The sweet pleasureful tears of compunction

A monk at prayer

A monk at prayer

No one ever pretends that Orthodox spirituality is easy. The yoke of our Jesus is easy (Mt 11:28-30), and brings tears of joy; casting off the toils and snares of the world is little less than blood, sweat, and tears of grief. Here is St Nikitas Stithatos (11th century) on the subject.

FIRST fear is suffused into the soul, and makes her pregnant through repentance with the Word of judgment: the birth-pangs of the punishments of Hades compass her about straightaway, groans and pains in a conflict of the heart exhaust it, as she reckons up the coming recompense for her evils.

Then, through many tears and pains nurturing to full form the Spirit of salvation conceived in the womb of the understanding, she gives birth to it into the world of her heart.

Set free from the pangs of Hades and delivered from the groaning of judgment, longing and joy for the good things to come overtake her, and a purity made dear to her with sound discretion joins her by intense desire (eros) to God. Suffused with this, the soul experiences an ineffable delight, from which the tears of compunction are shed with delight and sweetness.

She finds herself outside the senses of the world at large, and as if in ecstasy, behind the Bridegroom, pursuing him and crying in wordless voice: “I haste after Thee in the fragrance of Thy myrrh; oh! tell me, O Thou whom my soul loves, where Thou feedest thy flock, where Thou givest it rest in its fold. In the noon-day of pure contemplation? Let me not be as she who is cast out from the flock of the righteous. With Thee are the illuminations of the great mysteries” (cf. Song of Songs 1:4-7).

St Nikitas Stithatos, “On the Inner Nature of Things” §49, in the “Philokalia” (Greek edition Vol. 3, Vol. 4 of the edition by Sherrard, Palmer and Ware).


Aposticha of Compunction

I WANTED to wipe out the record of my offences, Lord, with tears and to be well-pleasing to you for the rest of my life through repentance; but the enemy tricks me and wars on my soul. O Lord, before I am finally destroyed, save me.

To you I lift up my eyes, to you who are enthroned in the heavens. As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master: or as the eyes of a maid toward the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God: until he show us his mercy.

Who is storm-tossed and takes refuge in this harbour and is not saved? Or who is in pain and hastens to this place of healing and is not cured? Creator of all things and Physician of the sick, O Lord, before I am finally destroyed, save me.

Weekday Vespers. Translation from Anastasis.


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