In this video, Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol [Orthodox Church of Cyprus] talks about cultivating the spiritual tears in prayer. He also talks about introspection, attracting the divine grace, compunction of the heart and the prayer of the mind. This is the second 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)
Spiritual tears are born by a cultivation. It is something that is cultivated. It’s not something you just expect to come. When you pray, you must cultivate the tears in your prayer in order to cleanse your heart and feel the Grace of the Holy Spirit. He who cries in his prayer, he prays much therapeutically, he cures his heart. In order to succeed in this effort there are some preconditions to be observed with accuracy and thoroughness.
For example, to have time. If we go pray at night and we have the agony to finish as soon as possible so that we can finish the rest of our obligations and go to sleep, neither tears nor compunction arrives. We need to give time to ourselves. To give him time to do an introspection. This does not take a lot of time. To devote half an hour a day is enough. Just as our elder taught us, it is good for the man to do a confessional prayer, that is, to talk to God with his own words.
Our elder, Joseph of Vatopedi, was a tutor of such a prayer, because he had a lot of experience himself. It is obvious that the elder, during this prayer, talked at any given time, with God. In some way, he “wrestled” with God and condemned himself for his sins as a convict in front of God and he was trying to attract the divine Grace in his heart with much humility. For the man to pray and attract the divine Grace, he needs much humility. Self-condemnation is what the fathers say. To blame yourself. To excuse yourself for nothing. Because excuse drives out repentance. Only the humble man repents. The humble man never excuses himself. But the prideful man [always] excuses himself. Whatever he does, he finds an excuse. I have told this other times as well. I have seen people who have committed murders. They came to confess and they still provided an excuse for their action. “I killed him, but I killed him because he was a scoundrel. I killed him because he bothered me, because he messed with my friend.” He excused his action and that’s why he did not have repentance. The man who excuses himself never repents. The one who bears his fault is the one who repents. “He might be a scoundrel, he might have bothered me, but I do not have an excuse to kill him. I have no excuse to annoy him, to treat him badly.” The one who does not excuse himself, he has established a starting point of repentance through the humility he displays. And when he prays, he holds a right position during prayer and attracts the divine Grace. And the divine Grace brings the tears and the repentance to man. Thus, it is important to make time for ourselves for prayer.
It is also good, my brothers and sisters, to find time for ourselves as we find time for so many other things. But for us to do that, we need to throw the mobile away from our hands. The mobile is a big problem. Everywhere with a mobile, especially young people. Everywhere! They don’t talk to each other anymore. They even check their phones while in the toilet. Once, we were hosted in a house in Athens, and inside the toilet, there was a library. Magazines, crosswords etc. “Don’t you have space for these?” I asked. “No, father, those are books for the toilet.” How will a man pray when he hangs from his phone. He cannot communicate with his wife, his children and himself anymore. How is he supposed to communicate with God through himself? We must show restraint. When I say that I am going to pray for 20 minutes, it means that I will leave my phone away and I will devote 20 minutes for prayer, my spiritual labor.
If this is not possible in our homes, at least let us do it in church. Since we, Orthodox, have long hours of service, especially if we attend early on. The time in church is really crucial for the man to do an introspection, to converse with himself. To criticize, to control, to consult himself. Just as Prophet David did, “Why are you so sad, O my soul? And why do you trouble me?” [Psalm 43:5] Ask yourself, “Why am I troubled?” My friend insulted me. Have you not also insulted your friend? If not now, some other time. Even if you did not insult him, you might have insulted someone else. And if you think you have insulted no one, you still have done other things, which might be even worse. Why do you react like this then? Thus, a dialogue with ourselves is a good thing. But a dialogue where we do not find excuses for our self, but we manage to control him [our inner state] and bring him to his senses. During this dialogue, man evokes God to help him. He begs God to forgive him.
I advise you to listen to the prayers of elder Joseph [of Vatopedi] and find out how the Saints prayed and how they condemned themselves before God. Meaning there was “a fight,” “a wrestling” with God in order “to conquer” the mercy of God and attract His Grace in their hearts. This requires time of silence which we need to provide to ourselves. It also requires humble predisposition and repentance. To understand that we have many faults, weaknesses and sins. To prepare ourselves during the day for the prayer of the night. Just as the father say, “The attention during the day works for the sanctity of the night.” Let the day prepare us for the nightly prayer and the nightly prayer prepare us for the everyday fight in front of us.
We must have a regular program. Disorder and messiness do not help the man, especially in the beginning of spiritual life. Surely, we have many obligations and we do not have a steady schedule. But let us make some time as much as we can. God says in the Holy Scripture, “Be still, and know that I am God;” [Psalms 46:10] Calm down, stop occupying yourselves with other things and only work on one thing, the presence of God inside our hearts. Let us have the disposition to provide this spiritual state to ourselves. I think it’s very difficult if a man does not talk to himself. Our self will become a foreigner to us and he might even become our enemy. Especially, nowadays, man does not want to be left alone. You see that people hate isolation; they cannot spend five minutes with themselves. The tv, the radio and the telephone must be on while in the house. Man cannot stay alone, because himself is not his friend. It becomes his enemy. He does not converse with himself; he does not humble himself. He does not nourish himself with prayer and the tears of repentance in order to befriend himself and realize that his best friend is himself. It is really important to have time to enter your heart and converse with yourself and witness this Grace of God inside your heart. I am not sure if it is a thing that comes with age but it seems that, while getting older, man has this need, to converse with himself. We must find this time to calm down, to find peace in our hearts, peace in our thoughts, peace in our soul and converse with ourselves.
To this end, the noetic prayer, the invocation of the name of Christ, helps a lot. The prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” This little prayer, as we have said many times, is short, it’s easy. It can be said many times easily. It has the power to attract the Grace of God in the soul of man, to give birth to holy sentiments and it is a spiritual labor. Saint Paisios used to say that the nous of man resembles a mill. Just as you add wheat to the mill and you get flour and you are able to make good breads. If you add wheat, you will get flour, [but] if you add stones, you will get dirt. The same goes for the nous. If you add spiritual labor to the nous, such as the Jesus prayer, it will then give you holy sentiments and the inside of our heart will cleanse and holy things will spring from the heart. If you add dirty thoughts, then you will get bad sentiments and bad dispositions. This is why Christ says, “from the heart of man come all the passions and all the weaknesses.” And the whole work of our church is to cleanse our hearts. And we cleanse our hearts with prayer, by studying. By studying the word of God and the works of the Holy Fathers. Because they are written with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit acts in our hearts and the heart of man cleanses by herself. Then, she is filled with clean and holy senses. She is filled with holy pictures. We have said that it is really important to have a store of holy senses and holy pictures. This is why we fill the walls of the church with holy icons, so that our mind and our senses have spiritual nourishment. The vision, by seeing the holy icons of the Christ, the Panagia [Theotokos] and the Saints. Our taste by tasting the Holy Sacraments. Our smell, we incense inside the church as well as the fragrance the holy relics exhale. We touch the holy objects; we listen to the psalmodies of the Saints. All these things fill our senses with “holy material”, with holy icons, with holy senses. So, when the time comes that we need to draw help and strength for our fight, we have a spiritual store, full of good senses, from which we draw new and old treasures as the Holy Scripture says. Whereas if it is filled with dirty things, then during the times of silence passions and impurities will come up to torment us.