Friday, August 06, 2010

In the way of tears we become prayer…

In the way of tears we become prayer; we no longer labour under the illusion of prayer as technology. As ClĂ©ment says, we are “offering the world on the altar of (our hearts)”:

“The condition of space-time which gives rise to the beating of the heart, is no longer an endless prison, but a temple walled with light. The man “feels” (taking the apophatic meaning of the “feeling of God”) the risen Christ, who is the face of the Father, in the light of the Spirit.”

We do not pray, we are prayed. And only when the last element of creation has become transfigured through the tears of Christ living in humankind will tears cease.

But there is more. We must remember that these are not tears of sorrow only, but of both sorrow and joy. As Isaac says, “here is sweet and flaming compunction”; or, mixed sorrow and joy like honey and the comb, to use an image of John Climacus. Mixed because in this singularity we somehow come to know more and more (in the most intimate biblical sense) that we gaze upon the face of God (Matthew 18). The promises made for us in baptism are fulfilled in us by this new and unceasing pouring out of fiery tears through our life within the blessed Trinity, whose love has become the polarity in this unending exchange of kenosis. This is the baptism of tears. The dark glass though which we see is washed by tears that magnify the face of God as we gaze upon it. And the only sin of which we need repent is the turning away from this gaze.

Maggie Ross, from her blog Voice in the Wilderness

The truth of this is summed up in some words Maggie Ross quotes in her recent post on Walter Bruggemann’s An Unsettling God:

At the centre of reality is a deep, radical, painful, costly fissure that will, soon or later, break every self-arranged pattern of well-being… It cannot be helped, and it cannot be avoided…

This insistence on the reality of brokenness flies in the face of the Enlightenment practice of denial. Enlightenment rationality, in its popular, uncriticized form, teaches that with enough reason and resources brokenness can be avoided. And so Enlightenment rationality, in its frenzied commercial advertising, hucksters the good of denial and avoidance: denial of headaches and perspiration and loneliness, impotence and poverty and shame, embarrassment and, finally, death. In such ideology there are no genuinely broken people. When brokenness intrudes into such an assembly of denial, as surely it must, it comes as failure, stupidity, incompetence, and guilt. The church, so wrapped in the narrative of denial, tends to collude in this. When denial is transposed into guilt—into personal failure—the system of denial remains intact and uncriticized, in the way Job’s friends defended the system.

It is the brokenness that Bruggemann refers to that is the source of the tears; its mending is the promise from Isaiah 61 that Jesus quotes at the beginning of his ministry (Luke 4:18-19) that he has been sent to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…

The Kingdom is here, in the fellowship of believers and in the presence of Christ himself among them (Matthew 18:20, and the High Priestly prayer from John 17); yet it is still to come (Matthew 24:14; Luke 19:11, etc., and the entire book of Revelation). Until that day, when the last wounds is healed, and the last tear dried, we must be content to weep—be content, too, with our “failure, stupidity, incompetence, and guilt.” Our victory in Christ is our willingness to be crucified with him (Galatians 2:20), and our forgivenness is our willingness to assume the guilt inherent in our humanity (Daniel 9:5ff; Romans 3:21-28).

It is here that our identification enables us to intercede for the brokenness that is ours as well as the world’s (Romans 8:26-27), and here that our cry “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” calls down his mercy on all of his broken creation (Romans 8:22) and here that our own tears wash the pierced feet of Christ himself (Matthew 25:40).


  1. Thanks for this beautiful piece - and for the link to Maggie's.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, too, Michelle!