April 27, 2016

On the Blessed Tears of Repentance (Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria)

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

In the Orthodox Temples of our Holy Church the inspired hymns of the sacred hymnographers for Matins of Holy and Great Wednesday are melodiously chanted, which deliver us over to the waves of devotion that especially bring nostalgia to the human soul.

With what did the sinful woman occupy herself, who every Holy Wednesday we remember at the suggestion of our God-bearing Fathers?

It was the slavery to sin, darkness, which unfolds in the soul and does not give it the ability to see the face of God.

Those experienced in the spiritual life call this state an unnatural situation, simply because people were created to see the face of God.

Therefore, when the human nous is darkened by the presence of sin, it loses this ability and obliterates the purpose for which God the Creator made us.

Thus, in despair, they seek to be released from the sensible things and idols that encircle them which their nous is attached to, in order to see the unwaning light of Christ.

Sin was the problem of this woman. And her departure from this state was heroic.

1. This woman had the courage to arrive at the house of Simon the Pharisee, and she overcame herself, her shame before the presence of so many invited guests to ask for the forgiveness of her sins from the Physician of souls and bodies.

2. This woman had something very expensive. It was not only myrrh which she anointed the feet of Christ with, "which she wiped away with her hair and lips, frequently kissing them" (Troparion of the 7th Ode from the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete, for Great Compline on Holy Tuesday), but especially with her tears.

It is a timeless sign of repentance and humility of humanity before God. With this is accomplished the embrace of God with humanity. A characteristic example is Hezekiah, who with "bitter weeping" received the response of the compassionate God: "I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life" (Is. 38:3-5). And the Prophet David records in the Psalms his own experience of redemptive tears: "I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes" (Ps. 6:6-7).

The tears were those of the restored fallen disciple Peter after his terrible triple denial of Christ before the child on the night of betrayal: "And he went outside and wept bitterly" (Lk. 22:62; Matt. 26:75).

This is why the Fathers of the Church say that tears are the result of the fall of man. "Cutting off and ceasing from sin, the tears of the eyes are no longer needed, for when illness doesn't exist there is no need for medicine" (Arch. Nikitas Voutitas, Πατερικές Εμπειρίες, εκδ. ΖΩΗ 1992, pp. 66-67).

Saint John Climacus describes the tears of repentance as greater than Baptism, since it cleanses us of sins which we commit after it. "If God did not give people tears of repentance rare indeed and difficult it would be to be saved. If still tears cannot run from your eyes due to our natural hardness, at least let there not be missing bitter contrition" (Ibid.).

3. The fountains from which our tears run from our eyes in moments of repentance and contrition do not lead us to psychopathological states, as some claim today, but they offer us spiritual ascents and spiritual states of grace, such as those we encounter in the texts of the Holy Fathers of the Church.

These tears accompanied the lives of our Saints.

These tears were the only companion in the life of Saint Sophia of Kleisoura.

These tears venerably adorned the figure of Saint Paisios the Athonite as well as all the Saints of our Church.

"O power of tears, in that you boldly are able to bring many even to heaven. O power of tears, you receive from God all your requests, because they seize gladness and bring forgiveness," exclaims full of solemn wonder Ephraim the Syrian, whose eyes had become endless fountains of tears.

These tears give us the remission of sins.

These tears gift us with the sweetness of mercy.

These tears console us in the time of our fall.

These tears prepare us for repentance.

These tears present us before the Throne of God and plead for our salvation.

This is what the sinful woman offered, along with the humble gift, "she who was in despair for her life, with her ways well known," shortly before the Passion of the Savior Christ.

We, who sin daily, do we offer the fountains of these tears as a sign of our repentance?

This is why tonight, together with the poetess Kassiani, let us speak to Him who is going to His voluntary Passion, even the Master Christ, saying: "Receive the fountains of my tears, You, who gathers into clouds the waters of the sea. Incline to the groanings of my heart, You, who in Your ineffable condescension bowed down the heavens."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.