In this video, Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol [Orthodox Church of Cyprus] talks about the role of tears and crying in spiritual life. This is the first part of a homily of Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemessos, given on November 10th, 2022 in in the auditorium of the Holy Metropolis of Lemessos, Cyprus.
Video source: ΙΕΡΑ ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛΗ ΛΕΜΕΣΟΥ ΡΑΔΙΟΦΩΝΙΚΟΣ ΣΤΑΘΜΟΣ
Watch the full interview here: https://youtu.be/QsvOnZ3RibE (in Greek)
It’s a bit of a paradox to talk about it and analyze it since tears evoke pain, sorrow, difficulties, things that are not pleasing. The church, however, through the experience of the Saints and through her experience with man realized that, in the end, tears are really useful and beneficial and helpful to the spiritual life. The same goes for mental health. I will say a few words that I know on the latter.
Abba Isaac says that the spiritual life starts from tears. When you realize that you have tears in your prayer or during a good spiritual state, know that God touched the eyes of your soul and something spiritual and beneficial started happening inside you. Besides, our very own Christ told us, “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” [Matthew 5:4] At another point, He says, “Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh.” [Luke 6:21] We emphasized this in relation to our holy elder Joseph [of Vatopedi], who was crying his whole life but smiled when he fell asleep. You can see this “supernatural” smile on his face after his repose. These are words of Christ and Christ’s words are perfect and has no room for imperfection. If a man cries, this means that he expresses himself and expression always gives rest to man. If you see a man not laughing and not crying, know that he is sick. Even if he is not sick, he is poised to become sick. If he does not cry, he will create some trauma in his mental world.
Some two months ago, I went to Mt. Athos. At the airport, there was a group of ladies who wanted to look young and they were taking photos. When they were taking photos, their smile was that big. The rest of the time, they had a rough, unyielding, iron, wooden face which radiated much trouble. When they were taking photos, however, their smile was too big. Fake smiles. There was a poor one who was taking photos of herself. I also notice that in funerals, you barely see people crying. All of them were black glasses. I did not know the reason for that and they told me that they wear black glasses so it’s not obvious that they are not crying. I imagined the opposite. Because they did not want to be seen crying. I remember my grandmother. When she would go to a funeral she would start crying as soon as she left the house up to the point she got back home and even longer. She would say, “Is it possible to go to a funeral and not cry?” People used to cry and this helped them avoid having repressed feelings. They cried, they mourned. Maybe they cried with a dose of exaggeration, but this was something that helped them balance their inner world. This is why after the funeral ended, they did not suffer other psychiatric, psychological and repressed problems. It’s a good thing for man to express himself either by laughing or crying. This is our nature.
Spiritual tears are something more and different from the normal tears which are born by different external causes. Spiritual tears are a state which is born by the Grace of the Holy Spirit inside the heart of man. It’s what the fathers call «κατάνυξη» in Greek/katanyxis [ i.e. reverence, devoutness, solemnity]. Meaning an energy of Grace which takes place inside our hearts and the heart starts crying right away. Man cries internally and externally. He cries while nurturing holy sentiments, sentiments of prayer, love, peace, repentance and all holy sentiments that the Grace of God cultivates inside the heart of man. There are tears that are demonic. Such as the tears of hate. One hates someone else and cries out of his hate, his malice, his nerves. I have seen people who cry because of their nerves, because of envy, evilness, egoism and pride. Just as the tears of God rest and give peace to our soul, in the same way demonic tears distort our soul and plunge her into demonic energies and demonic passions.
How do we discern where tears come from? From their fruits. As we said the other time, we understand whether a thought comes from God, from devil or from man based on the sentiments, the fruits it produces. In the same way, if tears are from God, they move us towards repentance and towards love for God and our brother. If they are from demons, they move us to despair, to vanity, to sensuality, to avarice. I am crying because I lost the lottery or because someone bothered me. These are not helpful. There are also human tears which are natural. When you go to a place of mourning, when you see something unpleasant, when you see something sad. You are a man, you are going to cry. It’s not bad to cry.
End of First Part