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Posted By Eric Sammons On September 2, 2009 @ 1:21 pm In Spirituality | Comments Disabled
Last week, reader David commented on my Gluttony post , noting that acedia was also a “forgotten sin” (as I termed Gluttony) in our society today.
Now, if you asked the man on the street, “What is acedia?” I’m sure you would get some interesting (albeit inaccurate) answers. In fact, if you asked the practicing Catholic that question, you might not get any higher percentage of correct answers. So what is acedia?
According to Wikipedia ,
Acedia is a word from ancient Greece  describing a state of listlessness or torpor , of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world. It can lead to a state of being unable to perform one’s duties in life. Its spiritual overtones make it related to but distinct from depression .  Acedia was originally noted as a problem among monks and other ascetics who maintained a solitary life.
The Oxford Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church   defines acedia as “a state of restlessness and inability either to work or to pray”. Some see it as the precursor to sloth  – one of the seven deadly sins.
That is interesting, but Brother Charles has a much more practical discussion of acedia in a post  today:
The great Evagrius Ponticus describes the struggle with this most dangerous passion:
The demon of acedia, also called the noonday demon, [see Psalm 91:6] is the most oppressive of all the demons. He attacks the monk towards the fourth hour and besieges the soul until the eighth hour. He begins by giving the impression that the sun is hardly moving, or not moving at all, and that the day has at least forty hours. After this, he continually draws the monk to his window; he forces him to go out of his cell to look at the sun and calculate how much time still separates him from the ninth hour (the hour of Vespers and the meal), and finally to look about here and there to see if some brother is not coming to see him…
This resonates very much with my own experience of struggles with this particular passion. The beginning of the attack of acedia comes as an invitation to divert one’s attention from the prayer, work, or charity at hand and to pay attention to something else, which might be entirely innocent or even useful in itself. This is what Evagrius is talking about when he says that acedia urges the monk to look at the window to see if anything is going on, and finally to gaze about to see if anyone is coming to visit him.
It’s very easy to let one’s web browser become one of Evagrius’s windows out of the cell. Even though I know that there are prayers to be made, things to do, people and projects to look after and books to read, something inside suggests that it would be good to open up some Firefox tabs and check the tropical storm activity out in the Atlantic one more time, check for Roman-Seraphic liturgical books on Ebay, or read another Wikipedia article about some entirely random topic, like the history of Dr. Pepper, the Gregorian calendar reform, or the geology of the moon.
Needless to say, I can relate to Brother Charles’ struggles in this area – and I can imagine many readers of this blog can too. Let’s pray that we do not allow the massive amounts of information at our fingertips today keep us from performing our duties for our particular state of life.
Article printed from Divine Life – A Blog by Eric Sammons: http://ericsammons.com/blog
URL to article: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2009/09/02/acedia/
URLs in this post:
 Gluttony post: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2009/08/27/the-forgotten-sin/
 Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acedia
 ancient Greece: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greece
 torpor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torpor
 depression: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depression_%28mood%29
 : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acedia#cite_note-0
 : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acedia#cite_note-1
 sloth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloth_%28deadly_sin%29
 post: http://friarminor.blogspot.com/2009/09/acedia-on-web.html
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