Step 13 ON DESPONDENCY
Despondency or tedium of the spirit, as I have often said, is frequently an aspect of talkativeness and indeed is its first child. For this reason I have given it an appropriate place in the chain of vices.
Tedium is a paralysis of the soul, a slackness of the mind, a neglect of religious exercises, a hostility to vows taken. It is an approval of worldly things. It is a voice claiming that God has no mercy and no love for men. It is a laziness in the singing of psalms, a weakness in prayer, a stubborn urge for service, a dedication to the work of the hands, an indifference to the requirement of obedience. An obedient
person does not know such tedium, for he has used the things of the senses to reach the level of the spirit.
Tedium is rebuffed by community life, but she is a constant companion of the hermit, living with him until the day of his death, struggling with him until the very end. She smiles at the sight of a hermit’s cell and comes creeping up to live nearby.
A doctor calls on the sick in the morning, but tedium visits the hermit at noon.
Tedium loves to be involved in hospitality, urges the hermrt to undertake manual labor so as to enable him to give alms, and exhorts us to visit the sick, recalling even the words of Him Who said, “I was sick and you came to visit me” (Matt.25;36).
Tedium suggests we should call on the despairing and the fainthearted and she sets one languishing heart to bring comfort to another. Tedium reminds those at prayer of some job to be done, and in her brutish way she searches
out any plausible excuse to drag us from prayer, as though with some Kind of halter.
At the third hour, the devil of tedium cause shivering, headache, and vertigo. By the ninth hour, the patient has recovered his strength, and when dinner is ready, he jumps out of bed. But now when the time for prayer comes, his body begins to languish once more. He begins his prayers,but the tedium makes him sleepy and the verses of the psalmsa are snatched from his mouth by untimely yawns.
There is a particular virtue available to overcome all the other passions but tedium is a kind of total death for the monk.
A brave soul can stir up his dying mind, but tedium and laziness scatter every one of his treasures.
Tedium is one of the eight deadly vices, and indeed the gravest of them all, and so I must discuss it as I did the others. Still, just note this much. When the psalms do not have to be sung, tedium does not arise, and the Office is hardly over when the eyes are ready to open again.
The real men of spirit can be seen at the time when tedium
strikes, for nothing gains so many crowns for a monk as the struggle against this. Note how tedium hits you when you are standing, and if you sit down, it suggests that it would be a good thing to lean back. It suggests that you prop yourself up against the wall of your cell. It produces noise and footsteps and there you go peeping out of the window.
The man who mourns for himself does not suffer from tedium.
This tyrant should be overcome by the remembrance of pasts sins, battered by hard manual labor and brought to book by the thought of the blessingsto come. And when led before the tribunal, let these be the questions put to him: “You there! You crass and sluggish creature, what was it that evilly begot the likes of you Who are your children? Who are your enemies? Who can destroy you?” And tedium may be constrained to reply: “I cannot lay my head among those who are truly obedient, and I live quietly where I may. I have many mothers
Stolidity of Soul, forgetfulness of the things of Heaven, or, sometimes, too heavy a burden of troubles. My children who live with me are changing from place to place. Disobedience to one’s superior,forgetfulnes of the Judgment to come, and sometimes the abandonment of one’s vocation. The singing of psalms and manual labor are my opponents by whom I am now bound. My enemy is the thought of death, but what really slays me is prayer backed by a firm hope in the blessings of the future. And as to who gave birth to Prayer, you must ask her.”
This is the thirteenth victory. He who has won it is reallv outstanding in all virtue.