September 27, 2007

From: The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality; on acedia or spiritual sloth

While often experienced as slothful inactivity and apathy, acedia may also manifest as eagerness or compulsion to do anything, everything, except the spiritual good that is most needful.  It may even masquerade under the guise of prudence (such as me retyping this entry).  These different manifestations all have in common a single goal: namely, to create within the victim an affective or intellectual state that causes him to ignore or abandon his spiritual project.

The cure for acedia therefore lies in cultivating the virtue of perseverance.  Evangrius and his disciple John Cassian recommend a variety of spiritual remedies intended to assist the Christian in persevering in his or her spiritual goals.  Chief among these are: the practice of psalmody; the deliberate choice not to leave the place where spiritual discipline is practised; meditation on the fact of one’s mortality and frailty; and respect for one’s body, practically manifested through reasonable attention to one’s physical well-being.  Aquinas particularly recommends taking a nap and/or indulging in a warm bath.

Perhaps the simplest spiritual remedy for acedia, and the one chosen as the introduction to the whole Greek collection of the “Sayings of the Desert Fathers” is found in the first saying of Abba Antony.  While struggling with the demon of acedia Antony cried out to God, ‘How can I be saved?’  In answer he was given a vision of himself sitting down at his work, intermittently standing for prayer with outstretched arms, then sitting back down to work for an interval.  ‘Do this’, he was told, ‘and you will be saved.’  Simple, short prayers offered at regular intervals during work throughout the day serve to consecrate, little by little, the whole of ordinary life.  No room is left for acedia, since all ordinary activity is thus gradually incorporated into the project of spiritual progress.

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One Response to “”

  1. k8harpster said

    I greatly appreciate deadlysins.com, but I certainly don’t “love” it. 
    Maybe I’ll take a nap.

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