Last year when I was a guest on my first ever Beloved Retreat at the Sion Community, one of the ladies giving a talk spoke about herself as having The Gift of Tears.
Tears a Gift?
I remembered back to when the new parish priest came and he led us through (what was for me) a tearful meditation of the crucifixion. And then later he spoke about the Gift of Tears, and of how difficult it was for him to cry, and of how it was so difficult for him to be moved to tears. This is a man who as an adolescent child lost his mother to cancer, a pain that maybe has not been felt so deeply ever since.
The Beloved weekend was an especially emotional weekend for me, as despite my own personal circumstances (which are enough to make a drought cry) I was sharing the weekend (and a room) with my dearest sweetest friend ~ a very wise woman ~ a Dutch/French farmers daughter ~ a very intelligent mathematician ~ and a now mother of 3 children. My best friend has secondary bone cancer, caused from breast cancer 9 years back. This woman has been friends with me ever since our firstborns became earthlings. She has supported me in friendship through divorce, through ‘condemned’ home renovations, through the births of my 5 children, and the too near-death of my twins. She has travelled alongside me throughout my entire faith journey, and descended with me through friendship into hell ~ and by Love led me back again, in absolute non-judgmental friendship. She Lives and Loves the Love of 1 Corinthians 13 ~ She is Full of Wisdom ~ Kindness ~ and a perfect friend.
She held my hand when it needed holding and listened beyond listening ~ She has the wisdom of Sophia, the gentleness of the Virgin Mary, and the faith of St Bernadette. She has hugged me, and held me close, and I have her. We have cried, mourned, died, grieved, and risen alternately, and together. And we have laughed so very much in between the tears, because that is all we could do. We have celebrated and shared our intimately Red Tent friendship, a friendship borne out of the nurture of motherhood and the imposed grief that all mothers intuitively know beyond birth. I don’t know how I am going to deal with the grim prospect of her future, other than live on the wings of her Grace ~ for despite it all ~ it is she whom carries me.
There were many tears on the Beloved weekend, an almost collapse of ‘togetherness’, just because for once there was the space to do so. Too much pain ~ too incredible for words. And to be in such an intense period, situation, location, orientation, and in this place with its intimate proximity to Raw Hurting ~ to be told that those Tears could be Gift was such an absurd suggestion, that it turned my thinking upside down and urinated all over me ~ like petrol being teased by a match that was ignited but never dropped ~ whose sulphur laughed whilst I suffocated and drowned in a chamber flooded with the Gas of Tears, Grief and Sorrow.
I never thought those tears gift.
Tears came at every childhood death, where all too often in a large family (my mother was the youngest of 11 children) the 4 grandparents and the many far older aunts and uncles steadily died off one by one. Tears came all too easily when I saw my father crying on my first wedding day at the altar as he gave me away, and yet these were tears shed in pure Love from one to another ~ those tears broke and sealed my heart at once. Tears all too easily come to me when feeling the deepest sadness and compassion for others who are in desperation, desolation and in excruciating grief. I could never watch the pain of those suffering on the people-in-need T.V fundraiser programmes, despite the happy endings without so many tears. Tears come all to easily when I feel the absolute ‘injustice of life’ projectile vomiting into the face of good kind honest descent people.
One day we will all be dead ~ there is but just this life as we know it ~ for living and sharing and loving upon our earth ~ precious time with those that we Love. And to oppress and deny anybody whom God has called, and whom God has led in friendship to Love ~ to banish and cast people outsiders, against Gods Will ~ to hurt and deprive and ‘murder’ anybody unnecessarily and unjustly in the face of all the other uncontrollable hurts of life; life that naturally will endure the pain of loss, death, and grief all too soon, to which we have no control over ~ to cause any human being such unnecessary man-made pain, separation and suffering ~ is Diabolical. It is absolutely NOT of GOD, NOR of LOVE. And to try to deplete someone of their dignity ~ to try and steal it from them ~ to degrade them in their humanity ~ and to deny someone the fellowship of Love, which God in His Kindness, Grace and Faithfulness bestows upon His chosen ~ is Devastating.
May God forgive you.
On Friday I spent a wonderful Eve with Sr Gemma Simmonds CJ. The title of the evening was ‘Women of the Resurrection’ We were asked to ponder on a question, and then to share our thoughts in our little group ~ and then collectively. I think there were over 90 people present. ~ The question was ~ ‘If you were to leave here tonight and outside a stranger, else a friend, asks you ‘where you have been?’ and you were to tell them, then they in their non-belief or challenge ask you ‘what evidence do you have for proving the resurrection of Christ?’ (baring in mind we were not alive in Jesus time, to actually bear witness) what would you say? ~ where do you see evidence and proof of Jesus’ Resurrection in this life? ~ what would you say to the person?
Stop reading here ~ and just consider this question yourself quietly for a few minutes.
For me it was simple ~ I said that Jesus was Love personified. I have met deepest Love in flawed human beings ~ and when the people whom I have Loved, have died ~ the Love, it never died ~ it only grew stronger and stronger and stronger, and as life was sifted away, so the Love grew purer and purer and purer, until there was no substance left of it, other than the pure Spirit of LOVE. It is the closest Love to God that we will ever know, God who is Love and Spirit. Love resurrected in all its Glory ~ in Him ~ from the depth of grief ~ suffering ~ and agony. Love lives on. Beyond death.
