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Step 07

ON PENANCE AND PENITENTIAL TEARS.

1. Grief, which is pleasing to the Divine Will, is an affliction of spirit, arising from remorse of conscience, an energetic feeling which animates the soul with a dauntless courage, and with an unbridled determination to regain possession of God, her Sovereign Good. This determination produces in the soul an ardent thirst to pursue the object of her wishes, through all kinds of painful labours, and to sigh after it whilst it is absent in mournful and affecting lamentations. Or it may be appropriately termed a golden spur, which goads the soul onwards so supernaturally, that she become despoiled of every earthly affection and attachment, and which, filling her with a holy sorrow, unites her with God, alone and forever.

2. Compunction is a perpetual remorse of conscience, which, in proportion as it consumes our hearts by the remembrance of our sins, infuses into our souls a sweet refreshment by the interior and sincere confession we make of them to God.

3. This spiritual confession is a complete forgetfulness of our natural wants, since it caused holy David to forget his food: “I forgot,” he says, “to eat my bread.”1

4. Penance is the privation of everything that can bring joy and comfort to the body.

5. The virtues most appropriate for those who are advancing in this blessed grief, are temperance and silence. For those who have made some progress, mildness, which conquers anger. and charity which forgets injuries, are recommended. But to the perfect belong humility, an ardent thirst for contempt and abasement, a voluntary hunger of involuntary sufferings, and a love which not only refrains from condemning sinners, but which shows a tender compassion towards their failings. The first who thus cultivate penitential grief or sadness, deserve to be esteemed; the second to be praised, and the third to be beatified; because, for the sake of Christ, they love to be reviled and persecuted, and to have all manner of evil spoken against them unjustly. Hence they shall be glad and rejoice, for their reward is great in heaven.

6. If you once possess the gift of tears, employ every means at your command to retain it in your possession. For it is very easy to lose it, when it is not firmly established and naturalized in the soul. Troubles of mind, disquietude about earthly objects, the delights of the table, but above all, loquacity and fondness for raillery, dry up these tears as quickly as fire melts wax.

7. These tears of sorrow which we shed after baptism, are more powerful even than baptism itself, a proposition which at first sight may appear startling. But baptism cleanses the soul from the sins which precede it only; whereas these penitential tears purify the soul from sins committed after baptism. As we advanced in years we sullied the white robe of our infant baptism, but by our tears we have renewed this regeneration into a new life. Oh! if God, in His Infinite Mercy, had not granted us this second baptism, few, indeed, would have been saved.

8. Our sighs and moans constitute that plaintive voice which is always pleasing, and always heard by the Almighty. The tears which the dread of His Justice forces from our eyes, are powerful in pleading our pardon. But those which gush from the fountain of charity, are an assurance that He has heard our prayers, and that they are most acceptable to His Divine Will.

9. As nothing is more conformable to humility than penitential tears, so nothing is more at variance with it than dissipated laughter.

10. Preserve with all care this holy sadness of compunction, which produces real joy, and cease not to cherish and foster it in your hearts, until it lifts you up above all things terrestrial, and presents you to Jesus Christ.

11. Picture to your mind the bottomless pit of hell, meditate on the rigorous and inflexible Judge, the cruel and pitiless executioners, the dark caves and horrible precipices of the infernal regions, and that dungeon of everlasting torments, which is never to be opened; form in your imagination lively images of these and similar terrors, so that if your spirits are inclined to levity and dissipation, they may be immediately reclaimed by these awful representations, and formed to an incorruptible chastity by holy tears, which have the excellent property of rendering the soul more resplendent than flames of fire.

12. When at prayer before God, be fearful as a criminal before his judge, that by the interior disposition of your mind, and the exterior humiliation of your body, you may extinguish the wrath of your just and Almighty Judge. For He cannot despise a souls that appears before Him like a bereaved and afflicted widow, and who, by the fervour and assiduity of her prayers importunes His divine bounty while He grants her request.

