We might well ask if these crazy monks don't have it coming: if your goal is to "pray without ceasing," aren't you asking for trouble? Is this a reasonable goal, or even a good one? Henri Nouwen tells us that "the literal translation of the words 'pray always' is 'come to rest.' The Greek word for rest," he adds, "is 'hesychia,' and 'hesychasm' is a term which refers to the spirituality of the desert." The "rest" that the monk is seeking is not an easy one, and as Nouwen writes, it "has little to do with the absence of conflict or pain. It is a rest in God in the midst of a very intense daily struggle."Acedia is the monk's temptation because, in a demanding life of prayer, it offers the ease of indifference. Yet I have come to believe that acedia can strike anyone whose work requires self-motivation and solitude, anyone who remains married 'for better for worse," anyone who is determined to stay true to a commitment that is sorely tested in everyday life. (p. 6)Acedia definitely strikes me, and, for some reason, knowing that the cure is rest in God is so very comforting and encouraging. To pray always is to enter the height of creation, the Sabbath of worship and rest. It is to remember our freedom from bondage of every kind through our Savior. It is to enter into the re-creation, the Eighth Day of the resurrection. It is to be always present in the Kingdom of Heaven, hidden with Christ in God. By God's grace, may it always be the cry of my soul to be there in that hidden place.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Rest: The Opposite of Acedia
In reading Kathleen Norris's book, Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life, I was cheered to come across the following passage on the nature of unceasing prayer: