Acedia is a Greek word that means sadness, sloth, or lack of interest in spiritual things. In the Bible translated from the Greek, we can find passages about this in both the Old and New Testaments.
The fathers of the desert referred to acedia as the “Midday Devil” since it was the most tedious time of the day, the time when the monk had the temptation to leave the cell, and eventually, his spiritual life.
Each one who begins a path of faith, sooner or later, will be attacked by this evil. One starts to feel no consolation or joy during prayer. Actually, God allows these periods of dryness and desolation in order to purify our intentions and help us grow spiritually; however, if one does not fight during this state of the soul, acedia can become a sin. Acedia is in fact one of the Cardinal Sins, a sin that can lead to a variety of other sins. For he who stops searching for or loses interest in heavenly issues will end up looking for pleasure or satisfaction elsewhere, leading him down a path of self‑destruction.
Mostly acedia is a sin against charity towards God: a sin of indifference and ungratefulness towards Him who created and redeemed us. If allowed to take hold, it can even turn into a hatred towards all that is related to God.
Only he who does not really know and love the Father falls into this temptation. A biblical example of this evil is the parable of the Prodigal Son. One of the father’s sons, incapable of seeing the love his father had for him, decides to leave the house in search of happiness, until tired and deceived by all worldly things, he decides to return home. The son who remains at home, on the other hand, in spite of always being at the side of the father was never able to experience his love, and thus becomes jealous of his brother when he sees how lovingly the father welcomes him.
Today we live in a society that is so centered on the self that it is easy to fall into acedia. The pandemic we are experiencing is only exacerbating this issue. Because of it, we have lost many opportunities for living in community, celebrating life and thanking God. Even so, we don’t have to accept this. Every day people around the world are developing new ways to interact and nurture their spiritual lives.
The only way to truly fight acedia is through prayer, fasting, spiritual reading and the Sacraments. Spiritual life is a daily battle, and only those willing to fight for it will obtain the Crown of Victory.
Mother María Elena Martínez is a nun, born in Mexico City, where she still resides today. She has had a consecrated life for more than 30 years. She is currently a member of a community called María Madre del Amor which is dedicated to evangelization through Emmaus retreats in parishes and prisons and Sicar retreats for young people.