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19 May 2022


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Kim N

Thank you for sharing this. Often, I wonder how Erin is doing. This post helps me understand, at least a little.

Melanie Bettinelli

rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Back when I was doing all the readings on the liturgy of the hours I read something that intrigued me about how to pray the joyful psalms when we are in a time of sadness or other state that does not feel happy or how to pray the psalms that express sorrow, anger, or suffering when we are currently feeling joyful. One of my favorite commentaries linked this question to that verse from Romans. I can't find the book anymore, or even remember which book it is. (Though I suspect it was the really lovely book that was simply called School of Prayer.) But it ran something like this:

As we pray the Liturgy we often find ourselves in the position of finding that the psalms laid out for the day don't suit our mood and we are left wondering what to do with the mismatch between our emotions/ our lived situation and the emotion that the psalms are calling us to voice in our prayers. And this is a time when we are called as members of one Body in Christ to be the voice for the voiceless, to expres in our prayers a solidaity with our brothers and sisters whose current experience is opposite to our own: we are called carry the cross with those who suffer or mourn even when we are celebrating a wedding or a birth or an anniversary. Or we are called to put aside our own sorrows and to turn our thoughts generously to those who are celebrating, even when we are ourselves walking in the dark valley. It's a call to unity and solidarity and a call to not center ourselves and our own emotions but to center the relationships that God places before us.

So that made a deep impression and shaped the way I've fundamentally read that verse from Romans ever since: as a call to prayer first and foremost. It's not about how I feel, it's about how I am called to a prophetic ministry: to speak with the voice of Christ, how I am called to make a sacrifice of my own needs and desires to unite instead with his priestly sacrifice. How I am called to think with his mind and love with his heart: to put aside my own emotions for empathy and my own experiences for those of the other members of the Body. Not forever, but that this is getting to the heart of how to pray for others, how to pray the Psalms.

I don't know if that's helpful at all, but I can't help wondering if there isn't a key there to the dilemma you're expressing of how to be in solidarity with both the one who is rejoicing and the one who is weeping. Perhaps what Paul in the letter to the Romans is exhorting It's not to feel their emotions because we cannot change how we feel and it might not even be helpful to try to take on their emotions. But it's to help them give voice to their experiences as best we can as experiences that can be centered in Christ. That they can be opened up to be encounters with the incarnate Lord who loves us and knows what we feel and feels it with us.

What I like about the psalms is that they have the entire range of human emotion and experience in them. There is very little that happens under the sun that cannot find words in one of the Psalms to give it voice. And maybe that's the real task of prayer that the Liturgy of the Hours is calling us to: to bring all the full range of our experiences to God, to live them explicitly in his Light and to allow him to take them into himself. He is the one who rejoices with those who rejoice and he is the one who weeps with those who weep. That is one of the reasons the Word became Flesh, so that he might pitch his tent among us and be with us both in joy and in sorrow, in life and in death, so that there is nothing in the human experience of the Body that he our Head does not encompass in himself.

So perhaps when we are inadequate to the task of empathy and understanding, it is becasue we are trying to approach it too much from a human perspective and not enough from the perspective of one who has put on Christ. Which sounds horribly glib as I type it, but I think perhaps the challenge is to allow ourselves to be led deeper into the mystery of incarnation and of more into the encounter of prayer.

So maybe the detachment isn't a terrible thing so long as it is detachment of self in order to put on Christ. So that it is not I who weep with the one who weeps but Christ who weeps as he wept at the tomb of Lazarus, knowing what he was about to do and yet weeping for the brokenness of the world that has sickness and death and mourning in it. And it is not I who rejoice but Christ who rejoices in me, the same Christ who rejoiced at the wedding feast providing the wine that gladness which suited the celebration might not be overcome by the sadness when mere human toil failed to provide enough to maintain the festive joy. It is Christ who provides the wine of gladness, all we have to bring to the table sometimes is jars of water and beg him to transform them into wine. Because the joy that he commands isn't a human emotion but an entering in to the will of the Father.

I don't know maybe that's all too abstract and too spiritual. But to me the way to make sense of the injunction in Romans is to bring it to Christ and make him make sense of it because if it's not humanly possible then it must only be possible in and through and with Christ.

To me the only way to make sense of Romans 12:15 is to go back to the beginning of that chapter and see the verse in its larger context:

" I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect."

The verse speaks of presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, of making that sacrifice our reasonable act of worship. Of being transformed in the renewal of our mind. So if we are to rejoice and weep, it is in the context of this renewed mind of Christ, in the context of a bodily sacrifice, and in the context of seeking the will of God.


“But it's to help them give voice to their experiences as best we can”

—This is a very helpful line. I have been a little bit stuck on the specific reason which is why it’s particularly hard right now to X with those who X, namely, that there are two mutually inconsistent values for X right now. But of course there are lots of other reasons why it might be hard to X with those who X, prominently among them “I just can’t X right now.” I feel like I understood that situation. The answer is, as you said, to strive to decenter yourself. Which some of us are better at than others of course. But is good practice for all of us.

The two-opposing-X problem is a little tougher, I think because the natural first step in learning to decenter yourself is to center the other person, the one who Xes. And it’s super tough if not impossible to have two centers. The resolution for this, for the Christian, is to center Christ and travel WITH the one who X.

That is the theory; in practice it is still a lot of hard work on oneself. Because “centering Christ” every step of the way is a struggle against centering the self’s *idea* of how things ought to be. To give a brief example, think of the habit some parents supposedly have of telling a suffering child to “offer it up” whatever it is… it *sounds* like a Christ-centered response, but even if delivered quite kindly, ultimately it says “Bother God, not me, about your troubles.”

“He is the one who rejoices with those who rejoice and he is the one who weeps with those who weep.”

—So we return to the imitation of Christ in general. And of course the psalms themselves are a whole collection of *lessons* on how to X with thise who X. Scripts, almost, so we do not have to improvise.


Thank you for your thoughts Melanie, and for your reflective presentation of the question Erin. Both good food for thought.

And I too wonder how Erin is doing :-) I was just here again recently to reference your noro-plan post (fun times, so glad *again* that you shared your decision tree!) You and your family are in my prayers. I'm glad you were able to make it to Chamonix.


Thanks mandamum :) .

I probably should have rewritten the noro post for these unprecedented times. The main thing that has changed is the attitude towards upper respiratory symptoms! “We probably already transmitted whatever we have so no big deal” is now completely useless, and it’s hard to believe now that we never even considered masks for coughing/sneezing teens-and-up.

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