Aridity and Apaethia


from Ascent to Love
Sr. Ruth Burrows

Almost always God's greatest gifts are wrapped up in the saking of painful self-knowledge. When we 'got on well' in paryer, when there was satisfaction in the mass and sacreaments, when we could talk inspiningly of spiritual things and other showed respect for our wisdom, we had no idea of the true state of affairs. Humility is acceptance of the truth about ourselves, not an effort to work up humble sentiments in spite of our obvious excellence!

I wish I could say that the state I have been in resembled this aridity. It more resembles sloth--that painful condition in which doing anything whatsoever spiritual takes an enormous effort of will and always manages to be distinctly unsatisfying to the point where one says--"Oh, why bother? He isn't paying any attention, why should I?" The truth is that He is paying attention and I am not, otherwise I wouldn't be in that condition.

It would be pleasant and easy to think that I had advanced so greatly in prayer that everything I did was embued with sanctity and I could now rest on the spiritual laurels and wait for the world to come to me for my magnificent, benevolent wisdom. That thought would release me from continuing to struggle.

As it is, I know what I am fighting--apathia or acedia is more the fruit of sloth than of prayer. And sloth exists in intention as well as practice. That is more where my own lies. I need to force myself to read spiritual books, to pray, to go to Mass. It is ever a temptation to give all these things a miss and move on with my own agenda. And I could attribute (in spiritual pride) all of these things to Aridity.

The odd thing is you have to "earn" aridity. That is, you must have been so faithful in prayer that God honors your faithfulness with a purifying fire that makes spiritual things difficult for you. It's odd that this is how it develops in some people (I don't think all, but then I'm not far enough along and it seems that in every Saint's life I read, I notice these lagging times that seem to suggest aridity.)

Aridity is the fruit of constant, faithful, devoted, involved prayer. Apathia and acedia are the result of viewing prayer and attendance upon God as obligation rather than privilege. I go through the motions without a lot of heart.

But part of the cure of any disease is to recognize its symptoms and to deal with the disease. There is much that can be done for this torpor. The first thing that must happen is repentence--both in the traditional and etymological sense of the word. I must think about the privilege of being a servant of God. When I realize what a tremendous opportunity I have been given, it sparks a willingness to see to all the attendant responsibilities of that station. This is grace in action. God reminds me that I am His own precious child and my petulanace and stubbornness are unbecoming the son of so benevolent a monarch. I can love because He first loved me.

Then I can fill my senses with all the things that remind me of His presence among His people--with beauty, with music, with prayer, with good company--all agents of His will.

But most of all, I can see my helplessness for what it is and cry out as did the man before Jesus, "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief." For what cause could such a condition have except a certain unbelief--a certain lack of trust that God will take care of all things that need taken care of? In one word, the cause of sloth and of its attendant ills is that I do not, in some way, trust or believe the fullness of God's truth. I am no longer simple, one-hearted. I have become duplicitous because I love something other than God more than God. It does not good to try to find out what has become my idol because I'm clever enough to hide that knowledge from myself as it is convenient to do so. What I can do is pray that God show me the idol that has replaced Him and ask Him to remove it from my presence.

I suppose I shouldn't make so public my own failings; however, by so doing, I can encourage your prayers for me and for others in this community similarly afflicted. More, I can show what I really am--a vain, foolish, selfish, hard-hearted slip of a man--rather than what I appear to (some to) be. This is salutary--it puts the universe in right perspective and helps me start all over again.

I thank God for the Carmelite Charism that keeps me going in these weak times. Sometimes it is all that sustains the breathing of my spiritual life.

So if you've seen a dearth of the helpful, the insightful, or the spiritual--now you know why and I will continue to work as I pray. I will continue to write as God works with me and I will continue to ask your prayers on the journey--prayers to relieve the numbness and weariness that come from relying upon my own will to do what God wishes. Because in surrendering to Love, I will be made whole and I will be saved. And there is nothing short of surrender that can make any difference.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 6, 2005 9:47 AM.

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