I’ve been reading Kathleen Norris’ latest book, Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer’s Life these last dates of Lent. I’m still trying to get my head around just what acedia is. The traditional term is sloth, but Norris describes its many manifestations including the inability to care. She explores the relationship between acedia and depression, and describes her own struggles with both.
She goes back often to Evagrius, one of the desert fathers. Here’s a quote I’ve marked and keep reading again: “Evagrius notes that the demon of acedia manipulates both our presumption and our despair, puffing us up with thoughts of the great accomplishments we will make and then crushing us when our efforts fall short of expectations. We may be left feeling that we have gained nothing and that we were idiots to have attempted anything in the first place. Our only remedy then, he writes, is, ‘as far as we are able, [to] exalt the mercies of Christ.”
In ministry it’s easy to vacillate between grandiose dreams of what is possible and vicious self-flagellation. As Holy Week approaches, no matter how your ministry seems to be going or how many services you face between now and Easter, can you simply allow the week to unfold?