Wednesday's Child

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Things To Ponder

As a adolescent, I am going through a very turbulent time trying to discover who I am, who I want to be, and the way in which I can resolve those two. I have discovered, after a period of time away from God, that God is imperative to my existence and only He can lead me on the path towards deification. But upon the path to rediscovering God, I have been struck with immense remorse and I find that most things, from seeing someone eating lunch alone at school to watching someone praying in church, make me want to weep. Everything that I see, whether it be beautiful, ugly, sad, or joyful makes me weep. I am struck with this "gift of tears" and it confuses me immensely. I am confused as to what God gave me this ability for. I know that it is something I can use to help others in God's name, but as to what exactly it is that I am supposed to do, well, I am at a loss. All I know is that I see something in people that makes me want to love them and give them something that might be lacking in their lives (like someone to love them utterly). I also know that even the people who I don't like, or who I disaprove of, I feel sad for and I love them in some strange way. I look at the world around me and I cannot but know that God exists and that he is everywhere present. At the same time, I see such evil and corruption that I cannot help but weep for the world and everyone who is so weighed down by the evil that so plagues our time. All that ranting was probably very disorganized and didn't make very much sense, but then again the thoughts as they are in my head don't make sense either. But here are some very wise, beautiful and enlightening words on the true gift of tears, which I hope to one day possess.

"The birth of the weeping of repentance in a person signifies his embarking upon the way to God.

"As one comes closer to the fruit of spiritual life tears become more and more frequent until they flow forth every day and every hour.

"There are tears that burn and there are tears that anoint as if with oil. All tears that flow out of contrition and an anguish of heart on account of sins dry up and burn the body, and often even the governing faculty feels the injury caused by their outflow. At first a man must necessarily come to this order of tears and through them a door is opened unto him to enter into the second order, which is superior to the first; this is the sign that a man has received mercy. These are the tears that are shed because of insight; they make the body comely and anoint it as if with oil, and they pour forth by themselves without compulsion... The body receives from them a sort of nourishment, and gladness is imprinted upon the face. He who has had experience of these two alterations will understand.[7]

"The tears of compunction which are accompanied by the feeling of spiritual joy are granted to someone when he reaches the state of the purity of heart and dispassion. These tears are a consequence of the fact that a person is deemed worthy of revelations from above and the vision of God. This is implied in the Beatitudes:

"Blessed, therefore, are the pure in heart,[8] for there is no time when they do not enjoy the sweetness of tears, and in this sweetness they see the Lord at all times. While tears are still wet in their eyes, they are deemed worthy of beholding His revelations at the height of their prayer; and they make no prayer without tears. This is the meaning of the Lord’s saying, ‘Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted’.[9] For a man comes from mourning into purity of soul... All the saints strive to reach this entrance-way, because by means of tears the door is opened before them to enter the land of consolation, wherein the footsteps of the love of God are imprinted through revelations.[10]

"Thus the tears of compunction which are born as a result of someone’s reaching the state of purity and dispassion lead him to the perfection of the love of God. The sign that a person has reached the love of God is his ability to shed tears every time when he remembers God.

"Isaac often says that tears of compunction should accompany prayer. Tears during prayer are, according to him, a sign that a person’s repentance has been accepted by God.[12] When the gift of tears is granted to a person during prayer, the delight of these tears should not be counted as idleness.[13] A multitude of tears is born to a person in the life of stillness, ‘sometimes with pain, sometimes with amazement; for the heart humbles herself and becomes like a tiny babe, and as soon as she begins to pray, tears flow forth in advance of her prayer’.[14] According to Isaac’s testimony, tears during prayer were experienced by the majority of good monks of his time: ‘(A monk) may receive the gift of tears during the office - something which the majority of right-minded brethren experience - tears which so compel that brother with their quantity that he is unable to complete the office, even though he struggles greatly to do so: instead, he has to abandon the office because of abundant weeping...’[15]

"We see that Isaac does not regard tears as an extraordinary gift, as a special charisma, of which only very few are counted worthy. On the contrary, he considers that the experience of tears is necessary for every Christian, not necessarily a monk.

"Isaac does not always distinguish between the bitter tears of repentance and the sweet tears of compunction. Rather, two types of tears are the two sides of one medal, two aspects of one and the same experience. The tears of compunction, which are born from mystical insights, from the love of God and from deep humility, are joyful tears. At the same time they are accompanied by repentance, by the awareness of one’s own sinfulness, by ‘burning suffering’ and a contrite heart."

- Archimandrite Gregory -


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