Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Gift Of Tears

I am a man given to tears. It must be in my DNA. At my wedding, all the men cried and the women didn't. My first memorable encounter with the God With No Name came at age six. I was moved to tears when I recognized His presence and heard his voice in my soul. To this day, tears flow at His presence. Tears also flow at the presence of my own sins, especially during times of repentance.

One of the things I have had to work through, since becoming Orthodox, is the idea of  "passionless worship". It took me at least three years to understand that passionless is not the same as being emotionless. Passionless, in this context, refers to not being motivated or led by self-promotion. Was Christ emotionless when he wept at hearing the news of the death of His friend?

"Jesus Wept."

Was Christ emotionless when he sweated drops of blood as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane?

A few months ago, I was moved to quiet tears at the sight of a Bishop being ordained. It was a holy, reverent moment, and the awesomeness of our Holy God, conferring on a mere man such an anointing, was overwhelming. A nearby priest, seemingly uncomfortable at my quiet display, ordered me, "Don't Cry. Just be aware that there is work to do."

Would one say, "Don't cry, Jesus. Suck it up. Yes, your friend is dead, and his loved ones are grieving,  but there is work to do", or "Hey Christ! Why so emotional? You don't have to work up a bloody sweat over things. Don't be such a winer. There is a lot of work to do."

Passionless worship is not emotionless worship- Christ forbid! We cry both for joy and for sorrow and both are holy.

St. Symeon the New Theologian said, "God has removed all tears from the face of this earth by means of baptism, having poured out richly His Holy Spirit. But, as I have heard from the Holy Scriptures, certain adults, upon being immersed in this baptism, have shed tears, because they were pricked by the descent of the Spirit. They were not painful and laborious tears, but sweeter than honey by virtue of the working and the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Indeed, tears are a gift from God to his human creation.

St. Simeon the New Theologian
"What an unutterable wonder! That when tears are shed from the bodily eyes they invisibly flow over the soul and wash away the impurity of sin. They shake and burn out the demons as they fall to the ground and make the soul free of the invisible bonds of sin.

O, Tears, that flow because of that divine radiance and that open heaven and bring divine comfort. Again and I say this repeatedly, stirred by delight and pleasure: Where there is an abundance of tears, my brothers, with true knowledge, there also is illumination in the divine light. Where there is the shining of that light, there too is the bestowal of good blessings and the seal of the Holy Spirit embedded in the heart.

Tears work within us a divine fire of contrition. Without tears and constant compunction no man has ever been cleansed or has become holy or has received the Holy Spirit or has seen God or knows that He dwells with him. Without repentance there are no tears; without weeping there are no tears. Let no one say it is impossible to weep everyday...then it is impossible to repent each day. If repenting and weeping and shedding tears is impossible, then to be humble and to pray unceasingly would also be impossible.

Man should not pass through even one single day without repentance and tears. If he has no tears, he should ask God for them with all his strength and with all his soul. There is no other way by which  he can remain sinless and pure in heart."


  1. Anonymous10:44 PM

    Thanks Nathan, you wrote this sometime ago but a brother in Christ whom I have never met pointed me to this post.

    All things are in Gods time.

    ps I to am a man who cries a lot .... at all sorts

  2. You are welcome George. Let's both thank those who have come before us.

  3. Anonymous4:04 PM

    The tears they are talking about are not the same as being emotionally moved.

    1. Anon: Can you explain how one comes to tears without being emotionally moved?

  4. Just as tears are a consequence of strong emotions they are also a consequence of becoming aware of being in the presence of His Holy Spirit, they are a consequence of a sense that I, being the filthy sinner that I am, might put a filthy black smudge on His endless perfection,purity and compassion if He draws any closer.
    It’s just like you can get wet from rain or you can get wet from stepping into a pool. One is from above the other is from below.


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