H.H. POPE SHENOUDA III
H.H. POPE SHENOUDA III
Translated Into English By H. G. Bishop Suriel
Copyright © 1997 by: C.O.P.T.
Coptic Orthodox Publishing and Translating
P.O. Box 631
KOGARAH - N.S.W. 2217
ISBN 0 000000
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All rights reserved.
First Edition 1997
H.H. Pope Shenouda III, 117th Pope of
Alexandria and the See of St. Mark
The Story Of This Book (Preface)
The Pinnacle of Tears
The Beatification of Tears
Chapter One: Types of Weeping
E Tears of Prayer
E Tears of Regret and Repentance
E Tears of Grief
E Tears of Separation
E Tears of Emotion
E Tears of Sharing
E Tears of Joy
E Rejected Tears (different types)
E Tears of Lust
Chapter Two: Tears in the Ministry
E The Reasons of Tears in the Ministry
Chapter Three: Tears in the Lives of the Saints
Chapter Four: The Reasons for Tears
E Gentleness and Sensitivity
E Sensing the Trifleness of the World
E The Remembrance of Sins
E Temptations and Hardships
E The Remembrance of Death
E Joy and Emotion
E Feeling of Incapability
E The Feeling of being Abandoned
E Gloating Over Another Person's Misfortune (Triumph)
Chapter Five: The Obstacles of Tears
E The Harshness of Heart
E The Judgment of Others
E Anger and Malice
E Living in Sin
E Pleasure and Amusement
E Pride and Honour
E Negligence and Tepidity
The Story Of This Book (Preface)
The story of this book goes back thirty years. This was in
1960, when I was in my cave in the `Bahr el Faregh' in the
wilderness of Scetis. I had time to answer spiritual questions
which my spiritual sons used to send to me.
Once I received a letter that contained many questions, I
answered more than ten of them, and this topic remained. So I
said to the person who send the letter, `I have answered all
your questions except the question on tears. I will soon answer
this question for you...'
I prepared the points specific to tears and I kept them with
me. I was then ordained a bishop and I gave a lecture about
tears in 1964. Finally, I have found all the notes on this subject
and wished to publish them before they are lost amongst my
Pope Shenouda III
The Pinnacle Of Tears
The loftiest picture of tears is the saying of the Bible in the
story of the raising of Lazarus from death: "Jesus wept." (John
It is the shortest verse in the Bible, but perhaps at the same
time it is one of the most deepest verses in the Bible. Perhaps a
similar one to it in its effect is:
The weeping of the Lord Jesus Christ over Jerusalem
They are tears which are deeper than all of our
contemplation. They contain love, impact, gentleness and
sensitivity of heart, compassion and perhaps also grief.
They contain other meanings which I do not know...
Who can reach their depths?
The Beatification Of Weeping
E The Lord Jesus Christ beatified weeping.
He said, "Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall
laugh." (Luke 6:21) "Blessed are those who mourn, for they
shall be comforted." (Matt 5:4)
E Psalm 126:5 says:
"Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy."
E Solomon's book of Ecclesiastes says,
"It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to
the house of feasting...The heart of the wise is in the house of
mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
(Eccl 7:2, 4), It also says: "Sorrow is better than laughter, for
by a sad countenance the heart is made better". (Eccl 7:3)
Here we can point out that the Church calls us to weep
over our sins everyday, in the second service of the "Midnight
Prayer, where it says: "Give me, Lord, fountains of many
tears as you did in the past to the sinful woman" and "Make
me worthy to shed my tears on your feet, which took me to the
right path and offer you the best of perfumes. Grant me to live
pure and repentant..."
In this way the Church places in front of us the Gospel of
the sinful woman (Luke 7), to pray everyday at midnight, and
to learn a lesson from her tears and repentance. Each one of us
will stand to pray in front of God and say: "Give me, Lord,
fountains of many tears to weep over my pride, anger,
harshness, impurity, negligence and over the many sins of my
tongue, heart and mind. Also, for my lack of love of your
people, for my lack of seriousness in my spirituality, and for my
carelessness in keeping your laws. Give me also fountains of
many tears to weep for my lack of love."
God asks us to weep regularly and says to us in the Book
of the Prophet Joe: "Turn to me with all your heart, with
fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." (Joel 2:12)
In the Book of Malachi the Prophet He says: "...You cover the
altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying."
We are in need of these tears as long as we are on earth, it
is sufficient that the Lord Jesus Christ said in His beatitudes,
"Blessed are you who weep now..." (Luke 6:21), and the word
(now) means here on earth and the phrase "for they shall be
comforted" means there, in heaven.
Hence, amongst the fruits of tears is comfort.
Types Of Weeping
E Tears of Prayer
E Tears of repentance and tears of regret
E Tears of despair
E Tears of sympathy for others or tears of existential sharing
E Tears of separation in the cases of death or at farewelling
E Tears of assembling together after separation
E Tears of inability or defeat
E Tears of impact, sensitivity, intense emotion
E Tears of grief, sorrow and loss
E Tears in ministry
E Tears of love and joy
E Tears of lust
E False tears
There are many types of tears in the life of mankind which
differ according to their reasons. Amongst these types we can
mention the following:
1. Tears of Prayer
2. Tears of repentance and tears of grief
3. Tears of despair
4. Tears of sympathy for others or tears of existential
Tears of separation in the cases of death or at
Tears of assembling together after separation
Tears of inability or defeat
Tears of impact, sensitivity, intense emotion
Tears of grief, sorrow and loss
Tears in ministry
Tears of love and joy
Tears of lust
Tears of Prayer
The tears of prayer are many in the Holy Bible and in the
stories of the saints, which we will mention when we discuss in
detail the tears of the saints.
It is the result of love, feeling and the depth of prayer that
originates from the heart, with feelings of longing and
compassion towards God, or depth in requesting.
One of the most famous is the tears of David the Prophet
who said to the Lord in his Psalms, listen to my tears (Ps 119).
Another example is the tears of Hannah the wife of
Elkanah. It is mentioned about her prayer that she, "...prayed
to the Lord and wept in anguish. Then she made a vow.." (1
The examples of tears are very great in the Holy Bible, and
in the stories of the saints also (See Chapter Three).
Tears of Regret and Repentance
Here are some examples from the Bible:
The tears of the sinful woman who washed the feet
of Jesus with her tears (Luke 7:38).
She washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with
the hair of her head. The Lord Jesus Christ said about her that,
"she has washed My feet with her tears", she loved much and
was forgiven much. The Lord preferred her rather than the
Pharisee who sensed his righteousness.
She did not have any words to say, or dare to say, so
she spoke with her tears.
The person who is conscious and regrets his sins, is
ashamed to talk. The feelings of regret and grief in his heart,
press upon the fountains of tears in his eyes and so he weeps.
His weeping is then the most sincere expression, better than any
A person might say some words without any feelings,
but weeping is feelings without words.
They are expressive and sincere feelings.
Amongst the examples of tears is also repentance:
The tears of David the Prophet during his
It is at its deepest in his saying, "I am weary with my
groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch
with my tears." (Ps 6:6)
He also says, "... I wept and chastened my soul with
fasting... I also made sackcloth my garment." (Ps 69: 10, 11)
"Because of the sound of my groaning my bones cling to my
skin...For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink
with weeping." (Ps 102:5,9)
Perhaps one of the prominent examples of tears of regret
and repentance is:
The tears of Peter the apostle after his denial:
The Bible says about him that, "he went out and wept
Here we find weeping accompanied by bitterness in the
heart and in tears.
Amongst the examples of tears of repentance is:
4. The tears of a whole race in a general repentance:
Joel the Prophet says about this:
" Now, therefore," says the LORD, "Turn to me with all
your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning."
So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the
LORD your God"
"Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, weep between
the porch and the altar; let them say, "Spare Your people, O
LORD, and do not give Your heritage to reproach." (Joel
The whole race wept greatly in the days of Ezra the
priest as a result of their sins, "Now while Ezra was praying,
and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down
before the house of God" (Ezra 10:1).
Similarly, Saint Paul the apostle says rebukingly to the
Corinthians, "And you are puffed up, and have not rather
mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away
from among you" (1 Corinthians 5:2).
