I’m not the man I used to be: In October 2021, the thief Covid stole both taste and smell, and interfered with my hearing. Since then—a year and counting—my senses no longer supply me with the joys of tasting, smelling, and hearing well. Life has lost some of its savor. The senses help us against attack and to discern good from bad, safe from threat. But more than a thing of the senses in a material world, I am an incarnate spiritual being, and I refuse to let this sense deprivation interfere with God’s gifts of the sacramental. “O taste, and see that the Lord is sweet: blessed is the man that hopeth in him” (Ps. 33:9, Douay-Rheims); [“Gustate et videte quoniam suavis est Dominus; beatus vir qui sperat in eo.”]
Man in his sinful state does not know God’s flavor: “In order, therefore, to delineate in vivid coloring the misery of our condition, the Sacred Scripture compares us to those who have lost their sense of taste and who, in consequence, loathe wholesome food, and prefer that which is unwholesome” (The Catechism of the Council of Trent, TAN Books, 571).
Holy Mother Church, through the agency of her bishops, is duty-bound to save souls and nourish the sheep of the Christian flock. Thief Covid didn’t just steal from me, but partnered with bad shepherds to commit larceny on an unprecedented scale.
For two millennia and through various storms of persecution and obstacles, the Church sought to feed her children with the Bread from Heaven (the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ); but, during the “pandemic,” many parishes closed their doors to the faithful, honoring the laws of man rather than the divine mandate of Heaven. The faithful were abandoned during the pandemic and made to fast from receiving the Lord. The gospel of “safety” replaced the unsafe Gospel of Jesus Christ. Under those circumstances we may no longer taste and see. Whom can we trust? The masked? Masks have been the tool of actors, thieves, and Freemasons. Under erstwhile public health restrictions, we can neither taste nor smell while masked.
That also means we no longer taste the rotten flavors of sin or smell its stench. Taste helps us in the natural realm to detect foods that are bad in some way, either due to toxins or because of spoilage. Because of my own loss of taste, I worry I may not realize if something I eat is bad, even more so because my sense of smell is diminished. What if the milk I pour on my cereal has soured? The lessons apply to spiritual tasting: Eve and Adam ate of the fruit, and it was the death of them and their offspring and a rupture with God their loving Creator. In their case, taste and see was true. They ate and their eyes were opened in new—though certainly not better—ways. Such is the result of disobedient tasting.
Imagine receiving an invitation to a wedding—even the holy wedding banquet of scripture—and being unable to properly taste and savor the proffered food. And what about following a tantalizing smell to its source in a kitchen?
Smell is also a strong link for memory. For example, I was once working at a library, shelving books, when I could smell cigarettes and beer wafting from a man perusing books nearby. More than that, the cigarette smell was of unfiltered Camels, the kind my grandfather smoked, and I was transported to Pop’s presence and all that went with it: the Zane Grey and Louis Lamour books, a worn recliner, and gumdrops. If the smell of tobacco is so evocative, how much more redolent of the Heaven we yearn for is liturgical incense, rising to Our Lord?
All the senses are at work in the Christian life. Faith comes by hearing: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” But we are deaf. Or, if we do hear, we listen to the wrong ones speaking the wrong words. Instead of “well done, good and faithful servant,” we may well hear “ill done, bad and faithless serpent.”
In extreme cases of spiritual sense deprivation we may become a kind of leper, losing our ability to spiritually feel and touch and discern, preferring to dull our senses by wrongly directing them. God gave us the senses to protect ourselves and to properly enjoy worldly goods, always giving thanks to Him for them and never putting the created on the same level as the uncreated. Instead of allowing ourselves to become jaded, we should properly appreciate our senses as contributing to a growing appetite for our intended home—Heaven.
God is not afraid. Taste, He says. Touch, Christ tells Thomas. He touches (and spits!) to heal. But do not be deceived, Jesus warns. Wolves can dress in sheepskins, and the adversary can appear good to our eyes. Only in Our Savior’s presence—especially at the foot of the Cross, and protected by His blood—are we safe from those I call the alchemists and their attempted deception of pretending to change one thing (like a base metal) into another (like gold). The alchemists would deceive our senses, but Our Savior and Redeemer strips off the masks to reveal the sense-defying truth. And only there in the presence of Truth do we get a full foretaste of eternity in bliss. Taste and see that the Lord is good.