid for our redemption. We see doors which invite us to enter and confess our sins to God through His priest and thus they are visible reminders of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.

During Mass we hear inspired words from Holy Scripture. We hear music played and sung in acknowledgment of the existence of a loving, powerful God. At times we can hear prayers being said aloud by a group expressing their shared devotion to God, or His mother or one of His saints.

On occasion we can smell incense remaining after Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. We might smell the flowers around the statue of Mary still fragrant from a recent May Crowning or, if we are there during the Easter Season, we might smell a bit of lingering smoke from the Paschal Candle which reminds us of Jesus, our Savior, the Light of the World.

We can feel the touch of ashes on our forehead reminding us “we are dust and to dust we will return.” We can feel the touch of Holy Water on our finger when we dip it into the font and then our forehead as we begin the Sign of the Cross acknowledging our belief in the Blessed Trinity. One by one we can feel the touch of beads as we say our Rosary.

In reality, what we are given to taste in the Church is obviously limited and I am inclined to think that may be intentionally true in order to magnify the importance of what we can taste and that is the bread-taste of Christ’s Body and the wine-taste of His Blood.

Of course, as I’ve said, these offer only a small sampling of the reminders of God — given us to experience through our human senses. Unfortunately, the longer we are exposed to such things the more apt we are to take them for granted…or be inclined to forget just what God might have intended them to be. Oh, I’m sure God doesn’t expect us to spend every thinking moment trying to decipher in depth the “reminder” message in everything that crosses our “sense-awareness” path…(having created us, He knows better than that)…but I think He might hope we would remain open to letting these instant memory-pricks keep us connected to Him.

Someone once complained that we Catholics not only do not understand the language of the Church, we don’t even recognize it. Perhaps sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches may be a kind of “sign language” and in some small way may help us maintain our understanding of at least some of the wonderful truths God is calling to our attention through our five senses.

As usual, it has taken me a great many words to speak of only a few church-contained “reminders” so let me compensate by taking a closing moment to offer a thought which hopefully might encourage all of us to extend our “reminder” boundaries far beyond the church walls.

When we — see creation in either the daylight or at night hear creation when in whispers or when it roars smell creation either in the fragrance of its reoccurring bloom or in the stench of its temporary death taste creation in the life-sustaining abundance of both its harvest and variety touch another human’s hand and feel creation’s gifts of love, trust and strength

— let us be reminded of our powerful Creator

— let us be reminded of our loving God.