Saint James the apostle says:"Cleanse your hands, you
sinners ... Lament and mourn and weep!" (James 4:8,9)
Malachi the prophet explains this matter saying, "...you
cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and
crying". (Mal 2:13).
One of the examples of weeping as a result of sin is:
The weeping of those who pierced Christ, when they
see Him in His Second Coming. About this the book of
Revelation says, "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every
eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him. And all the
tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him" (Rev 1:7).
We cannot place mourning in this example under the
heading of repentance, nor can it be described as regret also.
Perhaps they are the tears of sorrow, pain and grief with no
Tears of Sorrow
Perhaps the most prominent examples in the Bible are:
The tears of sorrow for the sinners who perished or
were rejected by the Lord.
An example of this is the prophet Samuel's weeping over
king Saul. The Bible says, "Samuel mourned for Saul" (1
Samuel 15:35), "Then the LORD said to Samuel, "How long
will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him?" (1 Sam
In like manner, Paul the apostle wept over the
ministers who fell and perished. He said, "For many walk,
of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping,
that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is
destruction" (Phil 3:18, 19).
The book of Revelation mentions the weeping over
Babylon, the mighty, sinful city: It says, "And the kings of
the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with
her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of
her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment,
saying, "Alas, alas". (Rev 18:9,10).
Perhaps we might also remember David's weeping over
Truly he was sorrowful over his son who had died, but
there is a sensitive point which is, at death he perished. He died
being a betrayer of his father, rebelling and fighting against him
and committing fornication with his women.
David did not weep over his son whom the wife of Uriah
gave birth to and he said, "Can I bring him back again? I shall
go to him, but he shall not return to me" (2 Samuel 12:23), but
he wept over Absalom.
At death he perished and his father did not go to him,
but was separated from him forever.
Another example of weeping as a result of grief was the
weeping of David and all the people when the Amalekites
invaded the city of Ziklag, burned it and took captive the
women. Here the Bible says: "Then David and the people who
were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no
more power to weep". (1 Sam 30:1-4).
Truly it is a very moving situation, where the weeping
reached its utmost limit that they had no power remaining to
One more example of sorrowful weeping is, all the Book of
It is the book of weeping and tears. It enters into sorrowful
weeping, but it is sorrow as a result of the ministry, and with a
drive of holy zeal. This book is also suitable for a person to use
to lament over himself .
Tears of Separation
It is not easy for hearts that have been joined with love
to be separated, especially if the separation is without
return, at least on this earth.
Hence, in this field we find examples of saints who wept as
a result of this separation, amongst these examples are:
E The weeping of our father Abraham over Sarah:
The Bible, after the death of Sarah says, "Abraham came
to weep for Sarah and to weep for her" (Gen 23:2).
E Likewise, it was said about Mary, the sister of Lazarus,
after his death:
It was said about her"She is going to the tomb to weep
there". (John 11:31).
E Mary Magdalene wept at the tomb of our Lord Jesus
It was said about her, "But Mary stood outside by the tomb
weeping" (John 20:11). The two angels said to her, "Woman,
why are you weeping?". The same phrase was said to her by
the Lord Jesus Christ (John 20:13, 15)."
E The widow of Nain wept over her dead son:
It was said about her"When the Lord saw her, He had
compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep". (Luke
E The whole congregation wept when Saint Paul said to
them, "(you) will see my face no more".
The book of `Acts' says, "Then they all wept freely, and
fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for
the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no
more". (Acts 20:37, 38).
E The weeping of the people after the death of Moses:
The Bible says, "And the children of Israel wept for Moses
in the plains of Moab thirty days. So the days of weeping and
mourning for Moses ended" (Deut 34:8).
After saying all of these things I am amazed at some of the
priests, deacons and other responsible persons who rebuke
women severely when they weep at funerals!!
This weeping is something natural, they are human
feelings which are difficult to conceal. However, they must
be within reasonable limits, and should not turn into
constant screaming which delays the prayers in the church.
Tears of Emotion
This appears to be very clear in the reunion of the
upright Joseph with his brothers and his father, after years
E When Joseph heard his brothers saying to each other, "We
are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish
of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear",
the Bible then says about Joseph, "he turned himself away
from them and wept". (Gen 42:24).
E Likewise, when he revealed himself to them, the Bible says
about him that, "he cried out, "Make everyone go out from
me!" So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself
known to his brothers. And he wept aloud ... Then Joseph said
to his brothers, "I am Joseph; does my father still live?" (Gen
E Similarly, when he met his brother Benjamin, the Bible says:
"Then he fell on his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and
Benjamin wept on his neck. Moreover he kissed all his brothers
and wept over them." (Gen 45:14,15)
E The reunion of the upright Joseph with his father Jacob was
with the same emotion and weeping. The Bible says, "So
Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet
his father Israel; and he presented himself to him, and fell on
his neck and wept on his neck a good while" (Gen 46:29).
They are sensitive, human feelings.
E Perhaps using the same human measure, we might remember
the meeting of Jacob with his cousin Rachel.
The Bible says, "Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up
his voice and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her
father's relative and that he was Rebekah's son" (Gen 29:11,
He was affected that the Lord assisted him in finding his
uncle's house, and that he found his cousin in front of him by
divine arrangement. So, he lifted up his voice and wept.
They are human feelings, by which a person may weep,
being affected in the case of reunion, and also in the case of
Tears of Sharing
They are tears for the sake of others, or with others. The
apostle says about this, "weep with those who weep". (Romans
For this type also there are many examples in the Holy
Bible, amongst which is the saying of Saint John the Evangelist:
E "And many of the Jews had joined the women around
Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother."
(John 11:19). Perhaps the most distinguished and deepest thing
which was said on this occasion was, "...when Jesus saw her
weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping" ...
E"Jesus wept" (John 11:35).
E Perhaps another example in this field is the weeping of
daughters of Jerusalem when they saw the Lord Jesus being
delivered to the cross, where, "a great multitude of the people
followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented
Him" (Luke 23:27).
E One more example also is the weeping of mothers over their
sons in any hardship.
When the water was used up by Hagar and her son, she
placed the boy under one of the shrubs. Then she went and sat
down across from him at a distance...for she said to herself,
"Let me not see the death of the boy ... and lifted her voice and
wept" (Gen 21:15, 16).
Tears of Joy
An example of this is the weeping of the people at the
rebuilding of the temple after the captivity in the days of
Zerubbabel. The book of `Ezra' the priest says:
"But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers'
houses, who were old men, who had seen the first temple, wept
with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid
before their eyes; yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the
people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the
noise of the weeping of the people." (Ezra 3:12, 13)
Amongst this group are the tears of despair:
E Perhaps an example of this is the tears of Esau of which the
apostle said, "lest there be any fornicator or profane person
like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For
you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the
blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for
repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears" (Heb
Esau's tears were of another type.
E They were tears of inability and defeat. They were tears of
wrath and malice towards his brother, and tears of despair in
not receiving the blessing.
"And Esau said to his father, "Have you only one
blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father!"
And Esau lifted up his voice and wept." (Gen 27:38) It was
said that when he heard of the blessing of Jacob, "he cried with
an exceedingly great and bitter cry" (Gen 27:34).
The greater blessing which Jacob attained was that the
Lord Jesus Christ would come from his seed, and with his
seed all the families of the earth would be blessed (Gen
28:14). It was not possible for Christ to come forth from
Esau and Jacob together.
Hence, the phrase, "Have you only one blessing, my
father?", means with respect to this matter a complete
ignorance of the blessing and its nature! His cry was a cry of
wrath and defeat, and his weeping was a weeping of inability
Another example also of this rejected weeping of despair is:
E The weeping of those who will perish in eternity.
The Bible says about them that they, "will be cast out into
outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"
(Matt 8:12). It also says about the end of the world, "The Son
of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of
His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice
lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There
will be wailing and gnashing of teeth". (Matt 13:41, 42) The
same words are repeated in (Matt 24:51) and in (Luke 13:28).
So, what profit is such weeping?!
Tears of Lust
They are tears which add a new sin to the sin of lust, and
so it becomes a compounded sin.
An example of this is the sin of the people when they
wept in the wilderness craving to eat meat!!
