Monday, April 25, 2016

Holy Week: The Ultimate Perspective

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Icon of Christ the Bridegroom, sitting above the star at Golgotha in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.

At the beginning of Holy Week we contemplate “The End”—of the earthly ministry of Christ, of our own lives and the judgment that will lead to, and of the “end of the world.” In other words, there is something of an “apocalyptic edge” to the texts of the services, beginning with the Scriptures and extending into the hymnography. Another term would be “eschatological,” meaning the “last things” in relation to the fulfillment of God’s design for the world.

That may initially sound like a strange combination of themes. After all, our major concern and focus is upon our Lord voluntarily going up to Jerusalem in order to ascend the Cross in the flesh. But right before the Son of Man ascends the Cross, He solemnly declares, “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out” [John 12:31].  In judging Christ, “the world” judges itself. Sin and darkness seem to prevail when the Innocent Christ is led away to be crucified. The triumph of such darkness can freeze the heart and lead many to despair, the very fate of the disciples at this time. As the prophet Amos said, “The one who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked on that day” [Amos 2:16; cf. Mark 14:51-52].  Where do we stand?

It is striking that in the hymns for the Bridegroom Matins of Holy Tuesday, for example, there are not many direct references to the Passion of Christ. There is much more of a combination of exhortation and warning to us—the contemporary disciples of Christ—concerning our relationship to Christ, to the world, and to our neighbor.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Turning towards the Ultimate Reality

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

In just a few hours, Great Lent will be over for this Year of the Lord 2016.  We are on the eve of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday.  We will celebrate both of these great Feast Days over the course of the next two days. 

Then, of course, Holy Week will begin with the Bridegroom Matins on Sunday evening.  Fr. Sergius Bulgakov once described Holy Week as a "mystic torrent" that carries us along toward the paschal mystery of the Lord's death and resurrection. 

Everything around us in our lives is "real" - sometimes "all too real" - but in my mind what occurs in the church during the Holy Week services is somehow "more real."  Or, at least as revealing the ultimate realities of life if Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God; and if His death is the death of God on our behalf and for our salvation.  Everyone must make their choices as to what extent they are willing or able to participate in this ultimate Reality.

At the same time, with a glance back at the last forty days, we may want to make an assessment of our "lenten efforts."  Did I "redeem the time;" or did it slip away despite my intentions and actions? 

As one way of making such an assessment, I am re-sending a text that I sent out on the first day or so of Great Lent.  St. Theodore really gets to the deeper meaning of Great Lent, far beyond my eating or viewing habits (yet not to be shrugged at, considering our level of dependence in this area).  So, here is what I wrote and shared about forty days ago (and let's hope that we don't have to wince too much in reading this again!):

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Great Canon and St Mary of Egypt

Dear Parish Faithful,

Icon of St Mary of Egypt, with scenes from her Life.

The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is prescribed in its entirety (about 260 troparia!) to be chanted on the fifth Thursday of Great Lent.  We were able to chant a part of the Canon yesterday evening.  In his book Great Lent, Fr. Alexander Schmemann writes the following about the place of the Canon in our Lenten journey when we arrive to the fifth Thursday:

If at the beginning of Lent this Canon was like a door leading us into repentance, now at the end of Lent it sounds like a "summary" of repentance and its fulfillment.  If at the beginning we merely listened to it, now hopefully its words have become our words, our lamentation, our hope and repentance, and also an evaluation of our Lenten effort:  how much of all this has truly been ours?  how far have we come along the path of this repentance? 
For all that which concerns us is coming to its end.  From now on we are following the disciples, "as they were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them".  (Great Lent, p. 78)

And yesterday evening we also read the deeply moving and compunctionate Life of St. Mary of Egypt.  This reading of the great saint's Life  in the prayerful atmosphere of the darkened church adds a further dimension to the depths of our Lenten liturgical experience.  In the words of Panayiotis Nellas, in his book Deification in Christ - The Nature of the Human Person:

