In the cold, dark and dead days after Christmas, there seems little cheer at the best of times. There is a feeling of an old year dying and a new year that will dawn as grey as the days preceding.
I heard yesterday tragic news of a young Dutch woman who came here to nurse her sick mother in the summer. Her mother, who had been a very active member of our church, eventually died in October, thirteen months after the sudden death of her father. The woman, who was the sole representative of the family at her mother’s funeral tried to get her mother’s affairs sorted before returning to her solitary life in France.
On Christmas Eve she was driving home from the nearby town at two in the afternoon. Her car hit black ice and skidded into the path of an oncoming car. She was killed instantly by the impact.
A friend was trying to arrange a funeral service for her in the little church near to where she had lived; it looked as though there would be no family member present at the small gathering.
The news left me with a feeling I couldn’t quite describe. Looking around for words I remembered a term from college days “accidie”.
John Cassian, one of the Church Fathers, from the Fourth Century, describes accidie as spiritual weariness and dejection. He regards it as a sin that must be guarded against. He writes in “The Monastic Institutes”, “We must expel this most injurious passion from our hearts, so that by spiritual meditation we may keep our mind constantly occupied with hope for the future and contemplation of promised blessedness”.
John Cassian’s argument is that it is bad to feel bad; to feel weary and dejected is not only a bad feeling in itself, it is also a sinful feeling to have.
I think I’m quite relieved to live in the 21st Century; I would have been thrown out of the church in the 4th Century.
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