The Book of Numbers says:
"Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to
intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and
said: "Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish
which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the
leeks, the onions, and the garlic". (Num 11:4, 5). Moses
said to the Lord, "Where am I to get meat to give to all these
people? For they weep all over me, saying, "Give us meat, that
we may eat". (Num 11:13).EEE
TEARS IN THE MINISTRY
E The Reasons for tears in the ministry
1. Perhaps the most famous are the tears of Jeremiah the
Prophet. These were recorded in a whole book amongst the
holy books of the Bible called, `The Book of Lamentations'.
It contains many prayers of sighing and grief. Jeremiah
says, "Remember, O LORD, what has come upon us; look, and
behold our reproach! Our inheritance has been turned over to
aliens ... We have become orphans and waifs, our mothers are
like widows". (Lam 5:1-3).
He also says, "The joy of our heart has ceased; Our dance
has turned into mourning...Because of this our heart is faint;
Because of these things our eyes grow dim...Why do You forget
us forever, and forsake us for so long a time? Turn us back to
You, O LORD, and we will be restored; renew our days as of
old, unless You have utterly rejected us" (Lam 5:15-22).
He explains in this book, the weeping of the kingdom of
Judah saying, "For these things I weep; my eye, my eye
overflows with water; because the comforter, who should
restore my life, is far from me" (Lam 1:16). "My eyes fail with
tears, my heart is troubled." (Lam 2:11) . "My eyes flow and
do not cease, without interruption, till the LORD from heaven
looks down and sees. My eyes bring suffering to my soul
because of all the daughters of my city." (Lam 3:49-51)
Weeping here is without refrain, and without comfort
up until the eye has become tired of weeping, with feelings
that God has forsaken the soul or forgot or rejected it!
Prayer follows prayer for Him to return.
2. Another example is that of the captives by the Rivers of
Babylon. The Psalmist says: "By the rivers of Babylon, There
we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. We
hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. For there
those who carried us away captive required of us a song ...
How shall we sing the Lord's song In a foreign land?"
3. The weeping of Nehemiah at hearing bad news about
Jerusalem is also an example.
He said, "...when I heard these words, that I sat down and
wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying
before the God of heaven" (Neh 1:4).
In his prayer he confessed his sins and the sins of all the
people and he asked for mercy from the Lord, reminding Him
of His promises to the fathers.
4. It is the same situation with respect to Ezra the priest, when
he found out about the sins of the people. He wept and made
the people weep with him.
The Bible says, "Now while Ezra was praying, and while
he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the
house of God, a very large congregation of men, women, and
children assembled to him from Israel; for the people wept
very bitterly". (Ezra 10:1).
Other than in `Lamentations', Jeremiah the prophet says in
his book, `Jeremiah': "Oh, that my head were waters, and my
eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for
the slain of the daughter of my people!" (Jer 9:1)
5. Daniel the prophet also wept concerning the years of
He said about this, "Then I set my face toward the Lord
God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting,
sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the LORD my God, and
made confession, and said ... "we have sinned and committed
iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by
departing from Your precepts and Your judgments".
"In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate
no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor
did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled."
Here we can see weeping accompanied by prayer,
fasting, renunciation and confession of sins.
6. One of the examples of weeping in the ministry is the
weeping of Micah the Prophet, "All this is for the transgression
of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel." (Mic 1:5)
He says about this, "Therefore I will wail and howl, I will
go stripped and naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals
and a mourning like the ostriches, for her wounds are
incurable. For it has come to Judah..." (Mic 1:8, 9).
7. Perhaps the pinnacle of weeping in the ministry is the
weeping of our Lord Jesus Christ over Jerusalem:
The Scriptures say, "Now as He drew near, He saw the city
and wept over it, saying, ... "For the days will come upon you
when your enemies will build an embankment around you ...
and level you, and your children within you, to the ground;
and they will not leave in you one stone upon another ..."
8. Saint Paul the apostle also wept whilst in the ministry:
He says to the priests of Ephesus, "You know, from the
first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived
among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears
and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews"
"Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did
not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." (Acts
Even in his Epistles he says to the people of Corinth, "For
out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with
many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might
know the love which I have so abundantly for you" (2 Cor
9. In like manner were the disciples of Saint Paul in their
Saint Paul writes to his disciple Timothy saying, "... as
without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day,
greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears ..." (2
The Reasons for Weeping in the Ministry
E The sensitive heart is affected by the state of the people
E He is affected if he remembers their sins. How they became
weak and how they hurt the heart of God.
E He is affected by the results of sin and what troubles and
curses it has brought, or what it will bring in the way of God's
E He is affected in rebuking someone for sin, remembering his
own weakness also and that he did not wish to rebuke, and so
he looks on with tears.
E A person weeps whilst serving, asking for God's help or
asking for His mercy and forgiveness. He might weep whilst
presenting to God in his prayers, the level of loss the matter has
E A person weeps whilst serving, feeling his weakness,
beseeching God to intervene, because the matters cannot be
solved without Him.
E He might weep due to the severity of the problems, and
because of the pressure of the Evil One against him, or because
of the gloating and rebuke of the enemies. As David the
prophet said, "My tears have been my food day and night,
while they continually say to me, "Where is your God?" When
I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me ..."
TEARS IN THE LIFE OF THE SAINTS
1. Saint Arsenius is one of the saints who became very
famous for his weeping.
It is said that his eyelashes fell due to the intensity of his
weeping, and that two cavities formed on his cheeks because of
his weeping. During summer he would wet the palm leaves with
his tears, and he placed a piece of cloth on his knees for his
tears to fall on.
At the time of his death he wept intensely and his disciples
said to him, "Truly, Father, are you also afraid?" "Indeed," he
answered them, "the fear which is mine at this hour has been
with me ever since I became a monk."
If the great Saint Arsenius wept like this, then what
can we say about ourselves?
What can we say about the fear of this hour that
accompanied him? Who did it accompany? It accompanied the
great Arsenius, the model of solitude and silence in "The
Paradise of the Fathers", whom Pope Theophilus desired to
meet. The saints used to say to him, "Why do you avoid us?"
He replied, "God knows that I love you, but I cannot live with
God and with men".
Arsenius the great was the one who stood for prayer at
sunset, the sun being behind him and remained standing to pray
until sunrise the next day, spending the whole night in prayer.
The humble Arsenius, the tutor of princes, was the one
who consulted an Egyptian peasant and said, "I have indeed
been taught Latin and Greek, but I do not know even the Alpha
Veta which this Egyptian knows, and I do not know even how
to pick beans with the monks of Scetis".
What sin did Saint Arsenius commit , to weep and fear
After all of this, do we hurry towards comfort and joy at
beginning of the path and boast that our sins have been
forgiven? We then search for gifts? We ask for our share in the
inheritance? We then forget ourselves!
Tears need contrition of heart. It is also very suitable here
for a person to know himself, to account for it and blame it.
It is said that at the time of the death of Saint Arsenius,
Pope Theophilus said, "Truly you are blessed, Abba
Arsenius, for you wept all your life for the sake of this
2. When Abba Poemen heard that Saint Arsenius was dead, he
said weeping, "Truly you are blessed, Abba Arsenius, for you
wept for yourself in this world!"
"He who does not weep for himself here, below, will
weep eternally hereafter; so it is impossible not to weep,
either voluntarily or when compelled through suffering."
David the prophet who experienced tears very well in his life
was right in saying, "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy"
3. One of the most famous examples on tears also, is Saint
Isidore, the priest of the cells.
There were three thousand monks under his supervision
whom he used to supervise. The devils feared and escaped
from him and he easily drove them out.
Once, the devil appeared to him saying, "Is it not enough
for you that we cannot even pass by your cell, nor by the cells
that are next to your cell? We had one brother here in the
wilderness whom you made to attack us with his prayers day
Despite all of this, Saint Isidore used to weep having
He used to burst into tears with a loud voice, to the level
that his disciple in the adjacent room heard him weeping, and so
he entered unto him saying, "Why are you weeping my father?"
The saint replied, "I am weeping for my sins, my son". The
disciple then said, "Even you, our father, have sins to weep
for?" He answered, "Believe me my son, if God revealed to me
all of my sins, it would not be enough if three or four assembled
with me to weep over them!"
