This Lenten text is from the compilation entitled A Treasury of Spiritual Wisdom, begun by Archpriest Mikhail Neigum and Georgiy Ponomarev (now Metropolitan Pavel of Ekaternodar and the Kuban), using notes they took from patristic books. The work was continued by other seminarians of the Moscow Theological Seminary, who would later become: Hieromonk Abel, Priest Ioann Sirota, Igumen Andronik (Trubachev), Archimandrite Feofilact (Moiseyev), Priest Alexander Camoilov, and Hieromonk Rostislav (Oborotov).
Christians have a comforter from the Spirit—tears, weeping, and sighing; and the tears themselves are their delight. Tears are the scrupulous guardian of those saving themselves in virtue. Tears that are poured out truly from great and heartfelt anguish, when the truth comes in and enflames us inwardly, are nourishment for the soul. And woe to us, for our hearts are so hardened that often, though we seek tears of compunction with great effort, we do not succeed in finding them because of our extreme carelessness and laziness. Water puts out a fire in a house, and tears during prayer extinguish evil desires. May tears never cease to flow from your eyes filled with sins and unrighteousness. Beg God for His great mercy, so that on the day of the Last Judgment He might forgive you your sins... Have tears that will aid you in your request, because the Master very joyfully accepts prayers offered with tears. Just as seeds need rain, so do we need tears. Baptism cleanses us from our former evils, and tears cleanse away sins committed after Baptism. If the man-loving God did not give them to us, then truly few would be saved. Whoever as a result of remembrance of death and of his sins always moistens his cheeks with the living waters from his sensory eyes is truly guarded from falls. But tears can also be natural, as those we shed over the dead. There are also demonic tears, when someone cries from vainglory or for the sake of some demonic desire. There are tears that come from drunkenness and rich foods. But there are also purifying tears, which are born from the fear of God, from remembrance of death and eternal torments. If we remain and feel pain in the latter kind of tears, then they will become spiritual tears in which there is no longer any fear, but love for God for the sake of consolation, enlightenment, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
It often happens that tears can make frivolous people arrogant, and that is why they are not given to some. Such as these might try to find them but don’t, and so blame themselves, condemn and torment themselves with sighs and laments, with sorrow of soul, and deep compunction and perplexity. All of this safely replaces tears for them, although they beneficially consider it all as nothing. When the soul is inclined to tears without any effort from us, tears that are soft and penetrated with tender feeling, then let us hasten… for the Lord has come to us without our calling to Him and given us God-loving sorrow and the cool water of pious tears to wipe away the handwriting of our sins. Guard this weeping as the apple of your eye, until it gradually departs from you; for great is the strength of it, and it far exceeds in strength the weeping that comes from our effort and thoughts. Man it obliged not to let one day pass throughout his life without any tears, as much as it depends upon him; and if he doesn’t have them, he has a duty while he is still alive to seek them with all his soul—for there is no other way to be cleansed from sins and become pure of heart. Tears that come from the heart are an acceptable sacrifice offered to God for the cleansing away of defilement and the shame of passions and desires. Tears of true lamentation extinguish all the flames of irritation and anger.
Pray to the Lord and pour out your tears before His Goodness. Then remembrance of wrongs will not settle in your soul and your prayer will be like incense before Him. Not for the flesh’s sake are tears, sorrows, and salvific sadness given to you, but for the sake of your soul has God given them to you, to return you to life through them. Just as worldly joy is sometimes mixed with sadness, so do tears for God give growth to constant and unfading joy. Those who have not tasted the sweetness of tears of compunction and doesn’t know what grace they have think that they are no different from the tears shed over the dead, and conceive various empty suppositions and perplexing conclusions, saying that they are natural and not innate. When the pride of the mind inclines toward humility, and the soul closes it eyes to the delusion of visible good things and turns toward only the knowledge of the original, immaterial light, when it casts off all yearning for the sensual world and is vouchsafed consolation of the Spirit from on high, then tears like spring water will pour forth from it, delight its senses and fill its thoughts with all manner of joy and divine Light. Moreover, it will bring the heart to contrition, and the mind to a better knowledge and make it humble. All of this does not happen to those who weep and lament for other reasons.