13. To him who has received the gift of interior and spiritual tears, any place is proper for their diffusion. But if they proceed merely from the bodily eyes, let him act with circumspection, both in the choice of the place where he sheds them, and in the persons whom he selects for his witnesses. For as a hidden treasure is more difficult to steal than one which is exposed to the public view, so are interior and spiritual tears much more difficult to lose, than those which are only exterior, and shed in the sight of men.

14. Imitate not those who, after having buried the dead, become immoderately sad in their lamentations over their graves, and then rejoice to intoxication in their funeral banquets. Do you imitate those who are bound in chains and condemned to the mines, and who are continually beaten to their work by their task-masters.

15. The love of delights and pleasures may be compared to a dog, which the penitent should chase from his soul by continual tears. But he who now weeps, and then laughs and rejoices in the good cheer of the banquet-table, throws at the head of this dog pieces of bread instead of stones, and whilst at one moment he seems to drive it away, the next invites it by the tempting morsels which he holds out for its enticement.

16. Be interiorly recollected, free from ostentation, and constantly on the watch over your heart. For the demons dread this vigilance not less than robbers dread dogs.

17. You have not been called, my brethren, to a solitary and religious life, as to a feast or nuptial banquet, but you have been called by Jesus Christ to weep over your sins and imperfections.

18. Some persons in the holy season of their tears do violence to themselves without reason, lest their minds should dwell upon pious thoughts, or commence some profitable meditation. They consider not that tears which flow without any reflection of mind, are more becoming irrational than rational creatures. Tears are the daughters of thought, and thought is the daughter of the mind, acting according to reason.

19. When you lie down to rest, let your body, extended on the bed, represent to you its position when it will be stretched in the coffin, and you will require, from this reflection, less sleep. When you are seated at table, let the viands of which you partake remind you of that sad and funeral board, where you yourself will be the dainty food of worms, and you will feel less inclined to indulge your sensuality. When you quench your thirst with water, think of the burning thirst of the damned, and you will refuse to nature some of its coveted refreshment.

20. When our superior tries us by severe corrections, harsh penances, and by humiliations which are dishonourable in the sight of men, but honourable in the sight of God, let us call to mind that terrible sentence which the Supreme Judge will one day pronounce in a voice that will echo through the endless ages of eternity. This salutary reflection will, no doubt, produce in our souls these two distinguished virtues, --mildness and patience-- with which, as with a two-edged sword, we shall be able to destroy all sadness and bitterness of heart, which excite us to rebel against every just and well-merited reprehension.

21. “As if the waters should depart out of the sea,” says holy Job, “and an emptied river should be dried up;”2 so in like manner, and in due course of time, the virtues we have just mentioned, may with patience be obtained, and made perfect in our souls.

22. If you lie down at night, and rise up in the morning with the thought of everlasting fire in your mind, you will not be either languid or negligent in the chanting of the divine office.

23. Let your religious habit induce you to weep over your transgressions, since they who mourn over the dead are clothed like you, in black. But if you cannot weep, weep on account of this want of tears. If tears be at your command, let the principal subject of your weeping by your sins, which have defiled the purity of your souls, and caused you to fall from an honourable position, a life of tranquility, and the innocency and grace of baptism, to a life of labour, to a state of humiliation and abasement, which is that of penance.

24. There is no doubt but that our Supreme Judge is equally just and considerate with regard to our weaknesses, and the frailty of our nature, as well as with respect to our tears and all our other actions. This I affirm because I have seen persons who could shed but few tears, and these they poured forth with as great an effort of sorrow as if they had been tears of blood. Whilst others, I have noticed, who could make their tears flow at pleasure, and in great abundance. For my part, I have always esteemed in penitents the violence of their grief more than floods of tears. This, also, I believe to be the judgment of God.

