“Restore to me the gladness of your salvation; uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51: 14
The Monastic Fathers have written extensively about the Noonday devil. It is called the Noonday devil because it comes when we are preparing to take a mid-day break from prayer and from our activity. It also comes when we let our guard down and become complacent – “Oh I have already done so much work. I deserve a break.” The spiritual term for this is Acedia. While generally translated as “Sloth”, a closer translation of the word, would be “Spiritual Apathy” or “Spiritual Weariness”.
St. Thomas Aquinas has referenced St. John Damascene in defining this term, and calls it, “Weariness in the face of work” (Summa Theologica). Tristitia spiritalis boni, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is a sadness or listlessness in response to the striving for a spiritual good. It may be defined today, as a type of melancholy, depression, restlessness, reluctance, or conversely on the other side of the spectrum, as an incessant need to keep oneself needlessly busy, distracting one from working towards Spiritual Progress. It is a lethargy and a sapping of the Spiritual Zeal, that St. Benedict speaks about in his Rule. St. Benedict goes on further to say that, “Idleness is the enemy of the soul.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness. ” (2094)
Evagrius explains that this vice may appear in either a depressed or an agitated form. 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 hospitality or prudence. 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 and in rekindling spiritual zeal.
Some remedies for Acedia as recommended by the Desert Fathers, include, the praying and singing of the psalmodies of the Psalms, meditation, respecting one’s body, interjecting every moment of the day and our work with prayer. This leaves no room for Acedia to creep in. St. Anthony the Abbot, was struggling with Acedia, and he cried out to the Lord, “How can I be saved?” He was given a vision of himself sitting down at work, standing up intermittently with arms outstretched in prayer, and then again returning to an interval of work, with the words, “Do this, and you will be saved.”
What we can do today:
1.Memorise and live out a scripture text for the day. Have an arsenal of Scripture ready.
2.Make modifications to live a healthier lifestyle. This could mean setting aside a day in the week to prepare your meals based on your daily macro nutrition needs, or quitting alcohol, or smoking, and exercising at least thrice a week. This has physical, emotional, and spiritual ramifications.
3.Spend at least an hour a day in prayer.
4.Interject every work and every hour with praises to God, consecrating everything.
5.Find a spiritual director and check in regularly.
6.Journey in a Faith Community.
7.Pray for someone.
8.Journal in a Faith Journal.
9.Attend and pray the daily Eucharist.
By Brian Bartholomew Tan