Thursday, October 05, 2006

The gift of tears

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Psalm 56:8
You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?

One of the saints of the early church, St. Ephraem, wrote in the 4th century about the blessing of tears. He wrote, "If you wish to wash your face, wash it, flood it with tears so that it may shine with glory before God and his Holy angels. A face bathed with tears has an undying beauty."

Psalm 6:6
I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.

St Francis of Assisi was endowed, say his biographers, with an extraordinary gift of tears; his eyes were as fountains which flowed continuously, and by much weeping he almost lost his sight. In his ecstatic raptures, he often poured forth his soul in verse, and Francis in among the oldest vernacular poets of Italy.

Bishop John Moorman wrote in his biography of Francis:
Once, we are told, when walking near the Church of St. Mary of the Angels, was seen “weeping and wailing with a loud voice. And a devout man hearing him thought he was suffering from some sickness or grief. And, moved by pity toward him, he asked him why he wept. But Francis said, ‘I weep for the Passion of my Lord Jesus Christ, for whom I ought not to be ashamed to go mourning aloud throughout the whole world’.”

Luke 6.21
Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.

I may have experienced what I would call the gift of tears once. It was on the feast of St. Francis in 2000. At the beginning of Mass in the seminary chapel, my eyes turned into water faucets (which was quite embarrassing). I wept more or less continuously for the next 48 hours—and then it just stopped, like a well run dry. I can’t say exactly why it happened. The only feelings I had connected with it were a strong sense of the love of God and of his empathy with all his creatures.

Luke 7:36-38
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

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