Praying and Weeping – 27 August 2018
This picture, Mater Dolorosa 1480-1500, is by Dieric Bouts. Here a mother weeps and prays, in this case the mother of Jesus Christ, as she enters into loss at his death.
The eyes are red with tears, almost bleeding with the agony in her soul. She sees nothing, the focus of her gaze is inward, her whole being turned to prayer. As our eyes follow the tears down her cheeks we see her hands, held together intentionally for prayer. These are beautiful hands, directed to heaven. As our gaze runs up towards the finger tips, we return again to her face and the great sadness expressed there. Weeping and praying, praying and weeping, this is what we see. The longer we look, the more these things rise up within us. For whom do we weep and pray?
This is a painted reflection on the experience of motherhood for those whose children seem lost from God. It depicts the cost of loving, of a heart pierced, that will not be satisfied until the prayer is answered.
The weeping and praying of mothers is a theme today, when we commemorate St Monica, the mother of St Augustine. Monica was deeply distressed by the thirty years of Augustine’s life when he was lost from God, most especially by the heresy that he embraced for a period of his life. Monica wept and prayed for her son. Living to see him turn to Christ, she herself playing a significant role in his conversion.
After her death, Augustine wrote, in his Confessions, about his grief and weeping for the mother “now gone from my sight, who for years had wept over me, that I might live in your [God’s] sight.”
I cried unto the Lord in my distress, and he heard me.
who strengthened Monica, the mother of Augustine, with wisdom,
and through her patient endurance encouraged him
to seek after you:
give us the will to persist in prayer
that those who stray from you may be brought to faith
in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Common Worship, Collect of St Monica