Tears are truth. They are the heart’s external echo – fragile moist beacons of the soul’s sighs. Tears rise from within, and mark the face with rivulets of the inner reality. They come in silence or with sobs. However they come, they usually erase the distance between outer and inner – between heart/emotion and body/physical. They let the body mourn and be marked with what the heart already is encompassed by. They make of the cry-er one person, united. There is no need for further dissembling. What is, is.
Comforting one who cries is always about being with them, not stopping the tears. Tears are sacred signals of something very important in process. They hold messages about what the heart feels and believes. And they need tender attention, not abrupt dismissal.
Many many years ago, during a difficult year, I cried much. I lived in a mountainous area, and saw the waterfalls that came down the mountains nearly everywhere in small sheer drops as near sacramentals. The waters were natural – and almost seemed to rejoice in their filling little bits of spaces in a rock and then flinging themselves down and over and further down. They sought pathways. I wrote a song about my own tears really – “Crystal waterfalls, flow heavy down these mountains. I’ve never known them to move so hard or so fast. Crystal waterfalls run right beside the roadways. Wherever you travel, they are right in your path.” Somehow, the mountains’ small rivulets which ran with abandon comforted my soul, though it did not stop my tears. It made me refer to the waters – and my tears – as “white jewels” and see how they watered the fields, external and internal. I was looking for reasons and words to soothe the pain of that year – and I found images for rain watering grain that dies and life coming anew.
Yesterday’s Gospel reminds us that tears are sacred. Jesus wept. At loss, at death, because of pain, because of deep relationships… at Lazarus’ tomb. His human heart sent waters to his own eyes to fall and mark his face with the truth within. God knows in Jesus the experience of human weeping, and what it is to breathe and be in tears and through tears to the next moment. The Gospel accounts next moment is one of prayer through tears, action for healing, seeing death’s reversibility, and commanding that the community free the one who is bound.
Whatever the source of our – or others’ – tears, they deserve the opportunity to simply be. They may tutor us. They may water something that will grow. They may move us to something else. They may bring healing or freedom for us or others. But, in a moment, they simply need to be honored by us and allowed and accepted as the truth they are – whether or not we understand them. Especially, we need not to be looking beyond them or around them for what is next or what might be, short-circuiting the encounter with our own souls. God’s comfort of us in those times too is an honoring. Covering tears or denying them no longer seems to me to be the appropriate stance. Like the bush that is not consumed by fire, but burns, before Moses – tears do not harm us, but they express great emotion of all kinds. We may find, if we honor them, new invitations to know God with us – new invitations to be a person who is “one” – new capacities for compassion with others and ourselves.
So, if we’d be with yesterday’s Gospel and Jesus’ tears – let’s you and I just see them emerge in his eyes and run down his face. And be silent. Perhaps then speak our comfort or presence, as we can — and perhaps reach out to do that to others we know in our lives, our neighborhoods, our families, our world under the rubric of ‘whatever you do for the other you do for me’.
Where we ‘tear up’, let us be compassion and gentleness with ourselves. Where we see these sacred drops or rivers flowing from others eyes, let us be whatever we can to help them too know their sacredness.
For our reflection:
“The Lord has heard my weeping.” Psalm 6:9
“Before God, my eyes drop tears.” Job 16:26
“My wanderings you have noted, are my tears not stored in your vial?” Psalm 56:9
“Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy.” Psalm 126:5
“The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.” Isaiah 25:8
“I have heard your prayers and seen your tears. I will heal you.” Isaiah 38:5
“My eyes, a fountain of tears.” Jeremiah 8:3
“She stood behind Jesus at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears.” Luke 7:38
“Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears, not that you might be pained but that you might know the abundant love I have for you.” 2 Cor. 2:4