"For Symeon, tears are at the same time a gift and a way, both an endowment and an effort. They are the fire of God's presence that warms the heart and the water of the ascetic's prayer that extinguishes sins. When we weep, we stop; tears are an opportunity to slow down and to stop, to be silent and simply to be. They are a tangible manifestation — or incarnation — of our conscious contact with God. You cannot move on until and unless you first stop; you cannot receive the Spirit until and unless you first surrender your self; you cannot find your soul if you do not first lose it (Matt. 10:39). In what we lose and find, we discover the mystery; our tear-filled eyes are opened to the face of God. Indeed, Symeon compares tears to water and rain which bring a garden to fruition: without the givenness of tears (the gift of divine charis) as well as the effort to irrigate (the struggle of human ascesis), flowers will not blossom and vegetables will not mature.

"Yet, tears are by no means an expression of mere passivity, of passively or patiently awaiting God's action; they are an active manifestation of the soul's willingness to progress — or, in fact, to undergo the process of return. Tears are the recognition that we are 'living, and partly living' (T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral) and an expression of our desire to 'have life and life in abundance' (John 10:10). Silently probing the waters of the heart is the beginning of life in the Spirit. Perhaps this is why there is a close connection between tears and baptism. Tears are not a sentimental reaction, but a sincere regeneration, a moment of resurrection. Ultimately, tears are a way of seeing more clearly, of cleansing the eyes and sharpening the vision. . . .

"More perhaps than any writer of the early Church, Symeon is well aware of this truth: that the lost can be found, the sick healed, the dead brought to life. . . . When the heart is crushed under 'the very light and sweet stone of holy humility' in order to allow the liquid flow, then:

" 'The soul is watered with floods of tears, making the living water to spring up, curing the wounds caused by one's sins, washing the pus and ulcers from the soul . . . Then as a result of this, even snow appears less brilliant, and that person is revealed to be whole.'

"Such vulnerability and openness, the result of being crushed ever so lightly and sweetly by God — or by life — inevitably renders the heart more spontaneous and responsive. It also seals the heart with the distinctive mark of holiness. Orthodox theology emphasizes the importance and centrality of deification or theosis. Theosis is no less, and no more, than falling down and getting back up, starting anew. If our eyes enjoy the vision of God (the mystery of becoming God), then it is because our tears can express the beauty of humanity (the mystery of being human). Tears are the ultimate and most intimate companions of deification, our sure escape route from death to life:

" 'Through the constant watering and cooling of tears, the flame of divine desire burns all the more brightly within us, producing ever more copious tears, washing us by their flow and causing us to shine with greater radiance. Then, when we are completely enflamed and entirely enlightened, we become as light; and the words of the Divine John are fulfilled: 'God is united with gods and is known by them.' "