The tears of Christ

Crispin Harrison CR on Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem

 

We are told that the last sound the Word Incarnate made on the cross was a loud cry, not of pain but of triumph at the fulfilment of our salvation. Tears, lamentation, are a necessary part of the human condition. The Son of God experienced that when he became a child and so throughout his life to his death.

The Gnostics and the Marcionites denied that, because Christ as God, so they thought, could not suffer. However, the Gospels affirm that they were mistaken. Jesus shed tears when he stood by the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. In several places the Gospels tell us that on his final visit to Jerusalem, as Jesus looked across the Kidron Valley from the Mount of Olives at the Temple and city of Jerusalem, he pronounced woes and lamented. St Luke says he wept.

Today a beautiful, small church marks the spot, Dominus flevit, where the Lord shed tears. Behind the altar there is a large window giving a magnificent view of the golden Dome of the Rock and the old city as it is today. Jesus was looking at the recently constructed, splendid Temple buildings and porticos as he lamented their doom.

Jesus pronounced a lament over Jerusalem for two reasons. It had rejected God by rejecting his messengers in the most absolute way, by killing them. He wept at the thought of the disasters which would befall the city. Yes, in Roman times, but also all down the centuries, under the Crusades and even today.

Christians used to believe that the Jews alone rejected God and that responsibility for the shedding of Christ’s blood was entirely theirs. Now we understand that all humanity has rejected God in various ways and all of us have a share in the crucifixion of his Son, Jesus Christ. He weeps for us all and laments at the punishment we deserve.

The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, states, ‘Even though the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ (cf. John 19.6) neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during the passion.

A little further on the Declaration affirms, ‘The Church always held and continues to hold that Christ out of infinite love freely underwent suffering and death because of the sins of all men, so that all might attain salvation. It is the duty of the Church, therefore, to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God’s universal love and the source of all grace’. ND

 

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