25. It is not proper for those that weep to speak on matters of theology, because such discourses are accustomed to dry up our tears. For he who treats of the divine mysteries is like a professor in his chair of divinity, giving lectures to his scholars. But he who laments his sins should be like a man clothed in sackcloth and ashes, and seated upon a dunghill. This, if I mistake not, is the reason why holy David replied to those who urged him to sing, “How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?”3 that is, in the servitude to which we have been reduced by our passions.

26. As in nature some things possess the power of self-motion, whilst others require to be put in motion; so in compunction there are tears which gush forth of themselves, whilst others require to be stimulated. When our souls, without any effort, are bathed in tears, both holy and delicious, let us run immediately to the Lord, for it is a sign that He has come to visit us without our invitation, and that He present to us this holy sorrow as a mystical sponge, wherewith we may blot our with the celestial dew of our tears the record of our sins from the book of life. Let us cherish this pious and happy disposition as we would the apple of our eye, until it subsides in our interior. For these tears, which are struck from the rock of our hearts by God alone, are much more powerful and efficacious than any which flow from our own exertion and meditation.

27. It is not he who weeps when he pleases that has received the true gift of tears, but he who weeps over that which excites within him a poignant sorrow. Again, it is not so much he who laments over that which deserves his lamentation, who possesses this gift, as he who weeps in submission to God’s appointment. For we often mingle with the tears of penance, which are most pleasing to God, the tears of vainglory, which give Him equal displeasure. This much we may learn by the light of prudence, when we observe that, notwithstanding our tears we still continue to sin.

28. True compunction is a sorrow which is devoid of every element of vanity, and which allows the soul to seek for no human consolation. It represents to the mind the hour of death as always present, and prompts it to seek from heaven that water of comfort which God reserves for humble solitaries.

29. They who possess in their inmost heart a fountain of holy tears, will hate their own life as the source of all their pains, afflictions, and lamentations. They will hold in aversion their own bodies, as if they were their common enemies.

30. The vanity which inflates the mind of man is the unhappy daughter of a false and counterfeit compunction, whereas the consolation which flows from God is the lovely daughter of a true and sincere compunction.

31. When we behold pride and anger in those who weep, apparently according to the Divine Will, we may lawfully conclude that their tears are not from God. “For what fellowship,” asks St. Paul, “hath light with darkness?”4

32. As material fire burns and consumes straw, so likewise the spiritual fire of pious tears burns and consumes within us all impurities, both visible and invisible.

33. Many of the Fathers tell us that it is very difficult, especially in those who are only commencing their religious career, to distinguish true from false tears; and the matter of this discernment is surrounded by much obscurity and darkness. For tears may proceed from so many different causes, from nature, from God’s grace, from sorrow, either praiseworthy or blameable, from vainglory, from a disorderly affection, from divine love, from the thought of death, and from many others too numerous to mention.

34. After having employed the fear of the Lord as our rule by which we distinguish the different sources of our tears, let our endeavour be to acquire those above all others which excite in the mind the thought of death. For they are both pure and sincere; neither susceptible of vanity nor illusion. They purify our souls and greatly promote their advancement in the love of God. They cleanse our consciences from sin, and establish in our interior that sovereign peace which follows the complete victory over our passions.

35. It is no ways astonishing to behold penitents to begin with good tears and end with bad ones. It is, however, a subject of admiration and praise to see men ascend from carnal and natural tears to those which are spiritual and supernatural. Who would not be surprised to behold branches of the wild and barren olive grafted upon the trunk of the cultivated and fruitful olive? They who are prone to vainglory will readily comprehend the truth of what we have just said.

36. Be not too confident in the abundance of your tears before your soul has been perfectly purified. For we can have no assurance of the wine which has just come from the press to be put into the barrels.

37. No one can entertain the slightest doubt but that all our tears which flow in accordance with the Divine Will are exceedingly profitable to our souls. But not before the hour of death shall we know the great benefit of these tears.

38. He who advances towards God steadily and surely by the means of these holy and ever-flowing tears, enjoys each day of his life as a spiritual feast. But he who revels each day in the delights of the body and in earthly festivity, will spend his eternity in tears.

