Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity.According to the Eighth Century commentator, Alcuin as quoted by St Thomas in the Catena Aurea, Bethany means House of Obedience. True obedience to the Lord, comes through love and knowledge of the Lord (which turns us completely away from sin and to a state of grace) and that night in the house in Bethany, three people so clearly demonstrated that deep knowledge and love of Our Lord. Lazarus dined with Him, Martha waited upon them and Mary anointed Him. We can quite clearly understand the timeless meaning of Lazarus and Martha; the Communion of Lazarus and Service of Martha make sense, but the anointing of the Lord by Mary, what does that mean, what does it mean to us?
Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, Which ran down to the skirt of his garment:
As the dew of Hermon, which descendeth upon mount Sion. For there the Lord hath commandeth blessing, and life for evermore.
The anointing of the Lord was a necessary one off act *, to seal the fact that He was the Christ before he underwent His Passion. Was there a priest worthy to anoint the Christ? No. Could one of the disciples have done it? Did they really understand at that moment who He was? I don't think so, Matthew's Gospel makes it clear that the disciples (not just Judas) were indignant at Mary's action. His Blessed Mother knew who he IS but she couldn't have done it, as His Mother she had to constantly let go of Him (this is Her Sorrow), she could not not claim Him. We must claim Him. The anointing is a claiming, a claiming of His sovereignty over us, a claiming of His kingship and His priesthood, and His sacrifice. The Mother of God could not do this. Mary sister of Martha, did it as an act of obedience. She knew and loved the Lord and she knew He was the Christ, and as the Christ He needed anointing. And by claiming Him, perhaps she has the right to be the first person to see Him after His Resurrection.
The anointing of the Lord gives the great High Priest to His people. They are unified. As Psalm 132 makes clear, the anointing with precious ointment is good and pleasant and an act of unity. The superfluity of oil, both running down Aaron's beard and clothing and on Mary's hair show the abundance of grace poured out on us through our unity to the great High Priest. The fragrance will penetrate where it will. The oil is the path of the Holy Spirit.
So is Mary a priest? No. As I said, no priest could anoint the great High Priest. Mary is all of us who believe and who will give abundantly and lavishly to the Lord, through our conversation with God, through our love shown in prayer.
For the laity, the communion of Lazarus and the service of Martha are not enough without the active, lavish and easily incomprehensible (to those who don't yet know Christ) worshipful prayer of their sister. The three act as a dynamic. The adult family at Bethany, the three siblings, show us a unity of action that must be in all of us if we are to build up the Body of Christ and be obedient to His commands.
For the priesthood, the descendants of the House of Aaron, Bethany ought to be a timely reminder that nothing the laity do will be sanctified unless they can represent the eternal Sacrifice as an alter Christus, hear our confessions, and feed and nourish our obedience through love and wise teaching. It was Jesus who sanctified all three siblings (an admonishing and a making of a confession of faith for Martha, a life after death for Lazarus and a forgiveness and healing for Mary) to make that evening possible. These days, Christ acts through the priesthood to do the same for us.
* I know this was the second time that he was anointed by the same woman, however, the first time, it was the lavish act of love that saved her, and now completely free from her sin, this second anointing to bring us the Christ, could take place. Well, that is how I see it anyway. Feel free to contradict....