These saints had great sensitivity, regarding sin as
being very wrong and that it hurts God's loving heart.
They did not think about the punishment for sin, but they
thought about the feelings of God and that they had not pleased
Him as yet, despite the great loftiness that they had reached in
spiritual life. They see that this (short coming) when measured
to the perfection they are aiming for, is the sin they are weeping
4. Another saint who wept was Saint Pachomius, the father
of the Koinonia.
After his prayer, his disciples even found the ground where
he stood to be wet with tears.
5. Saint Macarius the great was also known for his tears.
When the days of his departure came near, the fathers
asked him to come to them to be blessed by him, before his
passing away instead of all the dwellers of the mountain moving
to come to him. When he came to them, they gathered around
him and asked him for a word of benefit. The saint wept and
said to him: "Let us weep my brothers, with our eyes
overflowing with tears before we go to the place where our
tears will burn our bodies."
They all wept and fell on their faces saying, "Pray for us, O
6. The following saints are also known for their tears:
Saint Paphnutius, the disciple and successor of saint
Macarius the great:
He had developed in the life of holiness since his early
youth, and all the fathers admired him and loved him, until he
became the head of Scetis after Saint Macarius.
This saint recounted the following story to his children,
saying: "When I was young, I found a cucumber that had fallen
to the ground from the camel drivers, so I took it and ate it.
Every time I remember this story, I weep."
This happened when he was young, he then became a
monk, developed in grace, became head of Scetis, he used to
drive out demons and Pope Theophilus used to desire to listen
to a word of benefit from him. Despite all of this, every time he
remembered this story, he wept.
Weeping here is not in order for the Lord to forgive
him a sin, for David the prophet wept after the Lord had
forgiven him his sin.
This was after Nathan the prophet had said to him, "The
Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die". (2 Sam
The sensitive person does not only weep for the sake of
asking for forgiveness. He weeps however, because he grieves
over himself: How did he reach the level of falling, how did he
grieve the Holy Spirit Who dwells in him and with all courage
broke the commandments of the loving God, Who created him
in His image and likeness and so he lost this image by his sins.
One of the saints was asked about the matters that
would make him weep. He said, "There are three matters
that I fear:
(a) The moment my spirit departs from my body
(b) The moment of standing in front of the Just Judge
(c) The instant of the handing down of the judgment upon
These three matters used to regularly occupy the minds of
the saints, and was a source of tears with respect to them. They
are matters concerned with a person's caution over his eternity.
The remembrance of death then, is always
accompanied by the remembrance of the Judgment.
The remembrance of the Judgment brings about tears,
especially if it is accompanied by the remembrance of one's sins
and weeping over them. How difficult is the phrase, "(He) will
render to each one according to his deeds"! Or the phrase, "and
their works follow them"!
I wonder, of what type are these works which will
follow us? Are they worthy of tears?
In remembering the Judgment, the person also remembers
God's justice. That is why the Church places in front of us this
truth everyday in "The Prayer Before Sleeping", in which the
person praying says, "Behold, I am about to stand before the
Just Judge in fear because of my numerous sins...".
In remembering the Judgment and sin, we remember also
the saying of the apostle: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the
hands of the living God." (Heb 10:31)
Fear also, is one of the vital reasons for tears. We mean
here, fear for spiritual reasons and not fear for the sake of
worldly matters, as occurs to some people.
My brother, weep here, so that the Lord will wipe away
every tear from your eyes at receiving it.
However, if you do not weep here, what will Christ wipe
from your eyes in the Other World?
He who does not weep here, will have springs of tears of
despair burst from his eyes which no one will wipe away, they
are tears which are not able to extinguish the fire surrounding
Our fathers the saints said many things about weeping
E A brother asked Abba Poemen what he should do about his
sins. The old man said to him, "He who wishes to purify his
faults purifies them with tears, and he who wishes to acquire
virtues, acquires them with tears; for weeping is the way the
Scriptures and our Fathers give us when they say "Weep!"
Truly, there is no other way than this."
E Abba Noah asked Saint Macarius, "Tell me a word of
benefit." The old man said to him, "flee from men". Abba Noah
then asked him, "What do you mean my Father by fleeing from
men?" The old man then said, "Stay in your cell and weep for
E Saint John Saba said, "Blessed are those whose cheeks have
been burned by the tears of Your love. For these tears water
the articulate earth, which was burned with fire and so it
produces the fruits of the Spirit".
These tears are the ones which should depict each person in
his life: They have factors which strengthen them, and factors
which weaken them. What are each of these factors?
THE REASONS FOR TEARS
E Gentleness and Sensitivity
E Sensing the Trifleness of the World
E The Remembrance of Sins
E Temptations and Hardships
E The Remembrance of Death
E Joy and Emotion
E Feeling of Incapability
E The Feeling of being Abandoned
E Gloating Over Another Person's Misfortune (Triumph)
There are many incentives that cause tears, some are from
within; in the heart, thought, feelings and even in a person's
nature itself, and some are external factors, related and
associated with the situations that surround the person who is
weeping. We will try to speak about each of these as much as
possible. We can mention the following:
Gentleness and Sensitivity
The tears of a gentle and sensitive person are easy and
The harsh person on the other hand, whose heart is strong,
has precious tears and it is difficult for him to weep. If such a
person weeps one day, then the external reason must be very
strong and dangerous, so that the nature of this person could
not overcome it.
That is why we find that a woman's tears are very
close, more closer than a man's tears.
This is because women are more gentler than men by their
nature. If a man weeps however, his tears are more deeper and
greater in effect. Likewise, if a child or a young person weeps,
this is something natural, it is something normal in his nature. If
an older man weeps on the other hand, his tears are more
precious and real, they have strong and deep reasons, since this
older man could not control himself.
The gentle person is affected by the smallest thing, his
tears run quickly and spontaneously.
They are natural tears which are not manufactured, since
his sensitive feelings are affected speedily, whether in what
concerns him or concerns someone else. There are many
matters which shake the heart with respect to those who own
gentle feelings, whereas these matters would not affect others
who have stiff or harsh hearts, or those who have the power of
dominance over their feelings or are cautious in hiding them.
Tears and harshness do not agree, except if the harsh
person is hit with reasons greater than this harshness which
makes him move from within and he collapses in front of it.
This is exactly what happened to Esau, when he was shocked at
the loss of the blessing by a trick from his brother. He could not
bear the shock and so he lifted up his voice and wept (Gen
The weeping of a harsh person is something temporary. It
is also something unnatural. The weeping of a gentle person
however, is a natural matter, it is repeated, he tolerates the
events at any time, whether for an internal or external reason.
That is why, the person who loves tears and desires to
acquire them must first acquire the gentleness of nature.
If his senses are not gentle by nature, then he must acquire
this gentleness, search for its reasons and train himself in it.
Naturally, the more a person comes closer to God, the
more gentler his feelings become. The more he becomes
acquainted with those whose nature is gentle, the more he will
learn gentleness from them. Hence, he must keep away from
the reasons that lead to severity of nature and harshness of
heart, and they are many.
Sensing the Trifleness of the World
From where will the virtue of weeping come to him who
lives in the pleasures of the world and its amusements?
The world occupies and amuses him.
Solomon the sage was enjoying the splendor of his reign
and its grandeur, and whatever his eyes desired he did not keep
from them (Ecclesiastes 2:10). At that time he did not weep,
but when he sensed the trifleness of the world and that indeed
all was vanity and grasping for the wind, he was then able to
say: "For by a sad countenance the heart is made better."
"It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the
house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living
will take it to heart." "The heart of the wise is in the house of
mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
When a person realizes the truth of matters and senses the
trifleness of the world and does not delight in his desires, then
he feels voidness with respect to the world and his feelings
He yearns for another world, and if he finds that the
other world is far away from him, he weeps whilst yearning
compassionately for it.
He feels alienation in this present world and the feelings of
alienation make him weep. He is certain that his true joy is not
here. For he is a stranger on earth, a guest like all of his
forefathers, anticipating a heavenly homeland, the city which
has foundations (Heb 11:16, 10).
