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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XI:
The Works of John Cassian.: Chapter XXIX. The answer on the varieties of conviction which spring from tears.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXIX.

The answer on the varieties of conviction which spring from tears.

Isaac: Not every kind of shedding of tears is produced by one feeling or one virtue. For in one way does that weeping originate which is caused by the pricks of our sins smiting our heart, of which we read: “I have laboured in my groanings, every night I will wash my bed; I will water my couch with my tears.” 1620 And again: “Let tears run down like a torrent day and night: give thyself no rest, and let not the apple of thine eye cease.” 1621 In another, that which arises from the contemplation of eternal good things and the desire of that future glory, owing to which even richer well-springs of tears burst forth from uncontrollable delights and boundless exultation, while our soul is athirst for the mighty Living God, saying, “When shall I come and appear before the presence of God? My tears have been my meat day and night,” 1622 declaring with daily crying and lamentation: “Woe is me that my sojourning is prolonged;” and: “Too long hath my soul been a sojourner.” 1623 In another way do the tears flow forth, which without any conscience of deadly sin, yet still proceed from the fear of hell and the recollection of that terrible judgment, with the terror of which the prophet was smitten and prayed to God, saying: “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.” 1624 There is too another kind of tears, which are caused not by knowledge of one’s self but by the hardness and sins of others; whereby Samuel is described as having wept for Saul, and both the Lord in the gospel and Jeremiah in former days for the city of Jerusalem, the latter thus saying: “Oh, that my head were water and mine eyes a fountain of tears! And I will weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.” 1625 Or also such as were those tears of which we hear in the hundred and first Psalm: “For I have eaten ashes for my bread, and mingled my cup with weeping.” 1626 And these were certainty not caused by the same feeling as those which arise in the sixth Psalm from the person of the penitent, but were due to the anxieties of this life and its distresses and losses, by which the righteous who are living in this world are oppressed. And this is clearly shown not only by the words of the Psalm itself, but also by its title, which runs as follows in the character of that poor person of whom it is said in the gospel that “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven:” 1627 “A prayer of the poor when he was in distress and poured forth his prayer to God.” 1628



Ps. vi. 7.


Lam. ii. 18.


Ps. 43:3, 4.


Ps. 119:5, 6.


Psa. 143.2.


Jer. ix. 1.


Psa. 102.10.


S. Matt. v. 3.


Psa. 102.1.

Next: Chapter XXX. How tears ought not to be squeezed out, when they do not flow spontaneously.

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