39. Culprits have no appointed days of enjoyment and merriment in prison. In like manner solitaries have no festive days, no days of human consolation, during the period of their earthly pilgrimage. Hence the Royal Penitent, whose tears gushed from a broken heart, exclaimed with a profound sigh: “Bring my soul out of prison, O Lord, that I may praise Thy name;”5 and may enter into that joy, the supreme bliss of which is the unclouded view of Thy ineffable light and resplendent majesty.

40. Be as absolute in the dominion of your heart as a king in his kingdom. Be as much above yourself, by the sovereignty of your reason over your passions, as you are beneath God by a humble and perfect submission to His divine pleasure. Hence when you command joy to retire from your heart, let it obey you immediately; when you invite salutary grief and holy tears to take the place of joy, let them instantly fulfill your wish. In like manner, when you enjoin your body, which at the same time is both your slave and tyrant to do your bidding, let it be forthwith obedient.

41. If any one has adorned his soul with the rich ornament and precious gift of holy tears, he has, indeed, decked it in a nuptial robe, and will experience from it the spiritual hilarity of divine grace.

42. He who has spent his whole life in religious exercises so piously that he has never lost a single day, a single hour, a single moment, but has consecrated all to the service of God, how, in such a supposition, is it possible for the same day, through the whole period of his life, to occur twice?

43. If it is a great happiness to converse with angels, in keeping the eyes of the mind fixed upon those blessed spirits, so is it a state, if not of excellency, at least of security against relapse into sin, to entertain the thought of death in so lively a manner, and the remembrance of our transgressions with so keen a sorrow, that our eyes may continually send for the living waters of repentance. Indeed, we may confidently assert that we must pass by the second contemplation to the first, which is a communication with angels.

44. I have seen those destitute of the possessions of this world solicit alms in so ingenious and so pressing a manner, that they would have softened the hearts even of kings, and, to use a strong expression, obliged them, by their artful importunity, to relieve their wants, and show them compassion. I have also witnessed those who, being poor in the treasures of the soul, cried to the King of Heaven from the very depths of their hearts, through their profound sense of their spiritual poverty, who implored His divine help both without shame and without timidity, and who employing for this purpose not terms framed ingeniously, but modest, humble, and trembling supplications, obliged Him, as it were, by the vehemency with which they appealed to His infinite bounty, to grant them the grace they solicited, although His almighty power is subject to no restraint or coercion.

45. He who becomes haughty because he has received the gift of tears, and who condemns those who have not received this blessing, is like the man who, after having asked from his prince arms with which to fight his enemies, employs them for his own destruction.

46. God, dear friends, has no need of tears; neither does He require that man should always have his heart steeped in grief, and his eyes bathed in tears. No, His wish is that our souls should be set on fire with flames of divine love, which warm them and make them glow with a spiritual and heavenly joy. Take away sin and the bitterness of those tears we shed with the eyes of the body would be superfluous. For there is no need of a surgical knife when there is no bad flesh to be amputated. Adam shed no tears before he fell into sin by disobedience. In like manner the just will shed no tears after the general resurrection, and the termination of the reign of sin. “There will,” says Holy Scripture, “be no more mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow, for the former things will have all passed away.”6

47. I have seen some that wept for their faults, and others that wept because they did not weep for their faults, Although the latter had the gift of tears, yet through humility they believed themselves deprived of this happiness. And this happy ignorance of the blessing which they really possessed prevented the devil from stealing this precious gift. The Royal Prophet tells us that “The Lord enlighteneth the blind.”7

48. It sometimes happens that tears excite vanity in those who are not well grounded in virtue. And this is the reason why many are not honoured by God with this gift, that in its absence they may seek for it with ardour, may deplore their miserable condition, may groan, and sigh, and grieve, and annihilate themselves by profound humiliation and interior confusion of soul. For all these pains and sorrows of mind, without exposing them to the danger of vanity, supply the place of tears. And God permits for their greater good that all this grief and lamentation should be esteemed by them as nothing.

