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Unread 01-24-2016, 05:05 AM   #1

Joined: Apr 2002
Location: Vancouver, BC
Posts: 9,252
Christ has blessed your tears (a devotional)

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was indignant* in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

- The Holy Gospel according to St. John, 11:32-37

*(An alternate reading is 'deeply moved', and is the one in the ESV, but the Greek has the sense of the snorting of a warhorse! 'Indignant' fits)

O Lord, God of my salvation;

I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.

Psalm 88:1-5

"He teaches, now on a mountain; now He discourses on a plain; now He passes over into a ship; now He rebukes the surges. And perhaps He goes to sleep, in order that He may bless sleep also; perhaps He is tired that He may hallow weariness also; perhaps He weeps that He may make tears blessed."

- St. Gregory Nazianzen (AD 329-390), Sermon 37, on Matthew 19

Weeping.It seems like, in this day and age, too many are all too familiar with it. Yet it has always been so. The world through the ages has been no stranger to tragedy, from the earliest recorded histories to today's 5:00 news, our world is replete with tragedy.

The writers of Sacred Scripture are not unfamiliar with this. Psalm 88, the only Psalm in the Bible that does not end in a word of praise, is a perfect example of Scripture's intimate familiarity with tragedy. The Psalmist repeatedly says that he is afflicted, tormented, and worn to dust by what he perceives to be God’s chastisements.
And yet, he still brings them into God’s presence. And this Psalm was utilized in Jewish temple worship: the most despairing Psalm in Scripture – presumably something anyone wanting to make their faith look good would want to leave out.

But it is not left out. Psalm 88, in all of its messy, raw emotion, is in the Book of Psalms. Without a doubt it was read in the Temple. And in so doing, it was brought before God in worship with His covenant people. It, and the emotions it contains, were blessed by God. St. Gregory the Theologian, a 4th-century Father of the Church who was Patriarch (basically, a very important position in the Church of the day involving overseeing a large number of churches in what's now Turkey and Greece) of Constantinople for a time, says something that I think should offer us tremendous courage: by doing the things that we do, He who was spotless and without fault elevated them to Divinity. God, whom nothing can contain, has slept! God, who is utterly transcendant, has been weary! And God, who dwelt in the highest heaven before the ages, sees the ravages of Death upon the humanity that He loves, and we are told in Scripture, He is indignant (ἐμβριμάομαι).

And then He weeps.

And then, in the face of Christ, we see the culmination of all of human weeping. In the tears of every woman who has ever lost a child, in the tears of every person living with chronic pain or disability or distress or loss, or in the tears of every sinner who has ever shed tears over their sin, we see the Christ who stood at the tomb of Lazarus and was enraged in the face of Death, the last enemy. John Calvin comments, "Christ does not come to the sepulcher as an idle spectator, but like a wrestler preparing for the contest. Therefore no wonder that He groans again, for the violent tyranny of death which He had to overcome stands before His eyes".

And yet, He weeps.

And His tears should be a comfort to us all, for as St. Gregory reminds us, in weeping He blessed our tears. In weeping, just as the abject pain and sorrow of Psalm 88 was brought into the covenant love of God by being used as part of Jewish temple worship, God takes our tears and makes them His own. And just as Christ's very presence in the Jordan at His baptism blessed those waters, so the tears upon His holy face blessed our tears for all time to come. The waters of the Jordan at Christ's baptism and the tears that streamed down His face at the tomb of Lazarus and ultimately, on the Cross were both waters of blessing, for it is written, "By His wounds we have been healed" (cf. 1 Peter 2:24). Both the waters at that first Holy Theophany in the Jordan, and the tears He shed at the tomb of Lazarus, and in the garden of Gethsemane, and upon the cross of Calvary, the water, when it met Him and when it came forth from Him, blessed the world.

And so, in the midst of your sorrow, whatever it may be, take comfort in the fact that Christ before you wept. He wept for your salvation, He wept in anger at the destruction wrought by the sin and death that He came to destroy! And in sharing your tears with you, He blessed you, for He has shared our humanity in order that we may share His divinity, and to elevate the experience of being human to God.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Glory to God for all things...
~ Ryan

In the flesh You fell asleep as a mortal man, O King and Lord,
You arose on the third day, freeing Adam from corruption and destroying death!
O Pascha of incorruption! The salvation of the world...

Exapostilarion of Pascha

Last edited by Homer Simpson; 01-25-2016 at 01:22 AM.
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Unread 01-24-2016, 12:41 PM   #2
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Thank you for sharing this. I found it encouraging.
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Unread 01-24-2016, 02:11 PM   #3
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Thanks for sharing.
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