Furthermore, St. Mary of Egypt is likewise present.  The reading of her life does not have as its aim simply to move the faithful.  It plays in the service an organic part which is at once deeper and more real.  
The Orthodox faithful know very well that the feast day of a saint is not a simple honoring of a holy person or a recollection of his life for didactic reasons.  Rather, it is a real participation in his life, his struggles, his victory and his glory.  The reading of his life takes place in order to bring the saint amongst us in a true and real manner with his whole life and all his struggles... 
The reading of the life of the saints is a liturgical act.  It takes place within another form of time, liturgical time, and together with all the other ritual elements it creates another form of space, liturgical space... 
Thus the liturgical reading of the life of St. Mary makes the saint present in the assembly of the faithful in a sacramental manner, so that she can accompany them and struggle with them in the contest of repentance and prayer.

It seems to me that we had the largest gathering of faithful for this service that at least I can recall.  I hope something of what Fr. Alexander and Panayiotis Nellas wrote was experienced by all who were present.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

More from The Ladder - The Acquisition of the Virtues

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Continued from Part 1...

Yet St. John was not content with only analyzing the passions that torment us and lead us away from God.  He also wrote with great eloquence of the virtues that we are to "acquire" with and by the grace of God, so that as the passions are overcome, we recover and restore our human nature by becoming what we were meant to be: vessels of the virtues that come from God,  essentially a gift of the Holy Spirit present within us.

As we cited him earlier as saying, this is hard work; but it is worthy work that sets us apart as both rational and spiritual beings, created "according to the image and likeness of God."  Although St. John enumerates a lesser number of virtues in comparison to the number of the passions that he describes, the passages dealing with the virtues are often much longer.  Some of these virtues, to use a term that Archbishop Ware employs, are the "fundamental" virtues of:

  • obedience - "Obedience is unquestioned movement, death freely accepted, a simple life, danger faced without worry, an unprepared defense before God ... "  (STEP 4)
  • penitence - "Repentance is the daughter of hope and the refusal to despair. (The penitent stands guilty - but undisgraced.) It is the purification of conscience."   (STEP 5)
  • remembrance of death - "Fear of death is a property of nature due to disobedience, but terror of death is a sign of unrepented sins."  (STEP 6)
  • sorrow - "Hold fast to the blessed and joyful sorrow of holy compunction and do not cease laboring for it until it lifts you high above the things of the world."  (STEP 7)

Ultimately, as one ascends the ladder, "higher virtues" may be experienced.  Since these higher virtues are listed in Steps beyond those describing the passions, it is implied that to experience these virtues is to have reached a certain level of "dispassion."

Dispassion, of course, has nothing to do with indifference or impassivity.  (Often apatheia is translated as "apathy" and this is completely misleading).  An earlier saint, St. Diachochus of Photice speaks of the "fire of dispassion." As St. John wrote:  "To have dispassion is to have the fullness of love, by which I mean the complete indwelling of God."

In other words a successful "warfare against the passions" has its own rewards as the grace of God begins to illuminate genuine repentance.  These "higher virtues" are:

  • Simplicity - "Simplicity is an enduring habit within a soul that has grown impervious to evil thoughts."  (STEP 24)
  • Humility - "The man with humility ... will be gentle, kind, inclined to compunction, sympathetic, calm in every situation, radiant, inoffensive, alert and active."  (STEP 25)
  • Discernment - "Discernment is ... understanding of the will of God in all times, in all places, in all things, and it is found among those who are pure in heart, in body and in speech."  (STEP 26)

It was St. John of the Ladder who created the term "joy-creating sorrow."  We experience "sorrow" when we acknowledge our sinfulness and estrangement from God; but this becomes a "joyful sorrow" through repentance and an awareness of the forgiving nature of God experienced as God's grace.  In a well-know passage, St. John offers a wonderful description of this experience:

God does not demand or desire that someone should mourn out of sorrow of heart, but rather that out of love for Him he should rejoice with the laughter of the soul.  Take away sin and then the sorrowful tears that flow from bodily eyes will be superfluous. Why look for a bandage when you are not cut?  Adam did not weep before the fall, and there will be no tears after the resurrection when sin will be abolished, when pain, sorrow and lamentation will have taken flight.  (STEP 7)