49. If we observe well the malicious artifices of the infernal spirits, we shall find that they often make sport of us by some ridiculous illusion. For when we have eaten heartily at our meals they excite within us great tenderness of heart, and cause tears to flow plentifully; whereas, after fasting they harden our hearts, and dry up our tears. Their motive for exciting this false tenderness is to make us in love with intemperance, the mother of all vices. But instead of allowing ourselves to be thus deluded, we must act in all things contrary to their evil persuasion.

50. For my part, when I consider the power and excellency of this interior compunction, I am struck with astonishment, and cannot but wonder how that which is called the affliction, the sorrow of repentance, should contain so much liveliness and spiritual joy. But we may liken it to wax which contains the honey. What, then, should be the lesson we draw from this admiration? This undoubted and invaluable truth, that the salutary grief of a contrite and humble heart is truly a gift of God. Now the reason why this sorrow is found united in the soul with a cheerful and delightful feeling is simply this, because God consoles in a secret and invisible manner those whose hearts are broken by this holy compunction.

THE SINGULAR TEARS OF THE ANCHORITE STEPHEN.

51. Nothing, however, is better calculated to prove to us that we have reason to weep for our iniquities with tears truly efficacious, and with lively sentiments of a salutary repentance, than what I am about to relate, and which will be as useful as it is extraordinary, and as edifying as it is astonishing. A religious named Stephen, who dwelt in this part of the country, and who had spent many years in his monastery, in which he was distinguished above others for his fasting and tears, and for the remarkable virtues which adorned his soul, had a great desire to lead a solitary and eremitical life. To carry out his wish he withdrew to a cell on the declivity of Mount Horeb, where the prophet Elias had been honoured by a vision of God. [3 Kings, xix.] Afterwards this truly religious man, desirous of embracing a more austere life and greater labours than he had hitherto been practising, retired to the quarter of the anchorites, called Siden, and there spent many years under the most rigorous discipline. For the place itself was destitute of every human comfort, almost inaccessible, and nearly seventy miles from any village. Towards the end of his life this worthy old man returned to his cell on Mount Horeb, which we previously mentioned, and where he had two disciples from Palestine, both of them very pious, and who a short time before their master had also returned to this abode. Some days after his return the venerable old man fell sick of the disease which terminated his life. The evening before his death he had an ecstasy, in which, with his eyes perfectly open, he looked on one side, then on the other of his bed, as if he saw persons around it, taking an account of his actions. He spoke so loud to them that he was heard by the attendants present at one time saying: “Yes, I confess it is perfectly true, but I have fasted so many years to expiate that fault.” Then he would say: “This is not true. It is certain you are telling a falsehood. I have not done it.” Now he replied: “This also I acknowledge. You speak the truth. But I have wept for it, and done penance by the many services which I have rendered to religious persons.” Again he would exclaim: “Not true! You are impostors.” But to other accusations he would plead guilty. “I have nothing to say to these charges but that God is merciful.” Truly were these severe and invisible examinations the cause of alarm and terror to the spectators. But that which seemed to cause the greatest dread was the accusation made against him of things that were not true. O God! if a hermit, who has spent forty years in a religious and retired life, possessing, too, the gift of tears, declares that he has nothing to say to many of the sins upon which he is indicted, O unhappy me! miserable wretch that I am, what will become of me? Why did not the holy solitary object to the devils these words of the prophet Ezechiel: “I will judge every man according to his ways, saith the Lord?”8 Certain it is he did not allege anything like this in his defence. Glory be to God, to whom alone is known the reason. This, however, I was told by credible witnesses, with strong assurances of its truth, that whilst this holy man dwelt in the desert he had given food with his own hands to a leopard. Whilst the trial was going on which we have just related, the venerable solitary expired, leaving it quite uncertain in what manner the judgment had terminated, and what was the sentence pronounced by the Judge.

