He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Love it to Death: The Tears of Love

Not all tears are the same; though the briny water rolling down our cheeks may have the same molecular composition every time we cry, each flood of emotion welling up against the dam of our eyes is as unique as our fingerprint, its currents creating an irrevocable impression upon the bottoms of our hearts.

The impression we are left with after crying because we are ashamed of ourselves is far different from the impression that remains after shedding tears for the death of one we loved.  The tears of shame are not at all the same as the tears of grief for our beloved.  The floods of emotion are both strong, and yet the stamps they leave upon our hearts are quite different from one another.

When our beloved gives us a gift so far above and beyond anything we could deserve, the tears can flow from a burst of humility because we know we are not worthy of such a gift.  At the same time, the tears can flow because we are overwhelmed by the extravagance of love shown to us by our beloved in the giving of the gift.  We can shed tears for more than one reason at a time, our hearts full of both humility and joy, or full of both grief and gratitude.

It is not that the grief pushes out the gratitude, or that the humility pushes out the joy, but that they exist fully in the same space, neither impinging upon the integrity of the other emotion.  It is a paradox that the fullness of both emotions could exist in the same heart, and yet it happens just as the fullness of both God and man were able to exist in the same person.  In this way, our tears can be a sign of the true paradoxes of love.

The Incarnation was a true paradox, a gift of love, and holding in our hearts the true paradox of simultaneous grief and joy is a preparation for holding in our hearts the true paradox of Christ who is simultaneously God and man.  The Incarnation showed us how to be fully human, which is to live abundantly, to make our lives an offering of love, to make every single act an expression of radical love.  The Gospels tell us the story of the Incarnate, thus instructing us in the ways of love.

In the Gospel of John, we are instructed by the tears of love which are also the tears of Love itself.  Take note of what happens when the dear friend of Christ, Lazarus, has died.

"33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”"

All recognized that these tears shed by Christ were the tears of love.  These tears were welling up from a genuine will to do good for the other, from a desire that the other might have life and have it to the fullest.  Christ was not afraid that he would never see His friend again; He knew that this death is not the end.  

Even when we know that death is not the end, that we will see those we love in the fullness of time on the other shore, we still weep with tears of love.  The tears of love are the tears which fall because we still have so much love we want to give to our beloved ones; we ache to pour out our lives as an offering of love for them once more.

Oh, how deeply we yearn to offer them the love filling our hearts once more in this life!  Not because we wish to keep them from the divine love in heaven, but because true love always desires to give more to the beloved.  The desire to give to the beloved in the heart of just one person who loves truly would quickly overflow the oceans were we able to manifest it as water; such love would drown us all and cover the earth more deeply than the Great Flood ever could.  To love fully is to want to offer more than we have, to offer all that we have and account it too little for our beloved.

In the Gospel of Luke, we see how our tears of love are an offering which is pleasing to the God who loves us.

"37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment."

The woman gives all she has to show her love for Christ, shedding the tears of love upon his feet because she wishes to give more, but can only give all.

After explaining the matter to the Pharisee with a parable, Christ shows his appreciation for her gifts of love and her tears of love.

"44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”"

The woman shows us how to love Christ as He has loved us, by giving Him all that we have, by offering Him our most beautiful art, our best goods, and our true love.  The woman shows us how to love Christ by her tears of love, the tears which tell of a longing to offer all that is true, good, and beautiful to the one who loves us unto death.

The tears of love are an outpouring of the love which overflows the dam of the heart because it is too strong, because the heart has not yet grown enough to contain the infinite wellspring of Love.  The tears of love are the drops that fall from an overwhelming desire to give more, to offer ever more grand signs of our love to those we love as our love for them grows with each passing year.

By the tears of love, we show all that like the Love of God, our love cannot be contained, that it must overflow the bounds of our hearts and shower all those touched by our lives.  By the tears of love, we offer back to God a portion of the Love poured out for us, the divine love which cannot be restrained except to accomplish the good of the beloved.  By the tears of love, we paint an icon of the divine love which gives all and wishes to give more to all His beloved ones.

By the tears of love, we gradually love to death all that would prevent us from beholding the infinite love of the divine which is offered to us by Love Himself, making room in our hearts for He who has made room for us in His heavenly home.

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