The below is a cross-post from Pilgrim of Grace. This is a new blog and well worth watching:
From the writings of John Cassian (ca. 360 – 435)
OUR sixth combat is with what the Greeks call acedia, which we may term weariness or distress of heart. This is akin to dejection, and is especially trying to solitaries, and a dangerous and frequent foe to dwellers in the desert…And when this has taken possession of some unhappy soul, it produces dislike of the place, disgust with the cell, and disdain and contempt of the brethren who dwell with him or at a little distance, as if they were careless or unspiritual. It also makes the man lazy and sluggish about all manner of work which has to be done within the enclosure of his dormitory. It does not suffer him to stay in his cell, or to take any pains about reading, and he often groans because he can do no good while he stays there, and complains and sighs because he can bear no spiritual fruit so long as he is joined to that society; and he complains that he is cut off from spiritual gain, and is of no use in the place, as if he were one who, though he could govern others and be useful to a great number of people, yet was edifying none, nor profiting any one by his teaching and doctrine. He cries up distant monasteries and those which are a long way off, and describes such places as more profitable and better suited for salvation; and besides this he paints the intercourse with the brethren there as sweet and full of spiritual life. On the other hand, he says that everything about him is rough, and not only that there is nothing edifying among the brethren who are stopping there, but also that even food for the body cannot be procured without great difficulty. Lastly he fancies that he will never be well while he stays in that place, unless he leaves his cell (in which he is sure to die if he stops in it any longer) and takes himself off from thence as quickly as possible.
Perhaps we have all experienced acedia from time to time – a lack of motivation while blaming the world around us for our current state. If only we were somewhere else, doing something else, with other people, then all would be much better – we’d find fulfilment. I first read about acedia in Abbot Christopher Jamison’s book Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps For A Fulfilling Life. Currently I am reading some of Richard Rohr’s books and something he had to say struck me and I thought of acedia. Rohr (in Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, which I have just started reading) talks of the ‘task within the task’ – that a task has an immediate purpose and a deeper purpose. For example a nurse may be changing the dressings on the wound. The immediate purpose is to clean the wound, but a deeper purpose is to love the person he or she is nursing, and so bringing the presence of a loving God to the nursed (Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est). It struck me, and I am sure this is not an original thought, that acedia strikes when we lose touch with the deeper purpose of what we’re doing, and we become disenchanted by the surface-level purpose of our tasks. We become disconnected from who we are, and so disconnected from our deeper purpose that pervades (or should pervade) all we do. The ‘who we are’ for us as Christians, is we are baptised Christians bearing the image of God, and our deep purpose is to love God and others in all that we do. I shall try and remember that in all my daily tasks, and perhaps reflect on the successes (and possibly failures) in future entries.
Tags: Christian Life