At the summit of the Ladder of divine ascent, we find what could be described as the "transition to the contemplative life," according to Archbishop Ware.  With words that must reveal a real experience, St. John will describe:

  • Stillness - "Stillness of soul is the accurate knowledge of one's thoughts and is an unassailable mind."  (STEP 27)
  • Prayer - "Future gladness, action without end, wellspring of virtues, source of grace, hidden progress, food of the soul ... an axe against despair, hope demonstrated."  (STEP 28)
  • Dispassion - "By dispassion I mean a heaven of the mind within the heart, which regards the artifice of demons as a contemptible joke."  (STEP 29)
  • Love - The person who wants to talk about love is undertaking to speak about God.  But it is risky to talk about God and could even be dangerous for the unwary. Angels know how to speak about love, but even they do so only in proportion to the light within them.  "God is love" (I JN. 4:16).  But someone eager to define this is blind striving to measure the sand in the ocean. Love, by its nature, is a resemblance to God, insofar as this is humanly possible.  In its activity it is inebriation of the soul. Its distinctive character is to be a fountain of faith, an abyss of patience, a sea of humility. Love is the banishment of every sort of contrariness, for love thinks no evil.   (STEP 30)

A spiritual psychologist seemingly without peer, St. John leads up The Ladder of Divine Ascent through victory over the passions and the acquisition of the virtues.  On however a modest level, that is our goal during Great Lent.  It is a blessing, indeed, to have as a guide such a master of the Christian life who can inspire us to rise above our fallen nature. St. John closed his classic work of the spiritual life with the following exhortation:

Ascend... ascend eagerly. Let your hearts' resolve be to climb. Listen to the voice of the one who says, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of our God" (Isa. 2:3), Who makes our feet to be like the feet of a deer. "Who sets us on the high places, that we may be triumphant on His road" (Hab. 3:19).
Run, I beg you, run with him who said, "Let us hurry until we arrive at the unity of faith and of the knowledge of God, at mature manhood, at the measure of the stature of Christ's fullness" (Eph. 4:13). Baptized in the thirtieth year of His earthly age, Christ attained the thirtieth step on the spiritual ladder, for God indeed is love, and to Him be praise dominion, power. In Him is the cause, past present, and future, of all that is good forever and ever.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

'With the Utmost Profit' - The Ladder of Divine Ascent for Us Today

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

On the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent we commemorate the great monastic saint and writer, St. John Climacus (of the Ladder).  St. John (+ c. 650), abbot of one of the most ancient monasteries in the Christian world, at the foot of Jebul Musa, Moses' Mount, on the Sinai Peninsula, was an austere ascetic who wrote what may be the classic work of our spiritual tradition:  The Ladder of Divine Ascent. 

According to Arch. Kallistos Ware:  "With the exception of the Bible and the service books, there is no work in Eastern Christendom that has been studied, copied and translated more than The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus." 

Today, a few English translations have been available for some time now (e.g., here, here, here), so an English-speaking body of the faithful now has access to this spiritual classic. Here is a work, then, that has nurtured endless generations of Christian believer seeking to deepen their relationship with God in and through Christ. 

Commemorating St. John on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent reminds us that a major component of our lenten effort is focused on being ascetical to some degree; and that any ascetical effort must be placed within a larger context of warfare against the passions and the attainment of those key virtues that mark the life of a committed Christian.  St. John provides an example and a body of teaching both through his mode of life and again, through his enduring spiritual classic, The Ladder of Divine Ascent.  Something to keep in mind as our lenten efforts may just be starting to sag at this point in the season.

There is no doubt from the beginning of his work, that St. John is writing as a monastic for fellow monastics.  But that hardly limits St. John's scope of intended readers.  To again turn to Archbishop Ware, he writes:

"Yet does it therefore follow that The Ladder is of no interest to those in the 'world'?  Surely not.  It has in fact been read with the utmost profit by many thousands of married Christians, and whatever the author's original intention, there is nothing surprising in that ... Whether monastic or married, all the baptized are responding to the same Gospel call; the outward conditions of their response may vary, but the path is essentially one."  

