Advent Acedia

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The last few months or so I’ve been feeling like my prayer life has about run out of steam, as if, to coin a phrase from the late Jesuit Father Thomas S. Green, the ” well has run dry”. Admittedly I’ve never been one to have a charismatic and deeply mystical or emotional spiritual life, although like most I’ve had a handful of what I’d term deeply mystical experiences in my day, perhaps just enough to keep me going.

Ive been praying for about a good year now from the Old Orthodox Prayerbook and Horologion and I’ve felt the last few months like it’s been sheer drudgery, like I’m going through the motions. I keep plodding through the various hours, mostly out of the force of habit, and the never changing daily psalms have become familiar, but I feel a profound boredom much of the time. Strangely the only thing at this point in time that seems to be my constant companion is the Jesus Prayer.

I’ve learned throughout the years to not get too wrapped up in feelings and insights when it comes to prayer, and so I’m not all that concerned about the wintry dryness I seem to be under. Spiritual life has its seasons like everything else. In fact, there’s this book called Awaiting The Child by Isabel Anders that lays out nicely this idea of ” wintry spirituality” by paraphrasing something of controversial Jesuit Karl Rahner and some author Martin Marty :

…Rahner speaks of….a wintry sort of spirituality, in which believers stand alongside…those that have perhaps excluded God from their horizon. These wintry types, Rahner emphasizes, are committed Christians who pray and receive the sacraments , but their view accommodates the darkness and the cold of silence in the soul.

More than half the psalms had as their major burden or context life on the wintry landscape of the heart.

In  the wintry type or style of spiritual expression, the thought of death, the possibility of loss as an option , is always present, if not predominant. Such a person is asked to keep believing through the snows of winter , the grayness–even to savor bleakness for being exactly what it is, and therefore no pretense or false sign of hope. (Page 89)

I admit that aside from my initial conversion which was sort of a mystical encounter with what I believe to be Christ most the rest of my spiritual life has been a groping through the luminous darkness of faith and holding onto hope.  Perhaps this is the way it ought to be, after all, our faith is a mystery, it’s not something readily apparent or easy to understand.

I’ve lost all interest in trying to ” make sense” of and philosophize about what is essentially a mystery religion. For some reason I’ve always dabbled in theology and philosophy but neither the one nor the other did anything to strengthen or lessen my faith.

These days I am just burned out and kind of cold when it comes to anything religion related, be it theology or whatever. I think I’m either burning out or going through some sort of purgation. I’ve got the desire to toss, sell or donate everything but a Bible or two, my prayerbooks and some lives of saints. All that academic theology and speculation that used to move me and pique my interest leaves me bored and feeling dull. I reached a point where to me it all seems unprovable and kind of pointless in the practical sphere; like you either believe the contents of a given religion or you don’t, and that like William James opined, religious truths have to be lived, they can’t be proven through syllogisms or some other philosophical methodology. Either way in day to day life knowing every minutiae of how grace supposedly works or how the inner life of the Trinity works is interesting but ultimately unprovable this side of eternity, not to mention has little to no bearing on daily life.

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Advent Acedia

  1. John says:

    Hello JD,

    Thank you for sharing something so personal.

    I wouldn’t presume to offer any advice or even really comment on what you are going through. I can only offer to keep you in prayer and I ask you to keep me in your prayers.

    One thing I’m struggling with myself is finding a church / community I can feel at home in and “lean” on to help me stay on the straight and narrow as I walk my spiritual path. At this point in my life I’ve realized the importance of having a church community available. I question myself on why I haven’t been able to find such a community.

    I also long for a spiritual father to share my burdens with and again to “lean” on during difficult times.

    That’s it for now.

    John

  2. I suppose I’m in a similar situation regarding a church or community. Some years back I attended the local Greek Orthodox parish and found myself very happy there but at the time I wasn’t ready to officially become Orthodox. I’d go there again but right now in order to save a bit of money I’m a bike commuter and don’t own a car. There’s a part of me that longs for sacramental communion.

    I cannot claim to know why you personally haven’t been able to find a community, but for me ( aside from the car issue) there’s always been this almost perverse desire to stand apart, to walk alone, or to be uncomfortable belonging somewhere. Perhaps for me it’s a weak point and a bad trait.

    What helps ME not feel so alone is by deeply pondering the concept of the communion of the saints. We stand where they stood, and they intercede on our behalf. The daily calendar ( especially in the Orthodox world) is filled to the brim with saints and feasts. Even should you follow the Benedictine calendar there are plenty of saints. The Office and the calendar helps one feel a sense of being surrounded by our forefathers in Faith. Another thing that helps me is to think of all those various Christians that had to stand apart, or must stand apart today, some without any community to speak of, or in scattered or shattered communities. I’m thinking of my own favorites the Old Believers, Christians in modern North Korea, Syria, Egypt or any predominantly Muslim nation.

    This might not help you but I share it because it has helped me.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    • As I noted before, we pray the reformed LOTH, but whenever I occasionally take the extra time to read the traditional Roman Martyrology, I am always humbled and awestruck by the human richness of our Church across the past two millennia.

      Why we felt the need to brutalize the universal Kalendar and make everything about the temporal and ferial, is beyond me. What are we, some pantheistic nature cult now?

      Sad!

  3. John says:

    Thank you JD. Helpful indeed….

    In the communion of Saints and wishing you a happy feast day of our father among the saints, the holy hierarch Nicholas! May he look after us all in his great charity.

    John

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