Gemma told an incredibly sad story about a dearly beloved close family member, a surgeon, being murdered in cold blood, by a psychopath. The family member was on the French side of her family, a man whom everybody loved ~ one of the best men she has ever known. Gemma had to speak at the funeral. ‘How can you justify Jesus of the Resurrection, to a shocked, grieving secular French family at the funeral of their murdered loved one?’ she asked. Whilst she told her story my eyes stung with tears ~ silent tears which refused to recede back from whence they came ~ Instead in their gentle well-spring profusion they exposed me and made me feel painfully self-conscious. The Gift of Tears may well be a gift for others, but for me they are nothing more than a revealing of the pain and suffering of others, and often myself, that I am witness to against my wish. They bare me to all against my will and humiliate me, even when it isn’t my place to be seen or to be humiliated.
Despite the Tears which are not Gift it was a wonderful evening, of fellowship, sharing and Love ~ We talked about the resurrection in forgiveness ~ I especially already know that by forgiving others we set ourselves as prisoner free, because I read a wonderful book by Phillip Yancey that taught me just that. It is for us to do the forgiveness. I do not like unrest or lack of peace or sadness between me and others. And so I of course struggle with the dynamic of this passage in the bible ~ ‘Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.’ I struggle with this because sometimes it is others that do the binding and not the looseing. And that makes Heaven which could come in any shocking moment held in Hell.
On Saturday eve at the Vigil Mass, we prayed for the Pope’s poignant visit to the Holy Land ~ with his powerful witness for peace and unity ~ with his desire and hope for ecumenical understanding and acceptance ~ and with his extended and defiant outreach of Love for others. I felt so absolutely Raw ~ as it all magnified the absolute rejection which I receive from my own dearly Loved Christian brothers in Christ. The pain tore through my body with such force that I couldn’t contain it any longer and the bloody tears, Tears which are absolutely not Gift drowned and ripped me apart. I was all to raw because this Monday it was the anniversary of my 2 year reception into the Church ~ for which there was no parish Mass. 2 years ago my reception and the weeks leading up to it were so full of Love, and miracles and spiritual and physical wonder, and such immense Joy and Hope for my future. It pains me to look back and see all that has happened within the last 2 years, my faith and Love so strong ~ So crucified. At any point within the past 2 years, the gift of my life could have been taken back by God, had He so chosen to have done so. To think that I could have died, with such sadness, and lack of peace and unreconciliation is such a tragedy. 2000 years later and the Church and its flawed people and ways still have not learnt from the Passion of Christ.
In my brokenness I felt excruciatingly exposed ~ thank God I was sitting next to my dearest friend who ‘holds me’ in my grief. It was all to painful to lift my head to offer peace to others, and so head hung low I just turned to the few directly behind me. I went up to receive the Eucharist, and then I went back and kneeled in prayer in my place, and something All Powerful happened. As the warmth of Christ soaked into my soul, it was as if my tears soaked out, as if being expelled violently from my body. My silent sobs which I was finding hard to contain were obvious. Tears are no Gift. And then something beautiful happened.
You see there was a spare seat (on the end of the 2nd row from the front) next to where I was sitting, and the Brazilian lady from the row behind (whom I have only ever chatted to once before) who had obviously seen my tears when I offered her peace, came and kneeled in the spare place beside me ~ and just as I was praying on my knees with my elbows up on the pew in front of me, hands clenched to hide my face, so too she came and knelt besides me, and so too she prayed. Initially I wondered why she had knelt there, but within a few minutes I felt her deepest prayer tangibly envelope me ~ and my breath began slowing down so that I regained control of it ~ and I felt my whole body physically stilling ~ and I felt all the presence of her prayer wash over and around me in a deepest soup of peace. So powerful that I was acutely aware of her praying for me ~ and of her presence ~ and yet not a word was spoken. She didn’t touch me, or look at me, she just kneeled and prayed next to me ~ Deeply ~ until my tears had stopped ~ and I could actually feel the Power of it. And at the end of Mass I briefly looked at her face and her gentle smile, and all I could do was mouth Thank You.
Gemma Simmonds taught us that the word thank you in Greek is Eucharistia.
And so if my tears which are so not gift can bless me with such depth of Love from others. Love which so fills me with Eucharist, how could they possibly not be Gift of Tears.
Gemma Simmonds says having Easter eyes doesn’t transform all the hopeless Godless situations ~ but that having Easter eyes, our eyes are opened wide by the Love of Christ, transforming the very way we look at those situations.
And so yesterday I rose to the occasion by taking myself and my Easter eyes off to High Mass at the Brompton Oratory ~ where I lit a candle and prayed before Mary Magdalene, and where by pure surprise and delight I got to kiss and venerate my Spiritual Fathers relics on his Feast day ~ and on the anniversary of my reception into the Church.
I celebrated High Mass alone with God ~ my Spiritual father St Philip Neri ~ and my spiritual sister St Mary Magdalene ~ and All the other faithful people with Easter eyes. I must be the luckiest person in the world to be able to celebrate the day of my reception into the Catholic Faith on two days of the year ~ on St Philip Neri’s Feast day the 26th of May, and at Pentecost, (as both days fell on the same day in 2012). And I must be the luckiest person in the world, to be able to celebrate my genuine birthday on two days in every year ~ on the 29th March, and on Easter Sunday (as both days fell on the same day in 1970) ~ Both my birthday and my reception day, Pentecost (the Church’s birthday) intimately connect me to Christ’s Love and to Mary Magdalene ~ whilst at the tomb on Easter Sunday, at 5.30 in the morning I was born. and then in the upper room at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Mary and the apostles, I was received into the Catholic Church ~ And then there is the little miracle that my Spiritual Father St Philip Neri’s birthday . . . is on St Mary Magdalene’s Feast day.
I wonder if it can be that the Joy of St Philip Neri (patron Saint of Joy) ~ and the tears of St Mary Magdalene’s (Gift of Tears) ~ might just be so very intimately connected ~ If only we dare to see with Easter eyes.