There is a wonderful passage at the outset of The Ladder that clearly affirms the "universal" appeal of St. John's teaching:

God is the life of all free beings. He is the salvation of believers and unbelievers, of the just or the unjust ... of monks or those living in the world, of the educated or the illiterate, of the healthy or the sick, of the young or the very old. He is like the outpouring of light, the glimpse of the sun, or the changes of the weather, which are the same for everyone without exception.  "For God is no respecter of persons." (ROM. 2:11)  (STEP 1)

And more specifically, with married persons in the world in mind, St. John writes:

Do whatever good you may.  Speak evil of not one. Rob no one.  Tell no lie. Despise no one and carry no hate.  Do not separate yourself from the church assemblies.  Show compassion to the needy.  Do not be a cause of scandal to anyone.  Stay away from the bed of another ... If you do all of this, you will not be far from the kingdom of heaven.  (STEP 1)

Therefore, his succinct definition of what it means to be a Christian embraces both those "in the world," and those who practice withdrawal "from the world:"

A Christian is an imitator of Christ in thought, word and deed, as far as this is humanly possible, and he believes rightly and blamelessly in the Holy Trinity.  (STEP 1)

Contrary to many "self-help" Christian writers today, who may prove to be less than insightful about the rebellion of our sinful minds and bodies, St. John is very sober and realistic - we could say, very "upfront" - about the intense challenges that a life based on the precepts of the Gospel will be for the honest seeker:

Violence (cf. MATT. 11:12) and unending pain are the lot of those who aim to ascend to heaven with the body, and this especially at the early stages of the enterprise, when our pleasure-loving disposition and our unfeeling hearts must travel through overwhelming grief toward the love of God and holiness.  It is hard, truly hard.  (STEP 1)

Concerning the role of the body in the over-all Christian life, and the difficult question of the relationship between soul and body, and the inherent tensions in that relationship, if not outright struggle/warfare; St. John has a text of extraordinary insight concerning the "mystery" of the relationship between body and soul that has hardly been matched since he wrote:

By what rule or manner can I bind this body of mine?  By what precedent can I judge him?  Before I can bind him he is let loose, before I can condemn him I am reconciled to him, before I can punish him I bow down to him and feel sorry for him.  How can I hate him when my nature disposes me to love him?  How can I break away from him when I am bound to him forever?  How can I escape from him when he is going to rise with me?  How can I make him incorrupt when he has received a corruptible nature?  How can I argue with him when all the arguments of nature are on his side? ... If I strike him down I have nothing left by which to acquire virtues.  I embrace him.  And I turn away from him.  What is this mystery in me?  What is the principle of this mixture of body and soul?  (STEP 15)

The main section of The Ladder is made up of the Steps in which St. John lists and analyzes the most prominent and troubling of the "passions" so as to then offer guidance as to how to overcome them and replace them with a corresponding virtue.  One way of many of describing a major component of the spiritual life is to say that it is a "warfare against the passions."  Without success in this battle, we cannot hope to attain purity of heart. According to how Archbishop Ware helps to summarize the contents of The Ladder, the "passions" can be listed as those that are physical and material, such as:

  • gluttony - "Gluttony is hypocrisy of the stomach.  Filled, it moans about scarcity; stuffed, and crammed, it wails about hunger."  (STEP 14)
  • lust - "This demon is especially on the lookout for our weak moments and will viciously assail us when we are physically unable to pray against it." (STEP 15)
  • avarice - "Anger and gloom never leave the miserly." (STEP 16-17)

And those that are non-physical, such as:

