“Happy are those who weep. They shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:5)
On the men’s retreats now we speak of “grief work.” A very different kind of work for men! There is undoubtedly a therapeutic, healing meaning to tears. Is not weeping, in fact, necessary? To understand? To let go? To enter in? But Jesus is also describing the state of those who have something to weep about, who feel the pain of the world. He’s saying, those who can grieve, who can cry, are those who will give comfort and compassion to the world.
The Syrian Fathers Ephraem and Simeon understood tears. The Greek Fathers of the Church tended to filter the gospel through the head. The Syrians, like today’s feminist theologians, find the gospel much more localized in the body. The Syrian Fathers wanted tears, in effect, to be a sacrament in the Church. And St. Ephraem goes so far as to say, “Until you have cried, you don’t know God.” How different! We think we know God through ideas! But this is body theology: Weeping, wiping away the tears (Luke 7:38), anointing bodies for death (Mark 14:3-9), perhaps will allow you to know God much better than concepts and orthodox formulas.
Jesus claims the weeping class: The forgotten, the voiceless, the rejected will understand, he seems to say. —Richard Rohr in Radical Grace
Weeping, wiping away the tears (Luke 7:38) perhaps will allow you to know God much better than concepts and orthodox formulas
I continue this post with a short quote from an essay by Mallory McDuff in Sojourners (followed by a recommendation):
A Southerner by birth and the daughter of an Episcopal priest, my mother always told me that church was the best place to cry. I remember her eyes filling with tears at the beauty of a hymn, the elegance of the liturgy, or the sadness of a season. As a child, I didn’t have to understand. I just had to sit by her side in the pew—and watch her muddle through.
I commend her essay, “Why I cry in church,” to you. I commend the power and mystery of tears to you. What are your experiences, favorite quotes, wisdom about tears (in church or anywhere)?