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Tears - St Shenouda Monastery Pimonakhos Articles

“She has wet my feet with her tears … Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.” (Lk 7-44, 47)

It is hard to speak of tears. Are not tears a sign of the limitation of speech? When, in bewilderment, the tongue fails, the heart speaks, and the eyes utter tears.

But who can interpret this language? It is the totality of sentiments dissolved in a drop. It is a tongue that speaks in all languages. It is the language of a soul suffused with the most sincere feelings. It is the consolation of the oppressed, the country of the homeless, the father of the fatherless, and the comfort of the weary. It is the expiation of sins, the sign of regret, the covenant of redemption. It is the washing of the heart, the purifying of the members, the healing of sick souls. It is the language of the spirit, the prayer of the silent, the disdain of the world, the longing for heaven. It is the waiting for death.

Tears draw the scorn of the stonehearted, but they melt the merciful heart. But why should we care about the hearts of men? Tears have a higher honor; they enter into the presence of the Almighty and speak to him. “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears” (2 Kg 20.5). Although they fall on the ground as if worthless, God gathers them in his phial: “Put thou my tears into thy bottle” (Ps 56.8). They cannot move the stony hearted, but they shake the gates of heaven: “While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin … and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God; while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel … came to me in swift flight … and he said to me, ‘O Daniel, I have now come to give you wisdom and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications a word went forth, and I have come to tell you'” (Dan 9.20, 21, 22, 23). Tears, which cannot change the stiffness of princes, can arouse God’s compassion: “Turn your eyes from me; they overwhelm me” (Song 6.5).

How shall I describe you, O tears! How contemptible you are in the eyes of sophists! They make you a sign of the weakness and dissolution of human personality. But the words of the Lord are reason enough to boast: “Blessed are you who weep” (Lk 6.21). St John Climacus tells us of his experience of tears: they are “the mother and daughter of prayer.” This is true, for tears drive us to the quiet bedrooms of prayer. There, God entrusts us with His living springs, and we shed as many tears as sorrow asks of us. “O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night” (Jer 9.1).