“Crux Fidelis”, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, from the album “Lent at Ephesus”, (2014)
I recently came across several writings and snippets about the gift of tears. Some comments on some posts referred to people who said they weep freely at Mass when they never used to, or they perhaps became emotional unintentionally.
I am one of those who find themselves often with tears running at Mass, and also when doing daily spiritual readings and thinking about these readings and meditations and how I apply them in my daily life. It seems at first glance to be more to this mysterious spiritual phenomenon than merely crying unexpectedly.
Some commenters seem to feel that this phenomenon (what I am experiencing) is a “gift”, and it is not merely because I am emotional, or easily moved. Some writers see it as a physical manifestation of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. It is formally known as “the gift of tears.”
The commenters go to some length to reassure the reader that I/we should not feel anxiety over this experience but recognize it as a great gift.
Father Bartunek , author of “The Better Part”, which I have referred to previously and highly recommend, explained in an article that this gift is one that has been explained through tradition rather than official documentation in Scripture or the Catechism. He defines this spiritual grace as an unbidden gift from the Holy Spirit that is bestowed on someone through the healing flow of tears shed.
The fruit of such tears leads both the recipient of this gift and others who witness it to joy and abiding peace. (He cautions that) … This definition supplants the mere notion that the gift of tears includes anyone who cries from a touching spiritual or emotional sentiment.
The gift of tears is considered a charismatic gift, a manifold of spiritual blessings to whomever the Holy Spirit grants it.
People who receive this gift may experience it only once or perhaps multiple times, but the gift itself is not an indication of one’s level of holiness or the achievement of perfect union with God. Many saints declared the importance of accepting with gratitude an unexpected source of consolation or perhaps divine insight, but they warned against the distraction of loving the gift rather than the Giver.
In other words, we should not focus our attention on any spiritual charism that happens to bless our lives but instead approach it with sincere and heartfelt thanksgiving while allowing it to become a fleeting memory.
Natural tears are often mistaken for this supernatural gift, especially when they occur during or after an intense spiritual experience. One must recognize one’s tendency toward weeping or the expression of deep emotions through tears in order to differentiate between the natural versus spiritual gift of tears.
The best distinction of the spiritual gift is by the resulting fruit. Is the person filled with an abiding peace or greater love for God? Are the people around him or her moved by the tears in the same manner? We must always remember that by our fruits they will know us. (read more here)
What seems to be common to all these experiences (for me) is that whatever the experience is, whether a moving spiritual reading, a meditation, a prayer, a great musical experience like chant, or a performance by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, (at top of post) or some of the work of Mozart, or Bach, or Renaissance Choral Music by, for example, Tallis or Allegri, whenever I have these experiences, the place I am at in my head at that moment during the experience is one of blinding realization of humanity’s place, that is, my tiny place, in God’s eternal now. It is just overwhelming.
So am I just a labile, highly sensitive, emotional cry-baby, or am I experiencing an important glimpse of reality, a momentary consolation along my path to spiritual growth? I don’t really know, but it is certainly greatly uplifting and peace inducing (and sometimes embarrassing afterwards as I fall back into old habitual modes of seeing).
Today my thoughts turn to the need for silence, God is calling to us continuously, and eventually, God takes us all home, willy-nilly, regardless of our desires and our interest. He takes us all home to our just end and we all find what we truly seek.
Our society puts little premium or credence on received wisdom. We value derived wisdom which we struggle to develop as we find it useful and productive but we disregard received wisdom, the wisdom of tradition and human experience. We receive God or Self, depending upon to which we give priority. Being still … being silent … accepting and understanding received wisdom, received reality … is unpopular in this busy culture, this noisy culture.
We need to understand reality NOT as something we achieve through hard work, labor, and suffering, not as something we create, but rather we need to understand reality as something we receive, something we are gifted with. In the understanding of this gift we must put aside our busy striving noisy self to embrace stillness, silence, and the gift of God’s creation through which we come to understand our own place in that creation and our true purpose … which is union with God.
We must embrace the putting aside of ourself, the discarding of our attachment to ourself, to make room for God in our soul. Be at rest, be still, and know God … “Be still, and know that I am God”. God is continually calling us home and we are too busy talking about ourself to listen to God and to gaze upon Him.
Perhaps this deafness and blindness to reality is a result of the ways, means, and modes of thought to which we are accustomed to turn, when working, when striving, in our society. These modes of thought are the tools by which we learn about and understand our reality.
But any tool is only as good as the thinking mind of the tool user. Tools of the mind condition the way the mind works. A “hammer”, and “hammering”, exclude other uses of hand and arm. What are we not doing, not thinking, because we are so busy doing? To what end are we so busy doing?
Psalm 40: 6-10
6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but my ears you have opened— burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll.
8 I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”
9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.