When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”John 11:28-37
Until very recently, I have never really understood (intellectually) what it means that Jesus wept. I guess I still do not understand it!? There is an awful lot of crying happening in the above text.
In weeping Jesus is truly human – the Incarnate Word is emotionally moved by the pain and suffering of others to tears. Something in his very core is moved, he has “compassion” for people. He truly suffers with individuals – he truly feels my pain and hurt.
I remember a preacher, when I was growing up, who used to cry during his sermons. I have often thought about that and dismissed it as “emotional manipulation”. But of all the preachers I have heard in my life, why do I remember that particular one?
I pray for the gift of tears! For my sins. But most of all: for the pure love that God is showing to me in Jesus. I am not sure any of that makes sense.
I have been reading a book of devotions to the Sacred Heart written by Carthusians. Some of it is dated – and the language is a little old fashioned. But it is often filled with deep insight growing from solitude and silence. So here is the introduction to a Month with the Sacred Heart:
And, by the way, the devotions in this particular book often speak about “weeping” and “tears”. And, yes, I grew up in a culture that does not cry, especially for men, but I am starting to reconsider that from a spiritual point of view.
I have had a late start today. Nothing in particular just struggled to get going. So I have said Morning Prayer later than usual. The reading was from Matthew 12 and ended with these verses:
I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”Matthew 12:36-37
At what point does silence become a vocation versus a form of escapism? When is it a psychological problem and when is it a calling from God? Sometimes, I think, it is extremely hard to tell. And if it is a personal preference, did God put it there for Him?
I read the Cloud of Unknowing yesterday and it repeats a simple theme:
This work is fundamentally a naked intent, none other than the single-minded intention of our spirit directed to God himself alone.
So can we speak of a general vocation that is worked out in a particular context? I desire Jesus alone and He calls me to solitude and silence? The context may change but the “desire” is always the same.
I have not written on this subject for a little while. In fact, life is okay. I think I am learning to “live with it” rather than fight it. But today I found an image that I think describes what it feels like to me.
I am not much of a “gym-type person”. In fact … let’s not go there! So I was thinking that living with depression, for me, is like living on a “balance-ball”. Depression is not always about being sad – it is not always about feelings. The smallest thing, when the core strength is not there, can upset you and make you fall off. Sometimes life can seem pretty normal. But something insignificant comes along – a comment, a letter, a look – and life is out of balance and I am chasing myself.
Sometimes I am working so hard trying to stay on the ball that I cannot do anything else. I need all my energy simply to stand upright. Sometimes the ball is pretty flat and it is easier to stand – sometimes it is very full and it is hard to get any balance.
It is nice when I have people standing with me who help. It is nice to have people get me back on the ball when I fall off. But in the end, this is my life – even with medication and great counselling. Hopefully I can get some core strength!!!
I think this is the principal reason why the invisible God willed to be seen in the flesh and to converse with people as a person. He wanted to recapture the affections of carnal humanity who were unable to love in any other way, by first drawing them to the salutary love of his own humanity, and then gradually to raise them to a spiritual love.St Bernard of Clairvaux
In Michael Casey’s book on Lectio Divina, Sacred Reading, he makes the point that relationships and bonds between persons are emotional in nature. I have never really thought about that but I suspect it is very true. (Yes, very true!) In a modern context, maybe we are tempted to intellectualize relationships into common aims and common beliefs. But what bonds me to you is my feelings for you.
The above from St Bernard reminds me of Kierkegaard’s story of the king who falls in love with his servant. Love should be freely given and not forced. The Incarnation is an invitation to love on “my level”. Jesus does not force love but offers it.
Those who sow in tears ♦
shall reap with songs of joy.
I have not written for some time. I guess one day in lockdown looks very much like the next. That is not bad – just the reality of life.
So I have been thinking about the gift of tears. Yes, a somewhat weird thought. I have cried more in the last six months than the whole of my life combined. Not always spiritual, but sometimes spiritual related.
Here is a quote by Ignatius of Loyola:
As for the third point, that is, inflicting hurt upon the body for our Lord’s sake, I would completely stop any practices that could draw even a drop of blood. And if his Divine Majesty has bestowed grace upon you for this and the rest that I have mentioned (as I am convinced in his divine goodness that he has), I think that for the future (without giving reasons or arguments for it) it would be much better to give all this up and instead of seeking to draw any blood, to seek the Lord of all in a more immediate way; that is to say, his most holy gifts—for example, an infusion or drops of tears, whether (1) at our own or other people’s sins, (2) at the mysteries of Christ our Lord in this life or the next, or (3) at the consideration and love of the divine Persons. These tears have greater value and worth in proportion as the thoughts and considerations prompting them are higher.Ignatius on Prayer (1548)
Tears are signs of intense emotions. Often uncontrollable. But every tear speaks! And should we not have “intense emotions” towards Jesus? I cry during silly movies, why not during the gospel reading on Sunday? (Ok, I have cried a couple of times during sermons but that was out of frustration.)
So, final question: would you pray for the gift of tears?
This arrived today:
I have been thinking of switching to Common Worship for Morning and Evening Prayer. Also of introducing Prayer During the Day and Prayer at Night (Compline) to my daily cycle of prayer. I have only had a very brief look but I think this book will offer me a fuller office within the modern Anglican tradition. And I can use a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly psalter.
Sometimes I stumble upon things, without even trying, which makes me think God is at work.
Yesterday I stumbled across Martha Reeves who goes by the “pen-name” of Maggie Ross. Reeves is described as “a vowed Anglican solitary (or anchorite)”. She has written a number of books, not least of which is a two-volume set titled, Silence: A User’s Guide.
But it gets better! She has a blog, Voice in the Wilderness. Yes, an anchorite within the Anglican tradition who is active online. There are a number of YouTube videos of conferences she has given and an article about her life.
And here is a quote to end this post:
The Desert Fathers and Mothers tell us that we are never less alone than when we are in solitude.
I have been reading Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200-1550 by E.A. Jones. It is a collection of documents with an excellent introduction to each section. I have not read the part on hermits yet but the sections on the anchorite life are filled with amazing insights. I know there are books on continental anchorites, yet there is a part of me that thinks of it as the most English of religious lives.
So I have been thinking about the anchorite rite of enclosure. After some elements inside the church, the anchorite gets to watch their own funeral from their new home. Often their grave was part of their devotional space and they would watch the services inside the church from inside their grave. Death is a reality for the anchorite, as it was, presumably, for everyone in the middle ages.
Not a particularly happy thought for a Sunday afternoon. But the connection between the eucharist, the death of Jesus, and my own death are worth considering. Kierkegaard writes that at the altar (when we receive Communion) we are truly alone. At that moment life and death become one moment. To live for Jesus is to live in that tension between death and life.