One of my sources of inspiration are the accounts of medieval European lay piety. There are so many little myths of local saints (frequently unrecognized by the Catholic Church, but still adored by the people in that region) that it is really difficult to begin to organize them. In the 13th Century CE, there was a sharp uptick in lay devotions and mysticism within Christianity. A cursory glance over the materials produced from that era and the stories that go back to this era, one finds that women were a very large part of this movement. One also finds that an enormous amount of this body of work focuses upon the establishment of a relationship between the individual and the divine.
Now, some may wonder what this has to do with what I titled this evening’s post. Looking at the accounts of Margery Kempe, an English mystic who is honored within the Anglican faith but not in Catholicism (though she was a devout Catholic), there is much written of her frequent weeping for the mercy of her God and begging for his forgiveness of herself and others. This is not something that is only written within her autobiographical writings. It is also recorded to have been evident in female mystics in continental Europe during the era. This weeping was something called the ‘gift of tears’ by authors of that period.
It is not something spoken of today. It is actually forgotten for the most part in the accounts of mystic experiences and viewed with similar disdain as was done by the more cynical of Margery Kempe’s contemporaries. The idea that one could be moved to tears by the force of spiritual experiences is alien to most people today. The idea of mysticism as something other than a blissful experience is something often swept aside by many people who write about it today. (I’m looking squarely at you, David Wolfe.)
Some people within the more ecstatic oriented Christian faiths will admit to being moved to tears, but it is always described as being something done to them by the Holy Spirit. It is something that is viewed as external and imposed upon them. Which, considering the emphasis that sects such as the Pentecostals place upon one’s submission to their God’s will, is not really much of a surprise. The pagan community treats the gift of tears (which does happen within the mystics of pretty much any faith you can find and those which are emerging) as a shameful secret. It is viewed as some sort of weakness and a sign of hysterics or some kind of mental illness. (There are also vast swaths of the pagan community that views mysticism as identical to mental illness as well, but that is a topic for another day.)
The gift of tears is not something that is strictly motivated by the desire for divine forgiveness and mercy, though it is one of the reasons why a mystic may be moved to tears. It also comes with the emotions of joy, grief, frustration, and pretty much every aspect of how we are moved to tears elsewhere in our lives. The gift of tears is a bit different from that which arises due to the more ‘mundane’ elements of our lives. Where the stressors of our daily lives can bring us to tears, the gift of tears is something that comes with a very profound sense of the presence of the divine in our lives at the time it happens.
Like Margery Kempe, the mystic who is blessed with the gift of tears has their awareness overwhelmed by the divine. They are moved to weep by the sheer force of the gods. It is an ecstatic experience, though the ecstasy is not necessarily something blissful. It is, also, a very difficult thing to bear. Because, like Margery Kempe, the mystic who bears the gift of tears finds themselves alienated by their peers because it is so vastly different from what others experience and they will be in a position where their piety is challenged and possible accusations of mental illness or seeking dramatic attention are thrown about.
I can not claim that I have this gift. I have known people, however, who do have it. They are not the typical ‘cry at the drop of a hat’ people, and some of them never have teared up during a movie. Still, when they feel the presence of the divine, it is something that moves them so profoundly that they will weep. They are also people who have an awe inspiring depth of faith and adoration for their gods. When the thought of what their gods have endured and what they do for the world arises, these people do get a bit misty eyed because they can not help the force of emotion that arises from those thoughts.
We should all seek to attempt to emulate that level of faith and empathy for the divine. The heart road that is ruled by Sai Sushuri is a mystic path within Filianism (and related faiths) where the practitoner is urged to feel such love and compassion towards the divine and the world. The gift of tears, when viewed from this context, is perhaps one of the gentlest ways that the divine may lay their hand upon us. To be so overwhelmed by love that one has tears streaming down their face can be a profoundly beautiful experience for the person moved to tears and those witnessing them, think of the mother who weeps when her child is married and they’re so filled with love and happiness for their child that they can not help it.
Tears for the sake of faith are not a sign of illness or weakness. They are a sign of strength in said faith and tenderness of the heart. Embrace them when they come to you, for I suspect that everyone at some point in their life will have this blessing come upon them. And recognize that they are truly a gift because they come with the full force of the divine’s presence and blessing.
19. Let flow your tears, My children, for they are the beginning of joy. 20. For every tear of true repentance shall dissolve away a thorn, and it shall be as though it had not been.
The Temple of the Heart, The Gospel of Our Mother God
1. CE designates Common Era, this is what I use in place of Anno Domni (AD).
2. This can be found online at the following link: http://theapedia.referata.com/wiki/The_Temple_of_the_Heart