Sunday, January 23, 2022


The Smell of Christ

Tom Holland, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World (New York: Basic Books, 2019), p. 151, with note on p. 553:
In an age when there existed no surer marker of wealth than to be freshly bathed and scented, Paulinus hailed the stench of the unwashed as 'the smell of Christ'.23

23. Ibid. [Paulinus, Letters] 22.2.
But Paulinus, in the passage cited, seems to be talking about bad breath, rather than about the body odor of the unwashed. See the translation of P.G. Walsh:
The appearance, disposition, and smell of such monks cause nausea in people for whom the odour of death is as the odour of life, who regard the bitter as sweet, the chaste as foul, the holy as hateful. So it is right that we should pay them back, that their smell should be to us the odour of death, so that we do not cease to be the odour of Christ. For why should they who regard our odour as lethal be rightly angry with us if in turn their odour of life stinks in our nostrils? Marracinus finds my fasting distasteful; I cannot bear his drunkenness. He avoids the breath of a monk when he speaks; I avoid the breath of a belching Thraso. If my dry throat displeases him, I loathe his overloaded gullet. If my parched abstention annoys him, the gluttony of his belly annoys me. So I pray for visitors who are not drunk in the early morning but rather are still fasting at evening, who are not blown up with yesterday’s wine but rather are abstemious with today's, who are not crazily tottering through the drunkenness of lust but rather are healthily impaired with virtuous vigils and are drunk with sobriety, men who stagger not because of overindulgence but rather because of a meagre diet.
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