Wow! