Acedia’s genius is to seize us precisely where our hope lies, to tear away at the heart of who we are, and mock that which sustains us.
—Acedia & Me p44
For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
—Hebrews 6:10-12, NRSV translation
During the time I was reading Acedia & Me, the Sunday sermons that fell on my ear repeatedly sounded notes of hope. This could easily be “frequency illusion” — I’m exploring the death of hope, so hope is on my mind — but I found it made an interesting counterpoint.
And it’s not the one you might think. It wasn’t the obvious dark/light opposition, that I was protected from pulling myself into the fathomless dark hole of acedia by periodic flashes of light showing up in these hopeful messages.
It was the opposition between acedia’s stasis and hope’s action.
The preachers—they were all different this summer—each stressed that the hope contained in faith is active. An idea contrary to our reflexive coupling of “hope” with “wait,” which results in “sitting by the phone, waiting for The Call.” Any survivor of twentieth- or twenty-first-century teen life knows that “sitting by the phone” is one of the flat-out worst options for spending an evening. A choice brutal for the spirit even as it squanders time. Why, then, do we keep pinning our idea of hope in Christ to sitting around waiting?
I mean, sitting around is bad for humans!
Here’s what struck me hardest:
Acedia not only shreds all motives into scraps of futility, mocking, as Norris says, that which sustains us. But acedia also pulls us into suspended animation. We stop moving. We stop acting. Because the physical corollary of, “Why bother?” is “Do nothing.” The antidote to acedia is to do something. To take an action. In action, we then re-discover hope.
So that we may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit God’s promises.