Sunday, May 06, 2012

Judgement As A Mirror and The Tears of Repentance

"Abba Macarius said..."  The Judgement on the last day will be like looking into a mirror. Just as mirrors on earth do not lie--unless they are bent and made to lie--the mirror that we will look into on the day of Judgement will tell us who we really are, what we have really done, and how it really effected those around us. This will be the judgement: the truth, reality.

Even now, however, God has not left us without mirrors. There is the mirror of our own conscience. There is the mirror of the word of a friend, or an enemy, or anyone who might tell us the truth about ourselves--truths we would rather not hear. The Bible is a mirror, so is the Liturgy of the Church, and many of the writings of holy men and women. God has not left us without some testimony, some ways to see ourselves as we really are.

St. Macarius says that when you see yourself in a mirror, words cannot help you. But you can weep. St. Macaruis wept a lot. I don't weep very much. I can't even weep over my lack of tears.

Jesus wept over Lazarus, the sin and result of sin of all mankind.  The least I could do is weep a little over my inability to escape sinful habits and cycles and reactions that are common for me.

I think I  spend a lot of mental energy, mental words, justifying myself. I tell myself that something or another is my right. I tell myself that what I want to do isn't that bad. I explain the pain of others by saying that it is their own fault. I put a lot of mental energy into justifying myself. I should just weep. But even tears are a gift from God.

It is a gift to see yourself as you are. It is a gift to know the truth about yourself, and to weep gentle tears at your impotency. Yet, Abba Macarius also tells us that this same Jesus who weeps for Lazarus, bound and dead, helpless in the tomb, this same Jesus calls our name. This same Jesus exposes the stench, heals its source, and leads us out of our tombs--slowly, awkwardly, pealing off one strip at a time the binding clothes of death.

"....Let us draw near to Him through prayer and holy tears so He will have pity on us and raise our souls from the death of sin that we may live by His mercy."


Anonymous said...

Sometimes I find it very hard reading stories of holy men that constantly cried over their sins. It sets the bar so high its almost overwhelming. But on the other hand I feel that tears don't necessarily indicate a repentant spirit. Surely there are people out there that can cry at the drop of a dime via emotional triggers and mistake that somehow for repentance. Others may never cry a tear in their life but internally they struggle with great remorse.

Are tears really necessary?

Krystal said...

Thank you Father Micheal. Your words in the last 2 posts really hit a chord. How is it to not speak of worldly things? I find myself so often filling space with words and then right after often feeling sick to my stomach. So often I wish I could just stop what I am saying but it is my uncomfortable with the silence. (Funny though God brought me to Jerome, a quiet strength) and at the same time I know my words and voice are welcoming and bring comfort at times. Church always sets things straight for me and then I walk into the rest of my life and I loose sight. Your words about peoples pain and being their fault...I seem to always justify that way. I wish I would weep...I wish I reached for Christ. Thank you for your presence here so that I can hear, be reminded of what is really important. And to hear words that sound so familiar. Christ has Risen- God bless you and Bonnie!

Fr. Michael said...

Dear Anonymous,
Certainly tears, like any other physical manifestation, can come from several possible sources. There are tears at being caught, tears of frustration, tears of joy, etc. I think what St. Macarius is describing is a profound sadness that does not lead to despair, a sadness that comes from knowing that I have lost (and seem to keep losing) something valuable, undergirded by firm knowledge of God's love for us no matter what. So the tears (or what has been called "bright sadness") come not merely from a sense of my failure, but of a sense of my failure in the face of God's continued love and generosity--which is so much more than my failure. It is a kind of seeing, a kind of seeing yourself as finite, sick and weak yet loved and comforted in the arms of God's care--all at the same time.

Unknown said...

Mm, sadness that does not lead to despair seems key. And true and continual repentance feels only possible when we have hope of transformation. I think of Father Silouan's words: "Keep your mind in Hell, and despair not." If that is too hard, Elder Porphyry's words on love (in Wounded By Love, for example), in a sense keeping our mind in heaven, may be more suited to us (I find it difficult at my level of immaturity to keep my mind in Hell and remain hopeful). But even remembering God's mercy at all times can provoke tears of gratitude, however physically manifest.

Thank you Father.

Unknown said...

By the way, judgment as a mirror is a wonderful (and fearful) image, and an expression of how heaven and hell truly are our present reality - which we only catch glimpses of in the mirrors you've described.

Thank you for continuing the topic of St. Macarius, Father :)