Chapter 12 – Tears, pp. 215-228

Blessings to you, my companions in prayer and struggle. May the Lord Jesus be with us as we enter yet another chapter of deep mystery.

In this chapter, entitled simply, “Tears”, Fr. Matta writes of experiences that largely exceed my personal understanding. His words and those he quotes from the great ascetics, stand as beacons in the darkness clouding my vision.

I do not know how well I can write on such a topic but I will begin and see where God leads me.

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In this world, tears are seldom valued. Often, when people cry before me in my professional life, they apologize for their “weakness”. Even when the cause for weeping is universally understandable, there seems to be some shame in not “holding up” or “coping well”.

Frequently these tears are “worldly” tears, tears of depression, loss or despair but seldom are they of the “trivial” type about which Fr. Matta warns us.

Regardless of the explicit trigger, often people weep before me because they no longer know who they are – or perhaps they never have never known. These are tears of anguish. Though not the spiritual tears that are the subject of this chapter, I do not doubt that they too “enter into the presence of the Almighty and speak to him”.

As I read this segment in our book, it became clear to me that I have not wept nearly enough – or at least not for the right reasons.

I have cried many worldly tears in my life, occasionally the tears of anguish I now have the privilege of gathering from others.

But many more times I have cried out of anger or complaint.

I have cried when I have felt overworked, insulted, unappreciated. I have wept over perceived unfairness or loss of attention. I have shed tears when I felt shame and feared another’s judgment.

In other words, I have cried more because of my sinfulness rather than out of my sorrow for my sinfulness.

Pride and selfishness have more often brought me to tears than compunction or spiritual joy.

So I am a beginner. I have not yet learned how to “forsake the things of this world” in order to proceed “in the hidden life of the spirit”.

But I do not chide myself over this. To do so would just be another manifestation of pride: “Alas, I am but a beginner when I ought to be among the advanced!”

Being content with being a beginner is part of knowing that I am but a child before Almighty God. And, like my friend, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, I do not need to be afraid – for I know my Father is loving with those of us who are so very small.

But what of these tears of which Fr. Matta writes, these tears that flowed unceasingly from the eyes of great saints?

They are one of His gifts – and thus cannot be brought about by our own efforts and are not a sign of our distinction above others. He gives His gifts as He sees fit. We are not to seek them.

Then why devote an entire chapter to them?

Simply because they are an aspect of the spiritual life for us to understand, whether in ourselves or others.

Has anyone ever taught you about them before? Certainly no one has taught me. Without understanding, the likelihood increases that I will fall into yet more sin instead of maturing in faith, should this gift come to me or someone I encounter.

Hence, I need to learn of these tears, so that if/when they erupt in response to a glimpse given me of the depth of my sinfulness, I will appreciate how they will help cleanse and purify me.

Or, if some wondrous grace should overwhelm me to the point of weeping, I will embrace these tears with neither pride nor shame.

It may also happen one day that my heart will see, in a moment of clarity, the immensity of the sin and suffering in our world. As the tears flow down my cheeks, I will know to whisper prayers of gratitude that the Savior has allowed me to share in His heart’s breaking.

Yes, I am but a beginner, a child before God.

So I pray to Him to take me by the hand and lead me to wherever He wants me to go. To grant me the wisdom and strength to follow.

And, when we arrive at the Cross, where all the sorrows and joys converge, surely there my tears will flow.

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(Thanks be to Him who leads me…Comments are welcome as always.)

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2 thoughts on “Chapter 12 – Tears, pp. 215-228

  1. I thought the first three paragraphs of that chapter were beautiful. And profound — in a poetic (maybe even noetic?) sense.

    Sadly, I haven’t cried much. And if I do, it’s awkward because so uncontrolled, explosive. Like many boys, I learned not to cry. Later, from soap operas as well as philosophy classes, I learned to be suspicious of tears.

    I don’t think I saw a male friend cry until I was in my 30s. We were traveling together, when he learned that his mother had died. She had been sick, and he knew what I coming, buthought he would have more time with her. He didn’t cry until we got to the airport and the ticket person asked why he needed an emergency flight. His answer was quiet and controlled, but I saw tears sliding down slowly, one at a time. Until then, I hadn’t realized that crying need’nt be convulsive. Men don’t have to lose face when they cry. I still haven’t learned to express sorrow, anger, disappointment, sadness, or even joy that way. My loss.

    But reading Father Matta’s introductory paragraphs helped me recognize the mystery and humanity, even divinity–if understood properly, of tears. So thanks, Mary, for taking us through the book. I would never have made it thus far on my own.

  2. Al,

    Your words are very true – those first 3 paragraphs are especially beautiful and give us a sense of the sacredness of this “language”.

    I didn’t give the full quote above. Here it is: “Tears draw the scorn of the stonehearted, but they melt the merciful heart. But why should we care about the hearts of men? Tears have a higher honor; they enter into the presence of the Almighty and speak to him”.

    And yet many of us DO care about the reactions of others. Men are especially plagued by this, having typically been socialized not to cry. But I think this is becoming increasingly common among women – as they have entered the workforce, they don’t want to be viewed as weaker than men and therefore less suitable to serve in important roles. So more and more people are swallowing their tears.

    I find that there are few select people that I feel safe crying in front of. Tears make one feel very vulnerable. In a sense, they are “humiliating”. But, of course, in God’s hands, humiliation can give birth to humility.

    The language of humility is one that God is especially attuned to (“a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn” Psalm 51:19). It is no wonder that many of the saints and holy people shed their tears so readily before God and His people – they embrace the humiliation rather than strive to avoid it. Hmm…something to be learned here.

    Thanks for pushing me into further reflection.

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