Saturday, January 14, 2012
The Tears of Hannah and Elvis
I normally do not listen to Gospel music; however, Friday morning's drive to work was a little different. As I was switching stations on my Jeep's Sirius radio, I punched the sixth button where I had the Elvis station programmed. "Crying in the Chapel" was playing. I decided to give it a listen in its entirety.
Somehow, the words resonated with me that day. Three days earlier, I went to Mass. The first reading came from the First Book of Samuel.
9 After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD, and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thy maidservant, and remember me, and not forget thy maidservant, but wilt give to thy maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head." 12 As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard; therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, "How long will you be drunken? Put away your wine from you." 15 But Hannah answered, "No, my lord, I am a woman sorely troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. 16 Do not regard your maidservant as a base woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation." 17 Then Eli answered, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have made to him." 18 And she said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your eyes." Then the woman went her way and ate, and her countenance was no longer sad.
For several weeks, I have been going through some difficult times. Tears seem to be a frequent occurance. In fact, that day, I was supposed to receive word as to whether or not I had been accepted into a program. As the reading was being proclaimed, I had a sense of dread about the situation and started to weep. After Mass, I spoke to my parochial vicar and he said that he would pray for me.
Sadly, a letter arrived in the mail that confirmed my worst fear: rejection. The tears flowed like a river. I thought of Hannah and her tears. A friend of mine invited me to supper to help me deal with the bad news. I told a friend of mine that I really felt like Hannah as I face my own moment of despiration. I also realized that there is nothing wrong with quietly weeping in the chapel, even during Mass. Sometimes, inaudible tears are the only expressions that we can make when faced with trials.
Eli, the priest, thought Hannah was drunk. Hannah was only speaking to God from her heart. I also remembered the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears. The tears moved Jesus' heart and he pardoned her sins.
Although I feel a little better, the sting of the rejection still hurts. That Friday morning, as I was still thinking about the situation, Elvis blared forth from my radio. Although I usually switch the station when he starts belting out "How Great Thou Art" or "Battle Hymn of the Republic", there was something that resonated with me as I heard "Crying in the Chapel." Even though it is a Gospel song (and not suitable for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass), the song seems to have a Catholic feel to it. Towards the end, he sings of kneeling in prayer. As far as I can tell, aside from funeral home chapels, Catholic parishes and chapels (for the most part) tend to have kneelers in the pews. Kneeling is the posture of supplication before the Lord. We recognize our own littleness before His greatness. We recognize that we are the creatures and He is the Creator.
Tears, as Hannah and Elvis show us, can be a prayer from the heart, whether mournful or joyful.