Friday, September 13, 2013

Increase your Catholic Wordpower: Acedia


According to the Oxford Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church, acedia (or accidie) is "a state of restlessness and inability either to work or to pray".   It can be a precursor to sloth—one of the seven deadly sins.  St. Thomas Aquinas identified acedia with "the sorrow of the world" that "worketh death."

John Cassian, (ca. 360 AD - ca. 435 AD) a monk from Southern Gaul who introduced Eastern monasticism into the West, wrote a great deal about acedia, including the following:

"[Acedia is] what the Greeks call ἀκηδία, which we may term weariness or distress of heart. This is akin to dejection, and is especially trying to solitaries. . . [W]hen 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."

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