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The Source of Your Sorrow

“I have run to the fragrance of your myrrh, O Christ God, for I have been wounded by your love; do not part from me” (St. Porphyrios).

“As in all sweetest music, a tinge of sadness was in every note” (George MacDonald).

A Christian will always carry in his heart a wound. When you are touched by Christ, you never recover. When you have glimpsed paradise, you forever after long to return to paradise. The wound from encountering God is life’s greatest treasure. It is the door to contemplation.

“A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16).

We misunderstand our sadness most of the time.

Life changes. The people we love pass away. Traditions and routines that once brought such joy fade into memories of the past. Each season of life brings new opportunities, but also new deaths. My grandmother died at 102 a few years ago. Listening to her stories, I used to wonder at the changes she saw. In one century, we went from the horse-drawn buggy to rocket ships. We have experienced more changes than any generation in human history, and that speed of change escalates daily.

So much change. It is no wonder so many are scared or angry. We want a scapegoat. It’s the democrats. It’s the republicans. It’s silicon valley. It’s China. It’s your spouse. It’s your priest. You are angry and you find someone to blame. But this is a mistake. The source of evil in this world is always beneath what you see on the surface. More importantly, the sadness in your heart has little to nothing to do with the circumstances in your life. We have to look deeper. What is the real cause of our sorrow?

Why are we sad? We are wounded by Christ.

We have been touched by our Lord, and forever after long to feel that touch again.

“A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16).

A week or so after Pascha, I noticed the Easter Lilies had wilted. The sight struck me. I had been pondering the new developments in AI technology. Elon Musk has his neurolink, which promises to heal the blind and cure the lame. Chat GPT can answer your questions quicker than you can blink your eye. World leaders celebrate a new age, a new industrial revolution, where we can end poverty and defeat death.

Our feats today are no different than those in Babylon, when they set out to build a tower to heaven. God looked down and affirmed it. They could reach heaven, he said, and they would turn heaven into hell. So God stooped down and confused them. They lost their sanity. The tower crumbled.

I looked at those wilting lilies and the thought came to me. There is no doubt, scientists today would like to create a new kind of lily that does not wilt — genetically enhanced plants that never fade, genetically modified humans that never die, an evolved world without pain or suffering.

Then I thought, this lily is perfect. It is beautiful because it dies. It has a little time to blossom, and then the petals drop. Spring comes with lush grass and blue bonnets and then the summer sun scorches it. Our friendships last for a while, and then dissolve. A good song enchants us. Then it drops us. Everything here on earth satisfies, only to disappoint. All this is absolutely as it should be.

We do not need genetically modified humans. We need broken humans. We need poverty. We need hunger. We need sickness and death. We need sadness.

We need it because it reminds us where we are. This is the shadow land.

God’s greatest gift to us is the wound in our heart — the wound which says: ‘I want to go home’.

“Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy” (John 16:20-21).

Christ needed to ascend into heaven for the same reason the lilies need to wilt. We are not ready for paradise. We have to learn now to reach up after paradise, to reach for Jesus Christ. The whole spiritual journey is one strain of the heart — one painful, hopeful, sweet and sorrowful tension — holy longing.

“It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:2,4).

Where does this leave us?

Heaven is at our finger tips.

It is hard committing to a life of prayer. Yet, little by little, the more you commit, the more you begin to realize why the saints value prayer so earnestly. Our Lord told us this long ago: “Martha….One thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part” (Luke 10:42). Scripture teaches it. The saints prove it. Contemplation is the highest life.

This is the beauty of the Church’s prayer life, and especially the Divine Office. It is the greatest secret in the world, and everyone who discovers it cherishes it. The more time you set aside for contemplation, the more the whole world around you transforms. The liturgy and the psalms pull you out of the mayhem. Prayer lifts you from the shadow land.

Contemplation is not a distraction from the real world. Contemplation opens you to the real world.

The more you pray, the more love sick you become. Roses start to remind you of Christ. The sun and moon and stars remind you of Christ. Human faces remind you of Christ.

The more you pray, the sadness in your heart becomes sweet. You discover why you are sad — why you have ever been sad, since you were a little child. You are sad because you want more of Christ. Your sadness becomes your fuel for prayer, and so, the fuel for reaching out and touching God.

Your pain turns into joy.

“A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16).

Christ is Risen!


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