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)?

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When I read this …

… I first thought of those I love but see no longer. Written by Steven Charleston, a (retired) Bishop of the Episcopal Church it seems intended for someone yet living. I chided myself a little before thinking that I have friends, coworkers, loved ones, now dead, who are still living and still guiding and still giving me good example. I do indeed find them just around the corner. I do indeed find them inspiring me still.

I speak these words to them who accompany me along the way; ‘saints in light’ and ever present to me in the Communion of Saints. Perhaps you know someone to whom you can speak these words?

Begin-quotex7152Just when I think things have gotten so bad that there is very little room left for faith in this world, I turn a corner and there you are, still smiling, still believing, still trying to make a difference. You inspire me.

And that thought alone should be a blessing: that you are a source of inspiration. For me. For others. For all who know you. You are a living witness to what a human life can be when lived in a sacred way. Even when the going gets hard, you never let go of your vision. I want you to know how much that means to those of us who follow your example.”

The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Choctaw, 4/9/2013
on Facebook: Native American/Indigenous Ministries of the Episcopal Church

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)

Beyond Physical Death

While this Blog is primarily about dying, death (in the usual sense of death of the body)  and grieving–with Hope, I intend, from time to time, to deal with those “deaths” which are not the physiological death of the body. A similar dynamic of dying, death, and grieving occurs in the loss of a job, the end of a relationship–especially a marriage, the loss or change in a relationship to “Mom” or “Dad,” even moving from home or the city of birth. Losses come in many forms.

As we celebrate “Fathers’ Day” in America, I offer a reflection from the Series “This I Believe.” John Fountain, the author, begins,

I believe in God. Not that cosmic, intangible spirit-in-the-sky that Mama told me as a little boy “always was and always will be.” But the God who embraced me when Daddy disappeared from our lives — from my life at age four — the night police led him away from our front door, down the stairs in handcuffs.

Midway through his essay he states

I believe in God, the God who I have come to know as father, as Abba — Daddy

I invite you to read his whole essay. For those of you who similarly grieve the loss of “father” whether because of physical death, circumstances such as John describes, or in other circumstances, I pray that you will find, as John did, “the God who embraces” you, God as “father, as Abba–Daddy.”

The God who embraced me when Daddy disappeared — an essay by John Fountain, Olympia Fields, IL, in the Series “This I Believe”