Blessed are Those Who Mourn and the Widow of Nain

Reflection on the Widow of Nain  (Luke 7:11-16)  by St. Bishop Nikolai Velimirović

“Apart from this and our sympathy, we feel ourselves incapable of offering anything else to those who are mourning. The power of death has so outstripped our strength that we crawl around like insects in its shadow; and as we heap earth over a dead body, we feel that we are heaping earth over a part of ourselves in the deathly darkness of the grave. The Lord does not say Weep not!‘ to the woman in order to show that we should not weep for the dead. He Himself wept for Lazarus (John 11:35); He wept in advance for many who would later suffer in the fall of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44); and lastly, He praised and blessed those who weep, for they shall be comforted’ (Matthew 5:4). Nothing so calms and cleanses a man as tears. In the Orthodox methodology of salvation, tears are among the first means of cleansing the soul, heart and mind. Not only should we weep over the dead, but also over the living, and especially over ourselves, as the Lord recommended to the women of Jerusalem: Weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children‘ (Luke 23:28). 

There is, though, a difference between tears and tears.  The Apostle Paul commands the Thessalonians ‘that you sorrow not, even as others which have not hope‘ (1Thessalonians 4:13), like the pagans and the godless, for they mourn their dead as utterly lost.  Christians must mourn the dead not as lost but as sinners, and their mourning must therefore be conjoined with prayer to God that He will forgive the sins of the departed and lead them, by His mercy, to the heavenly Kingdom.  Because of his sins, a Christian must mourn and weep also for himself – and the more often the better; not as those who have no faith and hope, but, on the contrary, specifically because he has faith in the living God and hope in God’s mercy and in eternal life.”

Christ: The Rock Who Follows US

“For they all drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 10:4)

Notice something unusual about the Spiritual Rock from which the Israelites drank?


We have this idea in our heads that the rock which Moses struck at Horeb and Meribah was some huge immovable mountainous boulder.  But St. Paul spiritualizes the story for us – the Rock which gave them water was following them!  It wasn’t immovable at all.  It followed them and provided for them when they were in need – where ever they happened to be.

Christ traveled and still travels with the people of God.  The Rock which is Christ who followed the Israelites in the Old Testament, has followed the Orthodox to America as well.   Christ followed the Israelites into and through the desert for forty years.   Christ follows us into every circumstance, into our desert, in times of trouble, or of dissension, unhappiness or scandal.   Read the Old Testament – God didn’t abandon His people even when they traveled down the wrong path as the OCA did for the past twenty years.

Think about the Israelites in Numbers 13-14.  God told them to spy out the land of Canaan and then to take it for themselves.  But the spies came back and said, “the task is too hard, we aren’t up to the task, there are giants in the land, and they have armies and fortified cities, and we are too weak, and inexperienced and don’t have the resources and it can’t be done.”

It sounds like the people of the OCA.  Like the Israelites we are too afraid to establish ourselves in the land in which God has planted us.  We have the same whiney excuses – there are too many obstacles and we are too few, and lack leadership and lack monks and resources.    Yes, the task is daunting – to plant the Church in America.  We don’t think we are up to the task.  We don’t have the resources or the leadership.   God has called us to do it anyway.    We need to do what God has commanded us to do.  If we haven’t noticed, throughout the Old Testament, God doesn’t call the greatest, richest, strongest as His chosen ones.  God often chooses those who are weak and insignificant and unnoticed to do His will  in order that we might understand if the task is accomplished it is only because God provides.

Let us not be enslaved by our own fears and failures.  Even if we don’t succeed, let us at least not rebel against God like our ancient forefathers did!

God bestows the spiritual gifts His people need and God raises up for Himself people to lead. 

Despite virtually everyone of the Israelites so strongly agreeing that they weren’t up to the task of moving into Canaan that they were willing to rebel against God, Caleb and Joshua wanted to lead the people into doing what God commanded – in spite of the odds and the obstacles.     

We don’t need to go back to Russia or Greece to find leaders for the Orthodox Church in America.  God distributes the gifts the church needs.  God will give us a Caleb and a Joshua.  The Israelites had the leadership in the desert, even though people rebelled against them. 

What we do need is the clear vision to see what God is telling us to do.   And we need the clear vision to see the spiritual gifts which God has distributed among His people.

Christ is the Rock which follows the people of God – you don’t have to go back to anything.  Christ is here.  Christ is the deep well who gave the spiritual drink which satisfied and saved the Israelites in the desert.   He is the deep well to which we can go – but we don’t have to go “back” to somewhere else – for Christ is the Rock who follows us and is here and has brought the water of salvation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to us.