The feelings of the Psalmist were correct when he called
this world, "the Valley of Baca (Weeping)".
About our lives in it he said, "As they pass through the
Valley of Baca" (Ps 84:6).
The saints used to weep when they sensed their alienation
in the world, yearning for a better world and renouncing all that
is in it. The joys of this world did not satisfy or please them.
Truly, man comprehends spiritual tears when he
reaches the life of renunciation.
When he arrives at renunciation, or at least to the love of
renunciation, then he weeps over the days which he spent being
attached to the trifles of the world and over his preoccupation
with it. He says to the Lord as Saint Augustine said, "I have
delayed too much in loving You, O You indescribable Beauty".
Here, he remembers his sins, and its remembrance becomes
a spring for many tears.
The Remembrance of Sins
Saint Peter the apostle did not comprehend exactly, the
truth of what he did whilst cursing, blaspheming and denying
Christ! However, when the rooster crowed and he felt the
depth of his sin, "he went out and wept bitterly" (Matt 26:75).
The sinful woman did the same, she washed the Lord's feet
with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head (Luke
7:38). Similarly, David the prophet wept when Nathan the
prophet revealed to him the depth of his sin (2 Sam 12:7).
The forgetting of sin dries the heart and dries the eyes.
David the prophet put it well when he said, "my sin is ever
before me". (Ps 51:3). I wish you would do this, letting your
sins be in front of your eyes, humiliating and rebuking yourself
by them and to weep over these sins day and night. Weeping
over sins washes the heart, purifies the spirit and awakens the
conscience and so it prohibits the person from returning to the
sin another time and teaches him caution and precision.
There is an advice which is repeated in "The Paradise of the
Fathers" that the fathers used to say to whoever seeked a word
of benefit: "Sit in your cell and weep for your sins".
God's forgiveness of sin does not prohibit the sinner from
weeping over it. He does not weep, fearing the punishment, but
he weeps because he has saddened God's heart by his sins, he
has saddened the Spirit of God that is within him. He has also
distanced the angels surrounding him and revealed himself as
evil in front of the spirits who have departed. He also weeps
because by his sin he has lost his divine image, he has fallen and
He weeps in pain, how can his will have been weakened
as such and his spirit defiled?
He feels ashamed in front of himself and embarrassed also.
As David the prophet said in the psalm, "... the shame of my
face has covered me" (Ps 44:15). Daniel the prophet also said
whilst confessing the sins of the people, " Lord, to us belongs
shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers,
because we have sinned against You" (Dan 9:8, 7).
The saints likewise, used to weep for the sins of the
They weep in sadness for those who fall and perish, just as
Samuel mourned for Saul the king (1 Sam 15:35). They wept
whilst asking for forgiveness for the people, requesting grace
for them to repent, as Ezra the priest wept as a result of the
people's sins and tore his garment and plucked out the hair of
his head (Ezra 9:3). "...Ezra was praying ... confessing,
weeping, and bowing down before the house of God" (Ezra
10:1) He said, " my God: I am too ashamed and humiliated to
lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen
higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the
heavens" (Ezra 9:6).
The same thing happened to Nehemiah when he confessed
the sins of the people and said, "Both my father's house and I
have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You" (Neh
Jeremiah the prophet also wept for the sake of the people:
His tears and lamentations were recorded in a whole book of
the Bible which we read regularly in the twelfth hour of Good
If the people do not weep for their sins, then it is the
duty of the saints to weep for their sake, requesting mercy,
forgiveness and repentance for them.
Lord Jesus Christ wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41),
seeing its destruction in front of His eyes. Everyday we see
those who fall and perish and those who stray and are
distanced. Don't they deserve weeping from us? When
Nehemiah heard that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down
and its gates were burned with fire he said, "So it was, when I
heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for
many days; I was fasting and praying..." (Neh 1:3, 4).
Nehemiah wept in front of God whilst confessing the sins
of the people. He said to the Lord in his prayer, "Both my
father's house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly
against You, and have not kept the commandments, the
statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your
servant Moses" (Neh 1:6, 7).
When the daughters of Jerusalem wept over Lord Jesus
Christ, He said to them, "...do not weep for Me, but weep for
yourselves and for your children" (Luke 23:28). Indeed, these
souls were in need of weeping, these sinful souls whom Christ
When we weep for our sins, we remember also, God's
love which persevered with us all of this time!
We remember God's tolerance towards us and His
forbearance, whilst we are continuing to do wrong for a long
time. It reminds us of God's patient and tolerant love and this
gives us a new reason for weeping, being affected by His
compassionate treatment of us.
When the repentant soul weeps in front of God, He has
compassion and is overcome by His compassion and says to
this soul, "Turn your eyes away from me, for they have
overcome me" (Song 6:5).
David the prophet is one of the most outstanding
examples of weeping for sins.
His saying, "All night I make my bed swim; I drench my
couch with my tears" (Ps 6) is sufficient. The phrase, "All (or
every) night" indicates the regularity and the period of the
weeping. The phrase, "I make my bed swim" indicates the
amount of tears being shed. Imagine this great king, he returns
to his palace at night, he removes his crown and royal clothing
and kneels in front of God whilst weeping, to drench his couch
with his tears. Even if he sleeps, he sleeps on a bed drenched
with tears, despite all of the appearance of majesty and splendor
that surrounds him. He also says: "My tears have been my food
day and night" (Ps 42:3).
He also says in his humbleness and weeping, "For I have
eaten ashes like bread, And mingled my drink with weeping"
(Ps 102:9). That means that whenever he drank, his tears fell
and mingled with the water that he drank and he drank them
David used to speak to God about these tears saying, "...
give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears; For I am a
stranger with You" (Ps 39:12). "Put my tears into Your
bottle". (Ps 56:8).
Those who hurry towards joy, hamper their repentance
and they lose the blessing of contrition and the comfort of
They return to sin once again because repentance did not
satisfy the demands of contrition and weeping and this hasty joy
delayed the heart from the feelings of the bitterness and burden
of sin and so they passed over it as if it was a simple matter.
When the repentant begins weeping and being humble in
front of God, the devil fights him with the phrase:"Restore to
me the joy of Your Salvation" (Ps 51).
Notice that David the Prophet presented it as a request, and
did not know it as a way of life. There is no doubt that the joy
of salvation will not be enjoyed except by he who realises the
bitterness of sin and has wept bitterly, as Saint Peter the apostle
The Passover lamb represented the salvation from the
slavery of Pharaoh, and symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ (1
Corinthians 5:7). Despite this, the Lord's command was for
them to eat it with bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8), remembering
their sins which brought slavery upon them. Weeping then, is
the means for comfort as the Bible said: "Those who sow in
tears shall reap in joy" (Ps 126:5).
With these tears that you shed in front of God, you can
obtain the joy of His salvation.
Temptations and Hardships
Temptations, hardships, pain, diseases and disasters
sometimes bring about tears. Especially if the person feels
abandoned, or that it is a punishment as a result of his
sins. Here, a spiritual factor enters into weeping, its reason
being that the person feels that grace has departed from him, or
that God has begun to deliver him to the hands of his enemies.
He is then grieved and weeps.
Sometimes he weeps, repenting and regretting, and
sometimes he weeps whilst reproaching God.
Perhaps this is what David did in his temptations and
hardships when he said in the Psalm, "Why do You stand afar
off, O LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?"
The Lord sometimes allows temptations, not in
abandonment, but for its spiritual benefits.
For, a person at the time of humbleness finds this
humbleness bringing him to the contrition of heart, meekness of
spirit, an excess of tears that makes him feel his weakness, and
removes from him all the reasons and manifestations of pride.
God might see that the tears of one of His sons has
dried up in the pleasures of the world, and so He allows
temptations and hardships to come to him, in order to squeeze
his eyes, after it squeezes his heart.
God does not even prohibit these temptations from His
saints. The Psalm says, "Many are the afflictions of the
righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all" (Ps
34:19). He allows these afflictions to afflict His saints. If it
arrives at spiritual results, He rescues them from these
Here, I would like to differentiate between two types of
temptation and two types of tears.
One type is worldly and the other is spiritual.
