Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lent and Leiva-Merikakis : Repentant Tears and Grasping the Incarnation

Tears are a mystical indication of true joy, as the Lord showed when He said, "Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh."

Tears that spring from hope are part of the mystery of repentance; they are evidence that the penitent has entered into grace and a secret sign that the state of true joy has been attained.

[...] Tears are a clear sign of the process of inner change and also evidence of the truth and power of the mystery of repentance.

--Matta al-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor), Communion of Love, 88

One of the Pharisees asked [Jesus] to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was sitting at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. [...]

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 wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much [...].

--Luke 7.36-50

Jesus' mere presence in the town mysteriously draws the sinful woman to him, magnet-like, and how different are her motivations from those of the hypocritical Pharisee! While Simon wants to use Jesus to enhance his own public image as a pious and holy man, the woman for her part feels that the simple presence of Jesus' holiness in her proximity is an instant judgment that reveals all the ugliness of her sins. How truthful and bold she is in her self-appraisal! But, instead of going to hide like Adam and Eve at feeling so shamefully naked before the glance of the Son of God, penetrating miraculously through all the walls of the town to arrive at her own heart, what does she do?

[...] In one moment of luminous intuition, this woman realizes that Jesus is at once the destroyer of her sins, the victor over all evil, and the Bridegroom of her soul.

--Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, The Way of the Disciple, 89-90

Thus leaving her to say:

It is you, my Lord, who desired that we should grasp you and implore you. For, if you had not wanted us to grasp you, you would not have become incarnate. It is you who called me to come near you. I saw your beauty and ran toward you.

--Syriac Liturgy for the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalen (quoted in Leiva above, 90)

How impressive this woman who, despite the great emotions shaking her soul, does not utter a single word throughout the episode. Instead, she makes herself present to Jesus [...]. All the verbal dialogue takes place between Jesus and the Pharisee; what transpires between Jesus and the woman is the mute dialogue of love, in which only the gestures of the body and the expression of the eyes can communicate what is happening in the soul. Deep and overwhelming love is beyond words and arguments, beyond reason. The Pharisee's words have the effect of separating him from Jesus, of keeping Jesus far from his soul, while the woman's silence unites her to Jesus as the surest bridge and bond. She has understood the full meaning of the injunction, "Be still, and know that I am God!" (Ps. 46.10)

--Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, The Way of the Disciple, 90-91

Truly, she has understood:

For, if you had not wanted us to grasp you, you would not have become incarnate. It is you who called me to come near you. I saw your beauty and ran toward you.

1 comment:

D Bacich said...

A great quote from Erasmo. Thanks, Wm.