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 Ekaterinodar and the Kuban), using notes they took from patristic books, and finished 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 Samoilov, and Hieromonk Rostislav (Oborotov).
Let our eyes pour tears, before we go to the place where our tears will burn our bodies. If we will have lamentation diffused with humility of wisdom, then we will cast seven demons out of our souls and feed the soul with true glory and holy virtues. Let us weep with fear and trembling, so that for our carelessness in this life we might not find ourselves there, subject to the anger of the King of Glory, and not be sent to outer darkness. How sorrowful is the day of the sinner, dear and beloved brothers! No lips or tongue are capable of expressing what judgment awaits him. But if he awakens and turns his gaze to himself, and with sighs and sorrowing begins to weep, then he will delight in blessedness in the chamber of joy and not be subject to condemnation. To weep means to constantly remember our own sins and torment our conscience with these thoughts, continually measuring the distance at which we stand from the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us weep only over our sins, while everything else—poverty, sickness, untimely death, offenses, slander, and any other kind of evil that overtakes a man—let us good-naturedly endure. Lamentation is the golden sting, which bares the soul of all earthly love and attachments, and edifies the heart by sadness… Lamentation according to God is a complaint of the soul, a disposition of an aching heart, ecstatically seeking what it thirsts for—and not finding it, it runs strenuously and sobs bitterly after it…
The quality of those who are progressing in lamentation is temperance and silence of the lips… The quality of those progressing in lamentation is angerlessness and forgetfulness of wrongs… The quality of those who are perfect in lamentation is humility of wisdom, a thirst for dishonor, and a voluntary hunger for involuntary sorrows. Even those have not yet attained perfect lamentation who weep about what they want to weep about, but not as God wants. With God-pleasing lamentation is often interwoven the most vile tears of vainglory; and we know this from experience when we see that we weep and yet we are given to anger… He who has attained lamentation in the feeling of his heart has come to hate his own life… he is repulsed by his body as by an enemy.
Whoever abides in constant lamentation unto God will not cease to feast (in spirit) daily, but eternal lamentation awaits whoever always feasts bodily. I have seen those who wept because they had no lamentation… they think that they do not have it, and through their beneficial ignorance avoid being robbed. Consolation is located in the abyss of lamentation, and purity of heart receives enlightenment. When you weep over your sins, never listen to the dog that suggests to you that God is mankind-loving, for he does that in order to tear you away from lamentation and from fearless fear. Drive away also the dog that comes during profound lamentation and portrays God to you as implacable and unmerciful. Just as it would be shameful for one who has buried his father to go and be wed immediately upon his return from the funeral, so also is it indecent for those weeping over their sins to seek comfort in the present age, or honor or glory from people.
When the activity of lamentation is combined with the fulfillment of God’s commandments, it cleanses; and O the miracle, it cleans the soul of all impurity and casts out from it every passion and lust—both fleshly and worldly. Lamentation cannot be embraced by one who always feeds his belly abundantly and concerns himself with nothing more than getting something to eat or drink, behaving slavishly before his flesh as before a mistress. He who laments spends all the days of his life in hunger and thirst in hopes of future blessings. Lamentation has a twofold action: Like water it extinguishes the flames of the passions and cleanses the soul of the defilement they cause; and again, like a fire, through the presence of the Holy Spirit it enlivens, warms, and overtakes the heart, enflaming in it love and the desire for God. If a man amidst others cuts off his own will and does not pay any attention to other people’s sins, then he will obtain lamentation; for through this are his thoughts collected, and thus gathered they give rise to sadness in the heart unto God. For the wise man, lamentation is sweeter than laughter.
Let us weep, beloved, let us weep that we might truly rejoice at the time of true joy. But woe to those who weep, yet do not cease to sin, and therefore lose the profit that comes from lamentation. As wax melts from fire, so also is lamentation easily destroyed by talk, bodily cares and pleasures, and especially from loquacity and levity. We will not be blamed… at the departure of our souls for not working miracles, for not theologizing, for not attaining knowledge. But without a doubt, we will have to give an answer to God for not weeping continually over our sins.