There are materialistic or worldly temptations that afflict a
person through his wealth or fame or his position and so he
weeps being grieved over the pleasures of the things he lost in
this world. Perhaps in his weeping he grumbles and becomes
discontent even towards God Himself! As if God was the
reason for his affliction.
The tears of such a person is a sin.
We will not speak about this type. His tears indicate his
love of the world and of the feelings therein, which will pass
away and its lust with it (1 John 2:16, 17).
The person who renounces worldly pleasures is not
affected by these matters, but says, "The LORD gave, and the
LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD"
Another person for example, the more temptations press
him, he feels the trifleness of the world and desires a better
world, this is a spiritual person.
If he weeps, in fear of grace abandoning him, or that he
has grieved the Lord, and so He left him to the troubles of
This person's weeping is spiritual and mingled with
repentance and humbleness of heart, and also mingled with
confession. He says in his heart: "What has happened to me is
far less than what I deserve as a result of my sins. It is good
for me to fulfill the affliction on earth just like poor Lazarus"
He might say with the Psalmist, "It is good for me that I
have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes" (Ps
Such tears bring comfort to the heart, because God accepts
them as a smell of joy in front of Him and also accepts their
The temptations might be from devilish warfares. The
person weeps sensing his weakness and asking for
assistance from the Lord.
The person's feeling that he is weaker than fighting this
spiritual power brings him tears, fearing that he might fall. The
thoughts of the enemy might have defiled the man of God and
so he weeps, being cautious over the purity of his heart,
thoughts and feelings and he struggles asking for God's grace
to be with him.
On this spiritual war, Saint Paul the apostle sent a message
rebuking the Hebrews and saying:"You have not yet resisted to
bloodshed, striving against sin" (Heb 12:4).
Tears is an element in this struggle to bloodshed. He speaks
to God saying: "Listen to my tears" (Ps 119) and do not
abandon me "because without You I can do nothing". (John
There is another reason for tears, and that is:
The Remembrance of Death
The person who is preoccupied with the present life
does not weep.
He says like the rich fool, "I will pull down my barns and
build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my
goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods
laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be
merry". (Luke 12: 18, 19).
The pleasures of the world distract him from his
eternity and so he does not weep, but is joyful and having
a good time!
As for the spiritual person, he places his eternity in front of
him at all times, he understands that the Lord's Day will come
as a thief (Rev 16:15). You find him preparing for this eternity,
with the life of repentance, struggle, the required perfection and
When he remembers death, he weeps because he is not
ready for it.
There is still a long struggle ahead of him, of which he has
not yet taken one step into. The great Arsenius, the man of
solitude, silence and prayer used to weep at the remembrance
If the spiritual person weeps at the remembrance of
death in general, then how much more his weeping would
be if death was expected, for a clear reason that was
revealed to him?
Weeping in itself is not everything. Weeping is not for the
reason of being separated from family and loved ones, or the
pleasures of the world as worldly people and those who love
the world do.
However, it is weeping accompanied by spiritual
preparation, preparation for meeting God. Hence, the
saints used to advise the remembrance of death and the
visiting of cemeteries.
Saint Anthony was spiritually affected at the death of his
father, he renounced the world and left it with his own will,
before they would remove him from it reluctantly. A funeral
procession which Saint Paul saw had its impact also, so he left
the world, wealth and the lawsuits and became the first hermit.
Saint Macarius the great used to sometimes place a skull
beneath his head, to remind him of death, and Saint Macarius
of Alexandria visited one of the cemeteries. Whilst Saint
Anthony the great at the beginning of his monastic life lived in a
The remembrance of death has its many benefits, and
tears is one of them.
The remembrance of death makes man stand in front of his
own reality, and remember that he is merely a vapor that
appears for a little time and then vanishes away (James 4:14)
and that he is, "As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For
the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place
remembers it no more". (Ps 103: 15, 16).
David the Prophet rightly said, He also said "LORD, make
me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I
may know how frail I am" (Ps 39:4). He also said, "Certainly
every man at his best state is but vapor. Surely every man
walks about like a shadow". (Ps 39:5, 6)
In remembering death, man is humbled and contrited, and
humbleness and contrition brings about tears.
Joy and Emotion
As severe grief brings about tears, similarly they are caused
by deep joy also.
The upright Joseph and his father Jacob could not
control themselves from weeping greatly, at meeting each
other after a long separation.
The great emotion within the heart overflowed through
tears. The Scriptures say that when Joseph saw his father he
"fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while". (Gen
The same emotion and weeping occurred when Joseph
made himself known to his brothers.
His feelings at this time differed to his feelings at the time
of meeting his father. The Bible says, "Joseph could not
restrain himself...and he cried out, "Make everyone go out
from me!" So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself
known to his brothers. And he wept aloud ... Then Joseph said
to his brothers, "I am Joseph; does my father still live?" (Gen
We find the same emotion when Jacob, in his
alienation meets Rachel, his cousin.
It was a joyful coincidence which he did not expect. When
he saw her and watered her flock the Scriptures say, "Then
Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. And
Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's relative and that he
was Rebekah's son" (Gen 29:11).
The tears of joy is a long category...
Tears of joy for success and prosperity.
Tears of joy for reunion after a long separation.
Tears of joy for God's work with us, in being rescued from
any tribulation, and in the solving of any complicated
Tears of joy for safety and relief.
So many are the tears of the saints for the reason of joy,
and not all the tears are for weeping over sins.
We can mention here another domain for tears or a reason
for it and that is, prayer.
A person will weep in his prayers, if his prayers were
from the depth of his feelings and affections.
He weeps in reverence whilst sensing his unworthiness to
be in the presence of God. He weeps in front of the altar or the
sanctuary whilst feeling the reverence of the place, or he weeps
during Holy Communion also for the same feeling of reverence.
He wept in love of God Who accepted him and has not
dealt with him according to his sins and weaknesses.
He weeps whilst being affected by some words in
prayer that shook his feelings, as some priests weep whilst
praying the fraction of "The Slaughter of Isaac" on Covenant
He weeps whilst being embarrassed at not carrying out
his promises that he promised to the Lord.
He weeps grieving over his weakness and shortcomings
and over the times that he fell, as we say in the `Midnight
Prayer', "Give me, Lord, fountains of many tears as You did in
the past to the sinful woman...".
His tears during prayer are the tears of repentance because
he was able at last to return to God after a long separation or
after a deep one.
They are feelings that differ from person to person, by
which the heart is affected and makes the eyes water.
There is another reason which calls for weeping and that is:
Feelings of Incapability
He who senses his power, ability and dominance over
situations, would perhaps find it difficult to weep whilst in
However, the one who feels deep within that he is
incapable or unable to act in the right manner or perplexed
in front of a problem, is the one who weeps.
When he weeps, he has nothing else in front of him except
weeping. He prays during his weeping asking for a solution,
and for help from Him Who can do all things.
We weep similarly, in front of a sick person that physicians
are unable to treat, or in front of a disaster that there is no
rescuing from, or an oncoming catastrophe that cannot be
The pain and weeping increases if this person is
incapable and all those who surround him are incapable
like him, in this circumstance.
The person might weep as a result of a sin or a lust or a
habit that has dominated him and he wishes to be saved from it,
but he feels his incapability in front of it. It could be also for the
reason of an enemy who pressures him and disgraces him to the
ground and he is totally incapable of resisting him and it seems
there is no solution.
This feeling of incapability, if mingled with prayer and
affection, then there is no escape from tears. Let us talk about
another reason, which is:
The Feeling of Being Abandoned
This includes either the person standing alone and
being abandoned by his friends and loved ones, or more so
the feeling that grace has abandoned him.
The sensing of the heart that God has forsaken the person,
even if it is an incorrect feeling but it exists, puts pressure on
the person and so he suffers and weeps, especially if these
feelings of abandonment occur during difficult circumstances
and painful problems.
If the abandonment occurs during spiritual falls, the
person thinks that he cannot rise from it.
Perhaps also, the person is surrounded with catastrophes or
kinds of successive failures and he feels that all of this is due to
God abandoning him as a result of his sins.
Amongst all of this, another reason for tears arises:
Gloating Over Another Person's Misfortune
As the poet said: "All the disasters pass by the young, but
never mind them, except for the triumph of the enemies."
