CHAPTER I. How our sixth combat is against the spirit of accidie, and what its character is.
OUR sixth combat is with what the Greeks call "akhdia," which we may term "weariness" or "distress of heart." This is akin to dejection, and is especially trying to solitaries, and a dangerous and frequent foe to dwellers in the desert; and especially disturbing to a monk about the sixth hour, like some fever which seizes him at stated times, bringing the burning heat of its attacks on the sick man at usual and regular hours. Lastly, there are some of the elders who declare that this is the "midday demon" spoken of in the ninetieth Psalm.
CHAPTER II. A description of accidie, and the way in which it creeps over the heart of a monk, and the injury it inflicts on the soul.
AND when 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. He cries up distant monasteries and those which are a long way off, and describes such places as more profitable and better suited for salvation; and besides this he paints the intercourse with the brethren there as sweet and full of spiritual life. On the other hand, he says that everything about him is rough, and not only that there is nothing edifying among the brethren who are stopping there, but also that even food for the body cannot be procured without great difficulty. Lastly he fancies that he will never be well while he stays in that place, unless he leaves his cell (in which he is sure to die if he stops in it any longer) and takes himself off from thence as quickly as possible. Then the fifth or sixth hour brings him such bodily weariness and longing for food that he seems to himself worn out and wearied as if with a long journey, or some very heavy work, or as if he had put off taking food during a fast of two or three days. Then besides this he looks about anxiously this way and that, and sighs that none of the brethren come to see him, and often goes in and out of his cell, and frequently gazes up at the sun, as if it was too slow in setting, and so a kind of unreasonable confusion of mind takes possession of him like some foul darkness, and makes him idle and useless for every spiritual work, so that he imagines that no cure for so terrible an attack can be found in anything except visiting some one of the brethren, or in the solace of sleep alone. Then the disease suggests that he ought to show courteous and friendly hospitalities to the brethren, and pay visits to the sick, whether near at hand or far off. He talks too about some dutiful and religious offices; that those kinsfolk ought to be inquired after, and that he ought to go and see them oftener; that it would be a real work of piety to go more frequently to visit that religious woman, devoted to the service of God, who is deprived of all support of kindred; and that it would be a most excellent thing to get what is needful for her who is neglected and despised by her own kinsfolk; and that he ought piously to devote his time to these things instead of staying uselessly and with no profit in his cell.
CHAPTER III. Of the different ways in which accidie overcomes a monk.
AND so the wretched soul, embarrassed by such contrivances of the enemy, is disturbed, until, worn out by the spirit of accidie, as by some strong battering ram, it either learns to sink into slumber, or, driven out from the confinement of its cell, accustoms itself to seek for consolation under these attacks in visiting some brother, only to be afterwards weakened the more by this remedy which it seeks for the present. For more frequently and more severely will the enemy attack one who, when the battle is joined, will as he well knows immediately turn his back, and whom he sees to look for safety neither in victory nor in fighting but in flight: until little by little he is drawn away from his cell, and begins to forget the object of his profession, which is nothing but meditation and contemplation of that divine purity which excels all things, and which can only be gained by silence and continually remaining in the cell, and by meditation, and so the soldier of Christ becomes a runaway from His service, and a deserter, and "entangles himself in secular business," without at all pleasing Him to whom he engaged himself (2 Tim. 2:4.).
Acedia. It is much to be regretted that the old English word "Accidie" has entirely dropped out of use. It is used by Chaucer and other early writers for the sin of spiritual sloth or sluggishness. See "The Persone's Tale," where it is thus described: "After the sinne of wrath, now wol I speke of the sinne of accidie or slouth: for envie blindeth the herte of a man, and ire troubleth a man, and accidie maketh him hevy, thoughtful, and wrawe. Envie and ire maken bitternesse in herte, which bitternesse is mother of accidie, and benimeth him the love of alle goodnesse; than is accidie the anguish of a troubled herte." The English word lingered on till the seventeenth century, as it is used by Bishop Hall (Serm. V. 140), in the form "Acedy," which is etymologically more correct as being nearer the Latin Acedia and the Greek Akhdia, a word which occurs in the LXX. version of the Old Testament in Isaiah 61:3; Ps. 118 :28; Baruch 3:1; Ecclus. 29:6 (cf. the use of the verb akhdiazw in Ps. 60 :2; 101 :1; 142 :4; Ecclus. 22:14). In ecclesiastical writers the term Acedia is a favourite one to denote primarily the mental prostration induced by fasting and other physical causes, and afterwards spiritual sloth and sluggishness in general. It forms the subject of the tenth book of the Institutes, and is treated of again by Cassian in the Conferences V. iii. sq.; cf. also the "Summa" of S. Thomas, II. ii. q. xxxv., where there is a full discussion of its nature and character.--cf. Dr. Paget's essay "Concerning Accidie" in "The Spirit of Discipline."