Mater Dolorosa attributed to Andrea Solario (1460-1522) via Wikimedia Commons.
Mater Dolorosa attributed to Andrea Solario (1460-1522) via Wikimedia Commons.

“I will start with tears. For Evagrius– and for the whole Eastern spiritual tradition– they have an initial essential meaning: they are the acknowledgement that one needs to be saved, that one cannot go it alone. The little child weeps when he is discouraged, when he needs help, when he needs to be loved. The same goes for adults who, somewhere deep down, remain children. To weep is to acknowledge that one needs to be saved. Now, you remember that the word akedia means precisely the lack of concern for one’s salvation. Tears are therefore a remedy for acedia, inasmuch as they are the physical, external manifestation of the fact that one needs to be saved. We find this again in the first saying of the Alphabetical Collection, attributed to Saint Antony. Antony says: “I want to be saved, but my thoughts do not let me go.” In reality, in saying that he wants to be saved, he has already, somewhere, conquered the demon of acedia!

But tears have a second meaning: they are like water that falls on a hard rock and, over time, manages to penetrate it. They are like water that flows over the shell of our stony heart, so that it might become a heart of flesh. Little by little they will transform our heart so as to make it docile to the Lord. They will make a notch so that mercy might pour into that gap, into that wounds, just as the mercy of God was engulfed in Christ’s wound of love on the Cross.”

from The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times by Jean-Charles Nault, O.S.B. Abbot of Saint-Wandrille.

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  • Oh my goodness, I am currently in the middle of this book. I started it a few weeks ago and I find it very relevant, even though the author even comments that so much of the true understanding of acedia has been overlooked for many years. I am currently reading the section about St. Thomas Aquinas’ thoughts on acedia and how he connects it to a sadness over spiritual goods. I was so captivated about the section on tears as well.

    • I’m reading it very slowly, one subsection a day. I’m trying to do a Charlotte Mason style approach to reading this Lent, only very small chunks of the many various books I’m reading. It’s a hard discipline with some books but with others it’s very freeing to be able to rad just a little bit and then stop and chew on it without feeling like I need to keep going.