Gloating over someone else's misfortune is a reason for
deep pain, whether from enemies or from troublesome
comforters such as Job's friends (Job 16:2).
David the Prophet complained many times about this type
of gloating in his Psalms. So he said, " my God, I trust in You;
Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me"
(Ps 25:2). He cried out in another Psalm saying, "LORD, how
long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph?" (Ps
We see Micah the prophet gain his character outside of the
triumph of the enemies which grieves the heart and so he says,
"Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will rise"
If triumph continues, it makes the heart bleed and
hence waters the eyes except for those who have been
raised completely above the words of people. Even the
saints were hurt by spiritual triumph especially from those
who say, "Where is the Lord their God?"
The Obstacles of Tears
E The Harshness of Heart
E The Judgment of Others
E Anger and Malice
E Living in Sin
E Pleasure and Amusement
E Pride and Honour
E Negligence and Tepidity
The Harshness of Heart
The tears of the gentle and kind heart are close by.
Tears are distanced however, from the harsh heart.
It was easy for Peter to weep bitterly, but it was difficult
for Pharaoh or Herod to weep.
Likewise, stringency and firmness prohibit tears also.
For, at this time, the person is using power and not
gentleness. The only exception to this situation is the firmness
that springs forth from a heart full of love, as it was said about
the Lord when cleansing the temple: "O You Who is powerful,
holding the whip in Your palm, whilst love bleeds Your eyes".
In our discussion on power and gentleness we can say that
the tears of women are easier and more abundant than men's. If
a man weeps, however, his tears are much deeper. This is
because his stringency or power cannot resist excited feelings,
and so it is inevitable that the reason for tears was stronger and
he was more affected by it.
Tears and harshness do not agree with each other.
If you seek tears, then distance yourself from harshness of
heart as much as you can and from the appearances of this
harshness. How can this be done? We will give you some
The Judgment of Others
Especially harshness and stringency in judging others.
There are individuals who are very severe in their judgments. If
they criticize someone, they criticize him harshly and stringently
and with a heart which is void of love and affection, and void
of appreciating the circumstances of others.
The tears of a person who is in this condition cannot
flow, unless he gets rid of these feelings!
Speaking about other people's errors or defaming them is
one of the major reasons that prohibits tears. At the same time,
this defaming is one of the reasons that hardens the heart and
distances' it from gentleness, which is the characteristic of the
children of God.
Judging others is not just harshness and severity, but
it also includes the person forgetting his own personal sins.
He who forgets his sins, keeps away from the most
important source for tears. The spiritual person on the other
hand has compassion on sinners, remembering the power of the
Enemy and his wars, the weak nature of mankind and also
remembering his sins and falls. He weeps for those who have
fallen as he weeps for himself. Saint Paul the Apostle said
referring to this, "Remember the prisoners as if chained with
them, and those who are mistreated, since you yourselves are
in the body also" (Heb 13:3).
The man of tears could have such feelings, and he who
has such feelings can acquire tears.
Saint John the short was of this type. When he saw
someone sinning he used to weep and say, "This person fell
today and I might fall tomorrow like him. He might sin, repent
and be saved whereas I might sin and not repent". In this way,
the sins of people made him weep and did not move him to
Saint Moses also used to regularly remember his sins and
not the sins of people. There is a spiritual rule which says that
the person usually falls into the sin that he judges for. God
allows this, in order to embarrass the proud who judge others,
and so that we know that if we walk in the right path, this is not
because of a power within us, but as a result of this assistance
which comes to us from above. If we judge others with
harshness of heart, the protecting grace will abandon us and so
we will fall like them.
When we fall and weep for our sins we will feel our
weakness and that sin has, "... cast down many wounded, and
all who were slain by her were strong men" (Proverbs 7:26).
Then our hearts will become gentle, we will have compassion
over others and we will not judge those who have fallen but
will weep for their sake. We will feel that the devil is active and
his activeness calls us to fear, to be cautious and to weep whilst
asking for help.
We might hear that a lion has devoured a person along
We should not judge this person but weep for him and
weep for ourselves of the danger of this devouring lion, who
the Apostle likened to our enemy the devil, who walks about
seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
We might hear about a plague that injured others and
they died. Should we weep for them or judge them?
In the same manner, sin, the devil, the condition of those
who fell and those who judge. Judging then, is harshness, it is
forgetting the enemy's power and it is forgetting human
weakness. They are all matters that distance tears. In the same
way we can speak about the concealed judgment.
By the concealed judgment we mean the one which is
hidden behind advising or reproaching or warning.
You might ask, "Does this mean that I should not advise or
warn anyone?". I say to you, "You can do this, but with love
and not with a puffed up spirit and remember Paul the apostle's
saying to the Elders of Ephesus, "...remember that for three
years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with
tears" (Acts 20:31). He warns but with tears, with tears filled
with love and gentleness, fearing that they would fall and
appreciating human weakness.
Remember that the surgeon at removing a corrupt part
from a sick person, does it with compassion without being
disgusted at the corruption of this part which he is removing,
and without judging the sick person as a result of this.
Another reason that prohibits tears is:
The severe or violent person does not weep. His severity
prohibits tears from him, no matter the type of this severity.
The murderer does not weep and the slain might be in a state
that would make the heart dissolve while he is beseeching him.
However, the harshness of this heart during severity dries his
He weep afterwards, when he returns to himself and
remembers his harshness. Similar is the one who destroys,
and the violent one. Likewise also, is he who is violent in
competition or discussion, or in feuds, or in conflict with
people, no matter its type. Tears escape from such a person
who screams and raises his voice during his discussion with
others. He who solves problems with violence, or imposes
punishments using violence upon those who he heads, or uses
violence in dealings, is also distant from the virtue of tears.
Likewise also, is the bad-tempered:
Anger and Malice
It is impossible for a bad - tempered person to have the
virtue of tears. As I said, tears are compatible with gentleness
of heart. The bad - tempered person is characterized by rage,
violence and harshness. All of these things are against tears.
It might be possible for a bad-tempered person to weep
out of irritation and defeat.
Just as Esau wept when he discovered that his brother
Jacob took the blessing from him (Gen 27:38).
However these are not amongst the spiritual tears that we
are talking about. Perhaps the tears of irritation and defeat are
present in family relations or in work situations. They are tears,
but not the spiritual kind. Perhaps despair, incapability or
failure pushes towards such tears. Spiritual tears however,
spring forth from a pure heart that is gentle and sensitive.
He who acquires the virtue of tears and acts in an
angry way loses this virtue.
He finds that his tears have dried up or left him, or at least
at the time of his anger. If God has granted you tears and then
you lost them, then enter within yourself and search for the
reason and treat it. Ask yourself, was anger one of the reasons
for your loss of tears?
Anger concentrates, during its revolution, on the errors
of others. He who owns the virtue of tears however,
concentrates on his personal sins.
His concentration on his own sins makes him weep,
remembering his weakness, falls and his separation from God.
Thinking about the errors of others during anger, excites the
feeling and nerves and the person forgets his sins. The time of
weeping is the time of feelings and sensitivities. The time of
anger on the other hand is the time of nerves revolution and
harshness. The time of weeping is governed by love, but the
time of anger is governed by hatred. Therefore, do not blame
another person, but blame yourself. The fathers say:
"The blaming of one's self prohibits anger".
If the person who blames himself is angered, he is angry
with himself and not with someone else. Therefore, purify
yourselves from anger if you wish God to grant you the virtue
It is the case, that, malice is more difficult and harsher
If judging others prohibits tears and anger avoids them,
then malice, hatred and enmity are higher levels than anger and
violence. They indicate the harshness of heart and the rejection
of forgiveness for insulting the person offended. All of this
disturbs the heart and makes it lose its gentleness.
Amongst the other reasons which hinder tears is living in
Living in Sin
Pain as a result of sin brings about tears and
repentance also. Living in sin and its pleasures however,
For, over what will a person weep if he is happy with the
life of sin that he is leading? Weeping comes from pricking the
conscience that is revolting against the person. In the case of
enjoying sin, then the conscience is asleep or sedated, and
hence pleasure is leading the person and not the conscience.
The person in sin might weep if he loses sin!