52. As a widow, after the death of her husband finds in her only son, next to God, her chief consolation in her bereavement, so the Christian, that has fallen into sin, has no other comfort at the hour of death but the fasts and abstinences he practised, and the tears which he shed in the concluding portion of his life.

53. Penitents sing not in private hymns and canticles of joy, because such songs would stifle the tears of repentance. If you wish to employ such canticles to excite your hearts to sorrow, it is evident you are very far from possessing the gift of compunction. For the grief which produces tears is an interior sentiment, enkindled and domesticated in the soul by divine love.

54. The gift of tears in many persons precedes that blessed peace which is derived from the complete victory over their passions. For that which eradicates the very germ of sin, which has its seat in the concupiscence of our corrupted hearts, cleanses us from every defilement.

55. A person eminent for this gift, said to me one day: “It often happens that when I feel myself inclined to vainglory, or anger, or excessive talkativeness, this spirit of penance interiorly chides me, and in a tone of reprimand, whispers to my soul: Suffer not yourself to yield to such a vanity, otherwise I cannot remain in your company. It holds out a similar menace every time I seem disposed to give way to any other passion. To its admonitions I interiorly reply: I will never disobey you, because you have presented me, purified from sin, to our Lord Jesus Christ.

56. The lively and profound sorrow of repentance, receives consolation from God, as purity of heart receives illumination from heaven. This illumination is a strong and efficacious impression, which cannot be described; which we know by interior feeling, but not by intelligence; and which we behold with the eye of grace, but not with the eye of reason. That consolation is the refreshment of the afflicted soul, which like a child, weeps and cries to itself through tenderness and love; and this refreshment may be termed, the renewal of the energy of the soul, laden and oppressed with sorrow, and which, by its marvellous effect, changes bitter and scalding tears, into tears of sweetness and delight.

57. Tears which are excited by the thought of death, produce fear. To this fear succeeds confidence, from confidence springs joy, and joy, when complete and permanent, produces the celestial flower of divine love.

58. Repress, as unseemly in one of your profession, all external joy, with the hand of humility, lest admitting it too easily, you receive the wolf instead of the shepherd, that is, the devil in place of Jesus Christ.

59. Do not be eager to be elevated before the time, by an indiscreet temerity of aspiring to the sublime state of contemplation; but withdraw from such elevation by an humble acknowledgment of your own unworthiness, so that it may be contemplation herself who comes to seek you, through her admiration of your humility and bashfulness, and that she may contract with you a chaste and spiritual marriage, which will continue in holy friendship during the endless ages of eternity.

60. When a religious person, who is in regard to God what a child is with respect to its father, begins to know him by the interior light with which he is enlightened, he is filled with joy whenever he beholds God in His manifestations. But when this celestial Parent conceals Himself for a time, through a wise dispensation of His mercy and love, and then again displays Himself, such a person is filled at once with joy and sadness; with joy, because he has beheld again the object of his affections and desires; and with sadness, because he has been so long deprived of this divine and adorable Beauty. A mother will sometimes hide herself from her child to watch its eagerness in seeking for her, and she is exceedingly pleased to observe it seeking for her with sorrow and anxiety. By this means she wins its love, and binds it inseparably to her heart, that it may never be alienated from her in affection. “He that hath ears to hear,” saith our Lord, “let him hear.”9

61. As a criminal who has received the sentence of death, will think no more of plays or theatres, so he who bewails with poignant regret his past sins, will be no longer attached to the delights of the table, to vainglory, or to anger, For this effusion of tears arises from a profound sorrow caused by the spirit of repentance, in a manner similar to the painful throes of childbirth.

62. The Lord, who is no less just than holy, recompenses with heartfelt compunction the religious, who leads a sanctified life in the desert. He likewise bestows divine consolations upon the religious, who spends a devout life under obedience in a monastery. They who in either of these states, live not according to the divine Will, are deprived of the gift of tears infused by the Holy Spirit.

