About crying in church

Image: Statue of Jesus with tear, Brasiliao / Shutterstock.comA short meditation from Richard Rohr to begin this post:

“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)?


“Progress,” it may take a very long time

Saw this today during my time of prayer and meditation. Traveling with my own griefs, and walking with those willing to share their grieving, the words of Chardin affirm what we are all learning:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

This was posted on Facebook by “God in All Things

On grieving: thoughts from Amy

 It is not only the most difficult thing to know oneself,
but the most inconvenient one, too.

–H.W. Shaw via Amy (in China)

Grieving, as many of you know well, is very personal. We grieve losses in unique ways. On top of that, each loss—itself unique across a spectrum of not-so-important to how-can-I-go-on important—calls forth a very different (and personal) response. Amy (an American living in China) begins an April 2013 post about pre- and post- grieving (and why it matters) this way:

The two-sided coin for relationships when you live overseas is that you get to meet a lot of wonderful people but you find that they rotate in and out of your life more so than the average person living in America.  For the most part I have been the one staying with others going. Years ago, I was preparing to return to the States for a three year stint. Coincidentally, my dear friends were doing the exact same thing, departing for three years.  Having someone going down such a parallel path was a rarity and provided an interesting and unintended “emotional” laboratory as my friend Anne and I reacted so differently to the upcoming return to the US.

As the months went by and the move became more eminent I cried during some of our conversations while Anne never shed a tear (I’m not just being dramatic in my retelling, she literally never cried, in stark contrast to the Tissue Queen, aka me, so I noticed). Anne and her family were leaving a few days before I would and had invited a Chinese friend and me over for dinner the last night in their home. Xiao Wu, a guy in his mid-20’s, and I couldn’t stop the tears. I’m sure you’re getting the picture that this was a really fun meal, she commented sarcastically.

What struck me is that again, Anne didn’t cry. I knew she’d miss me. Well, I thought she’d miss me. I certainly hoped she’d missed me and that our friendship had impacted her in some way that would lead her to grieve that we wouldn’t be a part of one another’s daily lives for a while. Was it too much to ask for one, small tear? Just one?

Intrigued? Want to know how she and her friend, Anne, did? Want a little clue into your own (very personal) way of grieving and how it may intersect and interact with other (very personal) ways of grieving? Read Amy’s post: How to know if you are pre- or post-griever (and why it matters)

When you check out her blog, The Messy Middle: Where Grace and Truth Reside, be sure to read the back story about the blog header: The back story

Do you know this grief?

You are not alone. We honor you, too.

In the midst of all the (well deserved) cheer and hype for mothers on Mother’s Day there is another truth too often hidden because it is painful and pain makes us uncomfortable (so we pretend it isn’t there and keep mostly silent). This post is a small attempt to say “Open your eyes. Open your hearts. Share your love.”

Open your eyes and hearts to women like “…your cousin in Houston whose fertility treatments are failing, your next-door neighbor who had a stillbirth three years ago, or your grandmother who lost a child but could never bring herself to tell anyone about it. For all these women, their hoped-for child comes regularly to mind, and each one will cry on [Mother’s Day] in a way that surprises her.” —Serena Jones, a woman who remembers a longed-for child on every Mother’s Day. She begins her remarks this way:

This Sunday morning, my daughter will make her annual bedside delivery of a “For Mom” greeting card. What fun to guess what sort of handwritten promises she might include: an always-clean bedroom, perhaps, or 365 kisses? Whatever she says or does, I know I’ll give her a big hug, and get misty-eyed.

Fifteen years ago, however, my tears were bitter. In fact, I woke up on Mother’s Day of 1995 and couldn’t get out of bed. I hated the thought of motherhood. In fact, I probably hated all mothers.

My wretched state back then had nothing to do with my own mother. Rather, it was caused by a feeling of personal failure, and a sense that my own body had betrayed me. Only four days earlier I had miscarried a much-wanted, seventeen-week pregnancy. Just as I’d begun to grasp and even revel in the reality of new life, this thrilling possibility ended. Suddenly, I wasn’t “expecting” anymore. The grief felt unbearable.

Worst Expectations by Serena Jones

If you, or someone you love, someone you know, someone you work with, play with, or worship with are touched by this unique loss, this ‘unbearable grief,’ please read the rest of Serena’s (2010) post,Worst Expectations. Her’s is the compelling voice of experience … and hope.

An Additional Online Resource

Saying Goodbye (SG): “Saying Goodbye is a charity offering Support & Services, for anyone who has lost a baby in pregnancy, at birth or in early years.” It’s Mission is “To offer support to all those who need it – whether they have personally lost a baby or are supporting someone who has lost.”

Finally: A Saying Goodbye Film | Every Baby Matters | Spoken Word —

Let us pray for, and love, ALL Mother’s, especially those who are grieving, on Mother’s Day.

A prayer for those who grieve

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 18 TNIV

A divider

At times, while grieving is intense (which may be any time or all the time or at surprising times) words of prayer may be elusive. Here are some words you may use, here are some words you may ask others to use for you:

Living God, we rejoice in your promises of blessing to those who die in the Lord; so strengthen our understanding of the light and peace which they now enjoy in Christ, that we may find consolation in our sorrow, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. —A Prayer Book for New Zealand

Change the pronoun from ‘we’ to ‘I’ and ‘our’ to ‘my’, use other words inspired by this prayer, stop and rest in the opening words, “Living God” and let the Spirit cry out from your heart to God’s heart for you as you stay quiet. Let the Spirit guide you.

Cold Comfort: a poem

Looking up into the sky through branches

One of the bloggers I follow, Diane Walker, posted this on April 18:

The kind words said,
The tender hands
Rest briefly on mahogany,
The hard men come
In their t-shirts and their caps
To drop you here
To rest beside the ashes
Of your love.
The die is cast,
The dirt and flowers
Thrown into the pit,
The carpet rolled away.
The wailing imprecations
Of the lost and the bereft resound,
Awakening responses in my heart
Too harsh to bear.
How does Diane end her poem?
Find out: Cold Comfort on her blog Contemplative Photography.

Image: Diane Walker on Contemplative Photography

A note to those who weep this day, this night

Even in retirement I encounter the sorrows of the world in notes and calls almost every day. A long time friend dies rather unexpectedly, a long battle with cancer ends in the death of the body of a man who surely had more to share with us, grandpa dies just short of his 100th birthday and I am called or informed. Add to these calls the calls about pets who die, sometimes peacefully after a long and beautiful life, sometimes violently, and their is plenty to grieve.

Beyond the personal there is always, “the news.” Though I didn’t know Roger Ebert, Margaret Thatcher, or Annette Funicello personally, each had an impact (positive) on my life. I mourn their deaths. All these losses, and more, are shared with me along with lots of questions and requests for prayers.

As I pray today for those who are intensely grieving I share part of an email that arrived some time ago. it continues to speak to my heart. To those who weep this day, this night, this week I offer the words of Richard Rohr:

St. Ephraem [Syrian theologian, d. 373] 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. From Radical Grace

Let the knowledge of God come to you in your tears; don’t try to put words on the knowledge, just experience the tears in your loss and rest in the arms of God who has promised to wipe away all our tears (Isaiah 25:6-9)