  • anger - "Anger is an indication of concealed hatred, of grievance nursed.  Anger is the wish to harm someone who has provoked you." (STEP 8)
  • malice  - "Worms thrive in a rotten tree; malice thrives in the deceptively meek and silent." (STEP 9)
  • slander - "Slander is the offspring of hatred, a subtle and yet crass disease, a leech in hiding and escaping notice, wasting and draining away the lifeblood of love." (STEP 10)
  • talkativeness - "It is hard to keep water in without a dike.  But it is harder still to hold in one's tongue." (STEP 11)
  • falsehood - "Lying is the destruction of charity, and perjury the very denial of God." (STEP 12)
  • despondency - "Tedium is a paralysis of the soul, a slackness of mind, a neglect of religious exercises ... A laziness in the singing of psalms, a weakness in prayer." (STEP 13)
  • insensitivity - "Detachment he praises, and he shamelessly fights over a rag ... He looks people in the eye with passion and talks about chastity." (STEP 18-20)
  • fear - "Fear is danger tasted in advance, a quiver as the heart takes fright before unnamed calamity.  Fear is a loss of assurance." (STEP 21)
  • vainglory - "A vainglorious person is a believer - and an idolator. Apparently honoring God, he actually is out to please not God but men." (STEP 22)
  • pride  - "Most of the proud never really discover their true selves. They think they have conquered their passions and they find out how poor they really are only after they die." (STEP 23)

Monday, April 4, 2016

'Cross-bearers' - Not Simply 'Cross-wearers'

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Shine, Cross of the Lord, shine with the light of thy grace upon the hearts of those that honor thee!
Hail! life-giving Cross, the fair Paradise of the Church, Tree of incorruption that brings us the enjoyment of eternal glory.
Hail!  life-giving Cross, unconquerable trophy of the true faith, door to Paradise, succor the faithful, rampart set about the Church.

(Stichera of Great Vespers for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross)

At the very midpoint of Great Lent we venerate the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord.  If we have in any way taken up the cross of asceticism in obedience to the Church and in reaction to our over-indulgent surroundings, then by the Third Sunday of Great Lent the purpose of our ascetical efforts - and the very goal of our journey - are brought to our attention:  to stand by the Cross of the Lord as we journey toward Jerusalem and Holy Week. 

The timing is perfect, for by this third Sunday of Great Lent we begin to tire, if not "wear out" with our lenten effort to this point.  However, in our weakness we can find the strength and resolve to continue our journey with enthusiasm, and not simply obligation. This is made possible by the presence of the Cross, not only at the heart and center of Great Lent, but at the heart and center of the biblical revelation; of the entire historical process; of the cosmos; and at the heart and center of the Trinity, as the Lamb of God is slain before the foundation of the world. 

With that in mind, we can chant and sing the appointed hymns cited above, not only as fine examples of Byzantine rhetoric, but as profound insights into the meaning and purpose of the Cross. 

What may appear at first sight as hyperbole or exaggeration in the Church's hymnography, is discovered, upon deeper meditation, to be the search for words and images adequate to the great mystery of the Cross, in itself the inexhaustible wisdom of God as the "breadth and length, and height and depth" of that wisdom which will fill us "with  the fulness of God." (EPH. 3:18-19)  The only response to this Mystery once we begin to assimilate it, is to "bow down" in worship before the Master's Cross in awe and adoration. 

In our liturgical tradition we decorate the Cross with flowers in order to enhance and reveal its inner beauty, as we bring the Cross in solemn procession into the midst of the church for veneration.  The decorated Cross is one way of trying to capture the paradoxical nature of the Cross.

For in no way is the Church trying to cover up the horror and brutality of crucifixion as one of the most  perverse and twisted means of humanity's sinful capacity to inflict pain and humiliation on others.  Here is the dark side of human nature at its most lethal.  This is all clearly beneath the surface in the Gospels and their restrained and sober narrative of the Lord dying on the Cross.  And it is on Golgotha "when they had crucified him" (MATT. 27:35) that we can begin to understand why the Lord "cried with a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, la'ma sabach'-tha'ni' that is 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (MATT. 27:46)  It is in and through this cry of solidarity with suffering humanity while lifted up on the Cross that we never soften or "sing away" the horror of the Cross.  We respect what it meant for the Lord to ascend the Cross. A clear-sighted realism demands that of us.

Yet, Christ is our Passover, the Lamb of God "who takes away the sin of the world." (JN. 1:29)  On the Cross, as the sinless Son of God, Christ absorbs and takes upon Himself all of that sin in order to overcome it from within.  He died on the Cross, but death had no hold over Him. He died for the life of the world and its salvation. By His obedience to the will of the Father, Christ destroys death by death.

