Acedia, again

So, the word “despair” has been playing around in my mind of late.  So today, I decided to do a little bit of reading, if possible, on the theological virtue of hope.  Being at work, most of the sites that casme up on google were banned under the title “religion”, so I went to about the only link available to me.  I obviously haven’t read that much of it, but it seems like a good little book by Josef Pieper, called Faith, Hope, Love.  I landed on page 99 and read on through page 123.  What particularly captivated me was the discussion of acedia, as “the root and origin of despair is the slothful sadness of acedia” (pg 122).  Acedia is a little diddly that has captured my attention previously

Our Man on the Scene says:

In the classical theology of the Church, acedia is understood to mean “tristitia saeculi”, that “sorrow according to the world” of which Paul says, in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (7:10), that it “produces death”.

This sorrow is a lack of magnanimity; it lacks courage for the great things that are proper to the nature of the Christian.  It is a kind of anxious vertigo that befalls the human individual when he becomes aware of the height to which God has raised him.  One who is trapped in acedia has neither the courage nor the will to be as great as he really is.  He would prefer to be less great in order thus to avoid the obligation of greatness.  Acedia is a perverted humility; it will not accept supernatural goods because they are, by their very nature, linked to a claim on him who receives them.  […]

The more acedia advances from the regon of emotion into that of intellectual decision, the more it becomes a deliberate turning away from, an actual fleeing from God.  Man flees from God because God has exalted human nature to a higher, a divine, state of being and has thereby enjoined on man a higher standard of obligation.  Acedia is, in the last analysis, a “detestatio boni divini”, with the montrous result that, upon reflection, man expressly wishes that God had not ennobled him but had “left him in peace.”

So Doc, what’s there to be done?  Despair is destroyed “only by that clear-sighted magnanimity that courageously expects and has confidence in the greatness of its own nature and by the grace-filled impetus of the hope of eternal life.”  I’m affraid the diagnosis is a little better than the cure, at least in the little I have read.  For it seems to boil down to, despair is a fruit of acedia, and is cured by courage and hope.  But, being a hopeless coward, that leaves me in a bit of a pickle.  Maybe the book concludes with a chapter like, “Helpful Next Steps” or something.  I guess I’ll check that out later when I have more time.

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~ by Rob on October 15, 2009.

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