Accedie in Advent


This image is a metaphor for me of advent.  The imagery in John’s gospel around light and dark which so infuses Advent with its longing, beauty and silence is pregnant in this image of an altar dossal (the cloth behind the altar).  I love the way there are these two lights which remind me of the smaller light of our own prayers, hopes, longing and regret alongside the greater light which cascades down from above.  They seem to meet and commingle over and even on the altar.

This morning when I went to Morning Prayer, I was in one of those anti-church moods into which clergy sometimes fall.  My soul wanted to say the office with my friends.  My body wanted to be in my new christmas-light footie pajamas ( ) in front of some cheesy Christmas movie with hot coco laced with heavy cream and a side of pie.

But I sucked it up and said the morning office.  At first I was all “I wish I was at home” and “I wish I had pie” and “I wish i had a day off” but then, slowly, like the Grinch, my heart, which had been two sizes too small, grew and popped out of the wire magnifying glass by the time we got to the second canticle.

We show up.  That is what we sometimes must do.  Prayer is work and so is worship.  Oh sure, sometimes it is all angels-&-incense but most days it is dull and annoying and needed. The fancy word for this resistance is accedie  and is a spiritual boredom which crops up in the spiritual life the way the sniffles crop up in the body.  The only thing to do is notice it, and then seek to manage the symptoms until it passes.  Guilt over it never helps and shame over it is an indication of a pathological spiritual pride which requires the spiritual equivalent of the UN peace-keeping army.

Advent means a prayerful longing for a savior and when that longing turns to boredom or frustration we wait, light our little candle and know that the light which descends will again descend.

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