It may seem a paradox to call tears the seal of strength and yet when we carefully study the Scriptures we perceive that they have invariably proved one of the most powerful means of obtaining favors and graces from Almighty God. There are of course idle tears—”The tears forgot as soon as shed” the tears of a puerile and vacillating nature, just as there are vain fears, the fears of a weak and cowardly disposition. Yet we know that justifiable fear—the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so in like manner we feel we are absolutely right in asserting real soul-stirring tears, tears that rush to the eyes from the depths of a penitent or broken heart- these are the seal of strength.
They appeal with irresistible force from our poor struggling hearts to the loving Heart of our Divine Lord and frequently work miracles by the potent spell of their supreme sanctity.
In the Old Testament we read that Hagar alone in the Desert with her loved and dying son—perishing from hunger, and thirst, and exhaustion, left him under a tree and going a little way cried aloud in her anguish.
“I will not see the boy die: and sitting over-against, she lifted up her voice and wept.”
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to her and showed her a well. It was full of sweet water beside her, but in her despair she had not noticed it until the heavenly messenger said to her.
“Arise, take up the boy, and hold him by the hand: for I will make him a great nation.”
Thus when the world was young God was moved to compassion by the strength of a mother’s grief, and so on from Genesis to the Days of our Saviour we see tears, genuine tears, heartfelt tears, winning blessings and graces, piercing from earth to heaven.
We read that Jacob wept when he believed that his beloved son Joseph was dead, but in His own good time Almighty God restored the lost son to the sorrowing father.
Again Anna, the mother of Samuel. wept because she was childless, and God heard her lamentations and in answer to her tears, although she was advanced in years, gave her the son she longed for.
Then are the fast flowing tears of Job, Job the Prince of Sorrow, and of Jeremiah the Prophet, whose very name is synonymous with tears. We cannot think of him without at the same time thinking of his lamentations: Sedit Jeremias propheta fiens: -the Prophet Jeremiah sat weeping -storming heaven with groans and moans and ceaseless lamentations.
There are several other incidents in the Old Testament of the surpassing power of tears, but it is in the New Testament that they are consecrated and made divine, because Jesus our God and our Saviour Himself shed tears.
Et lacrymatus est Jesus. And Jesus wept. The Gospel does not relate that Jesus smiled or Jesus laughed, it tells us that Jesus wept. Therefore, how blessed and inexpressibly beautiful are tears, whether the salt tears falling from the eyes of the penitent, kneeling like Magdalene at the Feet of Jesus, and like her washing those Sacred Feet with the bitter-sweet water that flowers in a shower of cleansing rain from sorrowful eyes. The tears of Mary Magdalene not only removed from the Feet of her Saviour travel stain and road dust, they at the same time purified her own soul from all stain of sin.
Then the Gospel narrates the pathetic story of the Widow of Nain, it tells of the tears of agony she shed – heartrending despairing tears, but no, not despairing for she trusts in God. Jesus is near, and in answer to her tears and supplications Jesus restores her son to life.
Another example of the marvelous efficacy of tears is the restoration to life of the Daughter of Jairus.
Thus the Gospel narrative tells us of two wonderful miracles worked by Our Lord in answer to tears, but before performing the greatest of all His miracles, He Himself wept.
Annals of St. Joseph, Volumes 31-33
The Norbertine Fathers
“To sin is not so great an evil as “to persevere in sinning. To sin is an unhappy consequence flowing from the frailty of man, and the corruption of human nature; but a perseverance in sin is truly diabolical, and merits the fatal punishment inflicted on devils.”
St. John Chrysostom
In Baptism, when it is duly received, all sin and its penalties are remitted. For those who have never afterwards been guilty of mortal sin this Sacrament would be sufficient. But with most of us, and especially with those who were baptized as infants, post-baptismal sin is both frequent and often most serious.
Grievous, or mortal sin cuts the soul off from God, destroys all grace, and renders the soul displeasing to God; and no works done in this state can be acceptable to Him. Since this is so, it is evident that the great majority of Christians would be lost through their forfeiture of baptismal grace if no remedy were provided. For the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is efficacious only in souls that are free from mortal sin, and therefore no benefit can be obtained from it by those who have lost the first grace. On this account our Blessed Lord, of His infinite love, has instituted in His Church the Sacrament of Penance as the means whereby all sin committed after Baptism may be remitted to those who are penitent.
Penitence, repentance, or penance (for the three words indicate one and the same thing) is the translation of the Greek word metanoia, which signifies a change of mind and heart and life, manifested by some external act. Penance is both a virtue and a Sacrament.
As a virtue it has existed since the time of Adam, for from the beginning of the world the virtue of penitence has worked among men. It is an interior disposition of the soul towards God, and from the beginning of the world the Holy Ghost, Whose office it is to “convince the world of sin” (S. John xvi. 8), has convinced sinners of their transgressions, converted them to penitence, and through penitence has made them Saints.
But while this virtue of penitence works also in the Christian Church, our Blessed Lord has added to it a Sacrament. He has taken the penitence which was working in the world before His Advent, and for us Christians has incorporated it in a visible sign by which He communicates forgiveness of sins, and the grace of penitence to those who seek it rightly.
This He did on that most solemn occasion when He first appeared to His assembled Apostles after His Resurrection. So desirous was He to impart to His Church this great gift by which man might be loosed from sin, that immediately after He had won the power of Absolution for the Church by His Death and Resurrection He bestowed it upon her. He had promised the gift before His Passion, when He said, ” Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven ” (S. Matt, xviii. 18). Then, having made satisfaction for the sin of all the world, He imparted the power of Absolution to His Apostles when He breathed on them, and said unto them, ” Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose so ever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose so ever sins ye retain, they are retained ” (S. John xx. 22, 23). A safeguard against self deceit regarding one’s spiritual state.
Thus we see that on the first Easter night Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance, in order that men might have something more than their self-assurance on which to depend for the hope of Absolution. The Pharisee in the Temple said, “God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are,” that is, he absolved himself. But that absolution was not ratified in Heaven. So it is with many now; they absolve themselves, they forget their sins and constantly deceive themselves with the idea that God also forgets them. No state can be more delusive or more fatal; and it is to guard us against this danger that our Lord instituted a Sacrament in which to assure us by a judicial act that we are absolved in the name and by the power of Jesus Christ, by one who is His authorized representative.
Catholic Faith and Practice – Volume 1
Alfred Garnett Mortimer – 1897