National Fragrance Day is Sunday, March 21. I’m guessing most Americans don’t know that. (I didn’t until I wrote this article). The day may gain a greater appreciation after a year of living with a pandemic which impacts the sense of smell for most of those affected.
Fragrances have mental and physical benefits and can transport us back in time to childhood memories or remind us of people we love (or not). According to the Fragrance Day promo, we can replace bad smell with good: “Although everyone can’t agree on their favorite smell, we all recognize universally bad ones. When everyone plays their part on National Fragrance Day, stink is overpowered—and that’s something we can breathe easy about.”
But, for people who lost their sense of smell due to COVID-19, that may be impossible to do. “I have never not been able to smell, it’s something you rely on in your everyday life,” said Bo Anderson, a junior at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. He is participating in a smell-training clinical trial at the university’s School of Medicine, which provides hope for people who have not regained their sense of smell after contracting COVID-19.
Dr. Jay Piccirillo, a professor and researcher who led the study, said, “What we’re hearing from our patients who are suffering from the long-haul symptoms of COVID related to smell and taste is it’s not only a decrease in quality of life, but it’s the safety they’re concerned about.” He said the loss of smell means not being able to smell gas, rotten food, or even a dirty diaper, all things we take for granted.
Piccirillo has studied smell loss for years, but his research team had struggled to recruit enough participants–until the pandemic. His research team is among the first in the country to test the “smell-training” therapy on COVID-19 patients. For more on the study, see “COVID Survivors Hope Experimental Therapy Will Help Them Learn To Smell Again.”
If the therapy works, trial participants can enjoy a new “scent of the year” for 2021. One major candle manufacturer designed a new fragrance, “Discovery,” to “help people fulfill the universal desire to discover new cultures, make new memories, and embrace new connections from the comforts of their own homes.” The candle includes fruity and spicy scents, including guava nectar, tangelo, orange, red ginger, peach, cardamom, vanilla spice and saffron.
Become “the aroma of Christ”
Until the pandemic, I had not given much thought to the various fragrances which greeted me every day. I was aware of pleasant aromas and rancid smells, and very little in between.
But after learning the loss of smell was the prevalent symptom of the pandemic, I became acutely aware of all smells. And it reminded me daily to thank God for the ability to smell.
When I wear my favorite perfume, I invariably get compliments about smelling good. But when my husband or grandchildren comment, it motivates me to use the scent more often to please them.
There is also an aroma that is pleasing to God that I desire to exude.
In the Old Testament, offerings or sacrifices were described as a pleasing aroma to God (Genesis 8:20–21; Exodus 29:18, 25, 41). In the New Testament, Jesus was described as a fragrant offering which we are to emulate: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).
The Apostle Paul instructs believers to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). And in doing so, we become “the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).
Another way we become a pleasing aroma to God is through our prayers. The psalmist says, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (Psalm 141:2).
The prayers of the saints are precious to the Lord, as described by Revelation 5:8: “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” We can know God hears and answers the prayers of his saints and treasures them as incense.
COVID-19 may destroy the sense of smell for a time, but nothing can dull the pleasing aroma of Christ we create in this world with our offerings, sacrifice, and prayers.
What aroma will you create for God?