I have been researching to write more about the Holy Spirit’s gift of tears, Penthos, as the Fathers say, the ‘second Baptism.’
St. Francis, no doubt tongue in cheek because of his clear love of all creation and life, referred to demands of our physical being as ‘Brother Ass’ – the French, referring to the oftentimes tumultuous emotional components of our imagination use an expression best translated into English colloquial expression as: “the crazy living in the attic!”
I come from a highly emotional race, not muted by a generation living in this country, and those of more sanguine cultures don’t get that the spikes of anger, hurt, for example, are just that, momentary spikes, whereas the common emotions are love, joy, and passion for life.
Since I last posted here my emotions have run the gambit from pure, that is untainted by being bent towards self, grief to the apprehensive state I am in at the moment, from pure penthos tears to vinegar ones of self pity!
While I appreciate having a PC, a laptop, cell phone to text with, I write often, as I am in this moment, with pen and ink on paper.
The pencil and pen where the first writing instruments of my childhood, the ‘straight-nipped’ pen and inkwell with the unique scratch-sound on paper preceding my first fountain pen, a Confirmation gift.
There is something uniquely human about writing and it witnesses to the wonderful parenting of Mary and Joseph that Jesus is recorded as writing, albeit in the sand.
He, of course, is Himself the great Word of the Father to us, indeed if I might be so bold, Jesus is the ultimate love-tender letter/word of Our Abba to each of us His Beloved Children.
Writing in her book DEAR FAMILY, the Servant of God Catherine Doherty notes that the family is ‘a little church’, and is likewise the ‘primary indissoluble unit of society.’
Indeed the entire human race is but one family with one Abba/ Father, one redeeming Brother-Saviour, one animating, illuminating Holy Spirit.
One way or another every human being is born in family, at least the universal family – but not everyone grows and develops within the heart of a family of love and holiness.
We shed a lot of tears, if we be honest, because of the lacunae’s of family life, and for some because of the damage done by extremes of poverty, abuse, ravages of war, parental addictions and thus child neglect, or the impact of flight, like Jesus, Mary and Joseph into Egypt, because of the dangers of death squads or other pursuers.
As I get older there come unexpected tears, sometimes of regret about people no longer present in my life, for the older we get the more familiar a visitor is death. However the tears of missing quickly become tears of joyful memory.
At the moment I pen these lines in the waiting room of my dentist where, again the age thing and the body wearing out, something Pope John Paul refers to in his encyclical on human labour as a good thing, for it is right our labours should wear us out, so while spared so far major surgeries today is the first of a series of dental surgeries.
Growing up in the days of slow-speed, un-cooled drills, before novocaine and the like, also in a neighbourhood of such poverty the dentist, who operated out of his basement, was, to be kind, rather gruff and rough, figured boys should learn to endure pain. So to this very day all dental stuff unnerves me, big time!
Any delusions I may have about being a strong, tough or courageous male – well I am completely disabused of them any time I am in such an apprehensive state as at the moment awaiting the dreaded drill and lance!
This, irrespective of reality, i.e., novocaine, high speed and well cooled drills, lasers and the like.
Yes irrespective of the great reality with this particular dentist, no matter the procedure, I have never experienced pain – so surgical tears for me [obviously wept interiorly where no one can see what a wimp I am!] are, frankly, bitter, impure, rooted in the emotional spikes of the crazy character which, in moments such as these, inhabits my imagination!
So I return to earlier points about grief, death, family.
As I sit here I have a choice to make about the apprehension, my wild imagination, the inner vinegar tears.
Will I wallow in this and allow it to go to waste or will I take hold of the pro-offered hand of Our Blessed Mother, allow her to open the mantle of my wounded, yes neurotic, being as she opened the cloak of Bl. Juan Diego to arrange the roses within?
Granted she will find a bouquet of less than roses, but Our Blessed Mother has a way of transforming poverty into generosity, vinegar tears into penthos, if we let her.
Thus my heart is suddenly aware of the women and children in Darfur, of men, women, and children in North Korean labour camps, scouring the garbage dumps outside Cairo or Lima, the child soldiers brutalized until they become brutal, of...........
A common mistake well intentioned Christians make is to believe that somehow I have to get something all together BEFORE I can, for example, weep pure penthos tears – or – be truly loving and forgiving.
The yearning to pray is itself prayer and the ultimate degree of prayer we seek will come the more we yearn to pray and struggle to pray – most especially when we are distracted or tired.
Prayer is everything I am and do, not just formulas said, as important as they are, but everything.
Indeed the great St. Theresa of Avila complained to the Lord for not sparing her distractions in prayer and the Lord responded by stating it was precisely when she was most distracted that her prayer pleased Him because of her fidelity to prayer.
If we wait until we ‘know’ we are kind to be kind; patience to be patient; have enough money to be generous, etc., etc., we will forever be selfish, cranky, and miserly.
A soft smile to a bus driver at rush hour becomes the smile of Christ upon a tired soul; stepping aside for one moment so a woman pushing a stroller can get ahead in line eases the weight of her life; in a word everything is connected to the iconic lesson of the Widow and her one penny as Jesus underscores for us in the Gospel.
Of course, it may be, when it comes to such little things, tears are little droplets, we fear the other aspect of surgical tears.
That we be in Part 2 as, shudder, the dentist has just summoned me!