"Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping
in this valley of tears."
We live in a valley of tears. But what a valley!! It’s beautiful. And yet, it still leaves us thinking there must be something more.
Tears are not only probable; they are guaranteed. Most of us enter this world crying! Most leave someone weeping when they depart. Death, in fact, is the cause of the bitterest tears. Many more tears are the result of the original sin, which ushered in death, in the form of the many little deaths that come with its nefarious descendants, actual sins.
But the valley of tears is, nevertheless lovely. It didn’t have to be. It could have been a lot more teary than it is. But, it is beautiful. Love made it so. The Love that makes all loves possible is the author of beauty. He leaves traces of Himself throughout creation to embrace our every sense, that we might embrace Him in our enjoyment of them. In this valley of tears, this beautiful valley, we find love. Love given, love received, love longed for because we know we are made to love and be loved.
We find His embrace in myriad mundane gifts that didn’t need to be, but are. The valley is strewn with flowers. Literally. They didn’t have to be so pretty to us to attract the pollinators. He made them pleasing to us because He loves to delight us needlessly. Majestic mountains, verdant meadows, the sea - fathomless like His mercy - deserts, sunsets, autumn leaves, snowflakes! Each specimen beautifully different – yet ethereal and provided in such lavish overabundance that only a tiny portion are ever appreciated individually. The teeming variety of flora and fauna hidden on this globe, suspended in space. Space! It is an ever unwrapping gift. The stars have always been visible and captivating to man, and as we build better and better devices to reach our vision out to the distance of neighboring galaxies and beyond, we discover gifts of beauty and wonder awaiting our gaze – unseen for millennia. The Earth itself is a beautiful jewel in our solar system, not visible to us as such until we reached the moon.
Every field of study and expertise is a loving treasure, which lifetimes can be spent delving into, never exhausting the imprint of the Creator – in this valley of tears. The variety of such fields is as limitless as our imagination: chemistry, geology, physics, biology, physiology, geometry, botany, entomology, lepidopterology, agriculture, horticulture, permaculture, music, visual arts, dramatic arts, culinary arts, ad infinitum.
Look at the lilies of the field, the birds of the air! Look at the creatures throughout our valley of tears. Surely all weren’t strictly necessary? Many are useful to us, but others are enjoyable beyond purpose – the magnificent lion and horse, the fantastic seahorse and walking stick, the fabulous praying mantis and butterfly, the ridiculous giraffe and duck-billed platypus!
Food. Food is a big one. Did nourishing and fueling our bodies need to be so delicious? It inspires our creativity. A pastry chef can spend her life exploring the craft of making only pastries – and not run out of ideas to thrill the world. Coffee, chocolate, wine, bread, food of every variety and culture. Meals shared inspire and give venue for conversation, friendships and romance. Food makes feasts of events. Even its absence is meaningful as a fast. It was a meal at which Our Lord first came to us physically in the mystery of the Eucharist, the bread of Life.
Our journey through the valley of tears might have been a solitary one. But it isn’t. Friendship makes our lives a joy. Family not only transmits life throughout history in the valley of tears, it is our school of love. It can also be the source of tears through its absence or loss. Smiles. Music. Humor. Literature. Achievements of every kind brighten our days and lighten the burden of the sorrow in that original sin and its resultant curse. And its remedy is sweetness itself. Felix culpa indeed!
That there is suffering is to be expected – it’s a valley of tears. It is the consequence of sin. It is why we’re here. What more could God have placed into this fallen world to make for an enjoyable and comfortable journey through the valley of tears than He has?