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.”

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