63. Drive from you, as you would a mad dog, the demon of despair, which, when you are plunged into the deepest sorrow or repentance, would fain represent God to your minds as inexorable. If you notice this malicious spirit diligently, you will observe, that it was he who, before you committed sin, depicted God as overflowing with love for men, touched with tender compassion for their weaknesses, and allowing Himself to be easily moved to forgiveness by their prayers.

64. The continual effusion of holy tears produces in the soul a pious habit; this habit grows into a sentiment or feeling of the heart, and that which becomes an ingrafted feeling of the heart, cannot easily be eradicated.

65. However great, however excellent may be the works of piety which we perform, we should esteem them as vain and counterfeit, if we were interiorly affected by a lively regret, and a sensible sorrow for our sins. For it is beyond question that they who have transgressed, and have sullied the white robe of baptism, have need of true contrition, which, like an inward fire, burns and consumes them without intermission, and of the help also of the divine mercy, to purify their hands from the impurities of their offences, which, to use a homely expression, are as tenacious as pitch.

66. I have seen persons touched with the keenest sorrow, that the remembrance of past sins could excite in the breast. Indeed, they were so violently affected, so pierced to the very core of the heart with grief, that they vomited blood. At the sight of this compunction, I remembered the words of the Royal Prophet: “I am smitten as grass, and my heart is withered;...and my bones are grown dry like fuel for the fire.”10

67. The tears which are excited by a dread of God’s judgments, are preserved by the same salutary fear. But those which are produced by love, may in part be dried up, especially if the divine love should not be perfect, or should in an extraordinary manner, have enkindled their heart into a flame, at the time that it caused the tears to gush forth. And truly may we be surprised, that the state which is the most humble, and the most despised, the state of fear, which has place at the commencement of our conversion, should be that in which there is the greatest confidence and security in our tears.

68. There are some of the passions, intemperance for instance, which dry up entirely the fountain of tears. Others, for example, pride and vanity, produce in the wellhead of our tears mud, and reptiles which breed in that mud. The first was the cause of Lot’s incest with his daughters; the second were the cause of the fall of the rebel angels.

69. The malice of our invisible enemies is incredible. They change tears, which ought to be the mother of virtue, into the parent of vice. They also employ them to inspire us with presumption in those very things which ought to excite in us a humble mistrust of ourselves. Thus it happens, that at one time the retirement of the cell, and the view of the wilderness soften the heart and cause tears to flow. In confirmation of this truth, we may adduce the example of Jesus Christ, Elias and John the Baptist, who retired into the desert to pray, and to pour out the plaintive effusions of their hearts to God. At another time, I have known demons so to melt the hearts of some religious, that they would shed tears even in the midst of cities, and the tumult of the world, to induce them to entertain the presumptuous opinion, that they received no injury, no detriment from the distractions and profane objects, which continually engaged their attention, and by this means might be induced to form new attachments with the world, which was the chief purpose and design of these artful enemies of mankind.

70. One word alone has often dried up in a penitent, all the tears of his repentance. But it would be a marvel if one word could make them flow again.

71. We shall not be charged, my dear friends, when our souls depart from this world, with not having performed miracles, with not having penetrated the sublime truths of theology, with not having ascended to the highest degree of contemplation; but we shall certainly have to render an account to God, if we do not unceasingly bewail our sins.

Let him, who by the favour of heaven, has ascended the seventh step of our Holy Ladder, stretch out a helping hand to me, to assist me to mount so high, since it has been by the aid and assistance of another only, that he himself has attained to this degree, and has been purified from the stains and impurities of a corrupt world.


  1. Psalm ci. 5.

  2. Job xiv. 11.

  3. Psalm cxxxvi. 4.

  4. 2 Corinth. vi. 14.

  5. Ps. cxli. 8.

  6. Apoc. xxi. 4.

  7. Ps. cxiv. 8.

  8. Ezech. xviii. 30.

  9. Luke xiv. 35.

  10. Ps. cl.



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Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
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