As a priest I come into contact with people who are mourning as part of the job if you will. Grief and mourning is part of our existence as human beings. We mourn the loss of many things, loved ones, pets, jobs, the fact that our favorite sports team did not win the championship, we mourn all of these things but Scripture gives us hope that our mourning is not is vain.
Spiritually speaking there are various types of mourning. We mourn over the sufferings of this life. As I mentioned already, this would include mourning the loss of something or someone. I know it might sound trite but any sort of loss will being grief into our lives. It might not last long but the process of grief is important and we must allow ourselves time to grieve.
As a spiritual father I come into contact with people who have not allowed themselves to grieve or to point a finer point on it, to allow themselves to finish the grieving process. In her 1969 book, Death and Dying, Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the world to the 5 stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There is a pattern to our grief and we must be allowed to move through all of the stages. If we linger too long in one stage, especially the depression stage, it can become clinical.
I will say this as a spiritual father as well, not all things can be cured with prayer. Prayer is an important aspect and part of our recovery but sometimes more help is needed. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, but I am also a believer in the fact that God gave human beings certain talents to help others and we need to seek out that help.
But we also mourn of the sufferings of others. Who among us is not touched by television images of the people suffering in Syria, Egypt, and now Ukraine? Or people in Africa or any place where human suffering takes place. We would not be human if it did not touch us on a very human level. We mourn the loss of innocence of others and of ourselves.
Many are also concerned about the state of the world we live in, and I am not speaking just about the political sense of things either. Our world has changed, well the world is always changing, and sometimes not always for the best. The morals today are much different than they were a generation ago, people are concerned about different things in their lives, and many of them are just trying to survive. I see this as a pattern and each subsequent generation has mourned the loss, or change if you will, in the morality of the next generation. Rock and Roll was going to be the ruination of the world but somehow we are still here.
But what we are called to, and what most of us will not do, is mourn for our own sins. Of course we have to recognize that we are in fact sinners and that is something that the world does not want us to do. It is fashionable these days in some Christian Churches to ignore sin, sin is only sin if someone else is harmed by it. That is just plain rubbish. Sin is multidimensional there is the sin that separates us from God and the sin that separates us from the community because of our separation from God. So in essence every sin is a sin against the community and therefore, using the logic of modern Christianity, harms another person.
The other is harmed because of the separation from the community. When an Orthodox Christian comes to confession, they are not confessing their sins to the priest, in fact in the confession service itself we say that, they confess to God. When I pronounce the absolution on the person it is not me who forgives, how can I a sinner forgive someone their sins? God forgives and the priest is there to reconcile the sinner with the community. The priest who is called from the community, stands as the representative of the community and brings the person back into communion with the community. The priest acts on behalf of those who the penitent has been estranged from, and brings them home. So when someone asks why we confess to a priest, my response is we don’t, we confess to God.
Because of the ancestral sin we have been cut off from paradise and because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross the way has been opened for us again. We mourn what we have lost but we have the assurance that we will be comforted as the second half of the verse from the 5th chapter of Matthew reminds all of us, for they shall be comforted.
As Christians we have hope, hope in the risen savior that this is not just folly that there is something on the “other side” of all of this and that is love of God.