His tears in this case would be a sin. Just as the children of
Israel wept in the wilderness when they could not find meat to
eat (Exodus 16:3).Likewise, the addicted person weeps, in not
finding the drugs that he is used to; or as the lover of money
weeps if he loses his money! Similar is he who weeps for
physical pleasure if he finds its doors closed in front of him. The
person who loves majesty and authority weeps if he loses it and
becomes a normal person. They are all worldly or materialistic
tears that are regarded as sin and can be added to the previous
These sinful tears indicate a deep love for sin.
Thus, it indicates the separation of the heart from God. It
also indicates the heart's attachment to the world and to
materialism. It is not the type of spiritual tears that we are
A person might live in sin whilst having spiritual tears. How
can this be? Here is an example of this.
A person lives in sin and is being defeated by a habit
which is dominating him. So he weeps, wanting from all his
heart to get rid of this sin, but his will is weak and cannot
This person will be rescued by grace and God will regard
his weeping as a beginning for repentance. God looks at his
heart and not his deed, if he is honest in his intention and in his
tears. If also, he is committing the sin whilst not enjoying it but
is defeated by it. So, pleasure also makes one lose his tears.
Pleasure and Amusement
Pleasure by its nature contradicts tears.
From where will tears come from for the person who lives
in entertainment, pleasure and amusement, whilst enjoying
money, materialism, authority and every worldly pleasure?
He needs the people's tears for him, in order to reach
the life of tears.
He who lives the life of pleasure and amusement, hates
tears because it upsets him! It cuts the rope of his amusement
and it is like disharmony in the song of his pleasures! Such a
person loves the world and the things that are in the world. All
these things sedate him so that he does not think about his
Hence, keep away from the life of pleasure, when you
realize its trifleness you will weep over the days that you
lost in it.
Now you can sing with Solomon the sage, " all is vanity
and grasping for the wind", "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
There is no profit under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1). The person
who said these phrases is someone who tried and tasted all of
the many types of pleasures of the world and said about them,
"Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them"
(Ecclesiastes 2:10). Despite all of this he found everything to
be vanity and found out that, "by a sad countenance the heart
is made better" (Ecclesiastes 7:3).
You must know that the life of pleasure is against you and
not for you. It makes you forget your reality!
When the prodigal son used to live the life of worldly
pleasure he did not realize what he was living in. However, he
arrived at repentance and at contrition of the self when he
returned to himself and felt his bad state. At this time only did
he begin his real life as a son and returned to his father's house.
We can then say that being preoccupied with laughter
and humor prevents tears.
It is true what the sage said, "A time to weep, and a time to
laugh" (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Despite this, it is difficult for those
who live in a life that is all humor and laughter to reach the life
At least at the time of their laughter they are distant
Hence, the life of entertainment, laughter, pleasure and
amusement prevents tears. On the contrary we can say that
temptations, tribulations, diseases and pains are amongst the
reasons for tears. Through them the person feels his weakness
and the heavy burden upon him and so turns to God and pours
his tears out in front of Him.
However, there is a condition that, he accepts the
temptations and tribulations without complaining.
Complaining is one of the reasons that prohibits tears.
The person who complains is dissatisfied and feels that he
does not deserve all of what has happened to him. In his
dissatisfaction and complaint he loses humbleness and
contrition, which bring about tears.
In complaining, the person feels that he was unjustly
treated and it follows that, he judges the person who treated
him unjustly. In this way, he is transferred from thinking about
his sins into thinking about the sins of others. This is against the
syllabus of tears.
The person who complains, complains against God
Himself and blasphemes!
In all of this he is completely far away from the spiritual
atmosphere in which tears run. Whilst complaining he enters
into the harshness of heart, self-esteem and into anger and
malice. It is impossible for him to find tears amongst all of these
If tears agree with humbleness and contrition then there is
no doubt that pride of heart and conduct prohibit tears. If tears
agree with self-blame and self-reproach, thus that pride and
speaking about one's virtues are amongst the reasons that
It is impossible for a person to weep whilst he is happy
with himself, raising his esteem and praising his
We can say the same thing about majesty, the love of the
first positions and seats and the love of honour and people's
praise. All of these things prohibit tears totally. For, tears agree
with feelings of weakness and not with feelings of power,
majesty and authority!
Similarly, being proud of tears, prohibits tears.
Pride and Honour
You might follow the correct spiritual path, the life of
repentance, humbleness, contrition and all the reasons for tears;
if tears come to you, the devil fights you with them and makes
you fall into vain glory. If you are happy with tears or proud of
them or reveal them intentionally, then tears might prohibit
themselves from you and cease. That is why the saints said:
"Whenever tears come to you, do not be preoccupied
with them, but think of the reasons that brought about
If you weep for example as a result of your sins, then think
about the repugnancy of these sins and so, your contrition and
tears will increase. Beware not to be proud of your tears or to
be happy with them because at that time you have forgotten
your sins and have been transferred from contrition to pride,
that is, you have been transferred from the reasons for tears to
the prohibitions of tears.
Your tears should be between you and God, do not
reveal them to people and do not be proud as a result of
them, for all of this prohibits them after they come.
Negligence and Tepidity
Tears are suited to all types of spiritual fervour, whether
the fervour of love, repentance or emotion.
The tepid person however, does not have tears.
He needs to return to his first love and fervour, for tears to
return to him. "Remember therefore from where you have
fallen; repent and do the first works." (Revelation 2:5)
Tepidity comes as a result of carelessness or entertainment.
Treat carelessness then, in your spiritual life and be
cautious of entertainment.
David the prophet during his humiliation, mingled his drink
with tears (Ps 102:9). He used to drench his couch with his
tears (Ps 6:6). In the life of entertainment however, he did not
have any tears but there was lust and sin.
Likewise, his son Solomon did not benefit from
entertainment, but benefited when he knew that all was vanity
and grasping for the wind.
Therefore pray whilst saying, "Give me, LORD,
fountains of many tears".
In This Book
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
One God Amen.
How beautiful tears are in the lives of the saints. It is an
indication of their spiritual fervour and of the depth of
their love of God.
In this book we will speak to you about all the types of
tears, the spiritual and the non-spiritual. We will then
concentrate on the spiritual.
We will explain tears in the ministry, in the lives of the
saints and in their sayings.
We will then mention the reasons for tears in the spiritual
life and also their obstacles, in order to avoid them.
So, if you love tears in your spirituality, then you can
read this book.
Pope Shenouda III
In This Book
In the Name of the
Father, the Son and the
Holy Spirit, One God
How beautiful tears are in
the lives of the saints. It is
an indication of their
spiritual fervour and of
the depth of their love of
In this book we will speak
to you about all the types
of tears, the spiritual and
the non-spiritual. We will
then concentrate on the
We will explain tears in
the ministry, in the lives
of the saints and in their
We will then mention the
reasons for tears in the
spiritual life and also their
obstacles, in order to
So, if you love tears in
your spirituality, then you
can read this book.
Pope Shenouda III
- BACK TO MAIN MENU
- TEARS IN SPRITUAL LIFE
- The Story Of This Book (Preface)
- The Pinnacle Of Tears
- The Beatification Of Weeping
- CHAPTER ONE: Type Of Tears
- Tears of Prayer
- Tears of Regret and Repentance
- Tears of Sorrow
- Tears of Separation
- Tears of Emotion
- Tears of Sharing
- Tears of Joy
- Rejected Tears
- Tears of Lust
- CHAPTER TWO: Tears in the MINISTRY
- The Reasons for Weeping in the Ministry
- CHAPTER THREE: TEARS IN THE LIFE OF SAINTS
- CHAPTER FOUR: THE RESONS FOR TEARS
- Gentleness and Sensitivity
- Sensing the Trifleness of the World
- The Remembrance of Sins
- Temptations and Hardships
- The Remembrance of Death
- Joy and Emotion
- Feelings of Incapability
- The Feeling of Being Abandoned
- Gloating Over Another Persons Misfortune
- CHAPTER FIVE: THE OBSTACLES TO TEARS
- The Harshness of Heart
- The Judgment of Others
- Anger and Malice
- Living in Sin
- Pleasure and Amusement
- Pride and Honour
- Negligence and Tepidity