For this reason, when we venerate the Cross we simultaneously glorify the Lord's "holy Resurrection." It is on the Cross that Christ is victorious, not in spite of the Cross. The Son glorifies the Father precisely while lifted up on the Cross. "I call Him King, because I see Him crucified," said St. John Chrysostom. 

As we sing at every Liturgy after having received the Body and Blood of Christ: "for through the Cross joy has come into the world."  That is an incredible claim, but through faith we understand that claim as the very heart of the Gospel, the "good news" that life has overcome death "once and for all."  Whenever we taste of that joy, we taste of the glory of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps here we discover the paradoxical nature of a decorated Cross:  the ultimate sign of defeat and death has become the "unconquerable trophy of the true faith."  Or, as the Apostle Paul has declared:  "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (I COR. 1:18)

The Lord taught us:  "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (MK. 8:34)  These words challenge us to never be content with being passive observers of the Cross, but rather active participants in the life of self-denial and co-suffering love that are implied in taking up the Cross.

This further means that by our very vocation as Christians, we are "cross-bearers" and not simply "cross-wearers."  It is one thing to wear a cross, and another thing to bear a cross. 

Of course it is a good thing that Christians do wear a cross.  This is something of a identity badge that reveals that we are indeed Christians, but this worn cross is certainly not another piece of jewelry - Byzantine, three-barred, Celtic or Ethiopian!  By wearing a cross we are saying in effect:  I am a Christian, and therefore I belong to the Crucified One, who is none other than the "Lord and Master of my life."  My ultimate allegiance is to Him, and to no other person or party. With the Apostle Paul, I also confess:  "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel:  it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith ..." (ROM. 1:16) 

Such a confession already takes us way beyond passively being a "cross-wearer" to actively being a "cross-bearer."  Dying to sin in Baptism makes the impossible possible.   And with a faith in Christ that is ever-deepening in maturity, we can further exclaim with the great Apostle:  "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (GAL. 5:24).

The Third Sunday of Great Lent - The Adoration of the Life-Giving Cross - reveals, I believe, that here is something that makes Lent potentially great.  Here are reasons that make taking Lent seriously a worthy and noble endeavor.  We are slowly learning to be Cross-bearers, and in the process transforming the simple profession "I am a Christian," into a powerful confession of Faith. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Learning to Hate Sin

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Great Lent is a time that we more consciously try and come to terms with our own personal sins - of deed, or word, or thought.  Sin is, of course, "missing the mark" about both God and neighbor.  It is to confuse our desires with what is good, to even confuse the very realities of good and evil.  Aware of that struggle, we do out best to avoid sin, no matter how tempting.  But the great saints will take us a good step deeper in this struggle.  They teach us to hate sin. They write about the horror sin, how it debases us, makes us less than human, and eventually - though much sooner than we are often aware - its slave.  When that happens, we often rationalize or justify our sinful inclinations, for facing up to them is quite painful.

Here is some of the "wisdom of the divine philosophers" - the great saints - who write about sin with clarity and sharpness, not allowing for any subtle embrace of sin.  The great saints, ultimately, teach us to "love the sinner," but to "hate the sin."

"Never confuse the person, formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him; because evil is but a chance misfortune, an illness, a devilish reverie. But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement."
 ~ St. John of Kronstadt

"Every sin is more injury to him who does, than to him who suffers it."
~ St. Augustine of Hippo

"The devil presents small sins to us as insignificant in our eyes, for otherwise he cannot lead us to great sins."
~ St. Mark the Ascetic

"When a man places the Law of God and the holy commandments of God in his heart, so to speak, and loves them, then he comes to hate sin. He becomes inflamed with a desire for life in the Lord, and he restrains himself from every sin."
~ St. Nikon of Optina

"God does not insist or desire that we should mourn in agony of heart; rather, it is his wish that out of love for him we should rejoice with laughter in our soul. 
"Take away sin, and tears become superfluous; where there is no bruise, no ointment is required.  Before the fall Adam shed no tears, and in the same way there will be no more tears after the resurrection from the dead, when sin has been destroyed.  For pain, sorrow and lamentation will then have fled away."
~ St. John Klimakos