I have a friend who has been through a lot. She cries easily. This Sunday, she got yelled at by a priest in church, for letting the baby play with a crinkly toy, and that made her cry hard. She felt that she’d made a fool of herself with all the crying, so she wanted to explain. Her husband wrote an email to the priest, saying that his wife had post-partum depression after a very difficult pregnancy. This explanation made the priest even angrier. He wrote back saying “She needs help,” as if we don’t all need help, and insinuating that people suffering from depression, people who cry in church, shouldn’t be in church at all. They should wait at home until they’re able to come to church without showing any emotion. The church is not a place for displays of suffering.
This was at an Orthodox church, but the same thing happens at Roman Catholic churches. Similar things have happened to me; I’ve already written about the terrible “Father Reginald” who said I should never speak about my trauma to anyone. I was supposed to hide it, somehow, as if suffering were something to be ashamed of. Once, when I was having a cry in the back of church, not bothering anyone, a university student actually called a security guard because seeing me crying had “scared” her.
I don’t see how you can be a Catholic or an Orthodox Christian, and be afraid of someone crying. I don’t see how you could believe and profess what we do, and have an aversion to the sight of tears or any other outward manifestation of pain. Just about every Catholic church has a crucifix at the front, God Himself a man like us and racked with agony, gushing blood and water for all the world to see. The Orthodox church I visited had two crucifixes and icons of the Passion as well. Do these people look away from Him, too?Of course they do. To look away from a suffering person is to look away from the Icon, to ignore the Passion of Christ.
To ostracize the one who has been crushed, is to ignore the One whose image she bears.
If you run from anything messy or uncomfortable– if you shun suffering people, crucified people, the man coming toward you with a bloodstained cloak and ring, the tortured and martyred body gushing smelly oil– then you’ll stay clean of the slime. But you’ll never learn that the slime is myrrh. You’ll never be made well. You might not even realize that you were ill, until it’s too late.
Don’t be that person. Don’t be the one who dies of his spiritual malady and says to the healer, “Lord, when did we see you?” He is all around. He is present in the bleeding, in the sorrowing, in the crying and even the dead. Attend to the wounds of the suffering, dry their tears, weep with them, bury the dead, and you won’t miss your cure.
Myrrh doesn’t gush from healthy, pleasing bodies. It’s a remedy you’ll only find in the ones who have been pierced.
Who wouldn’t love a myrrh-gusher?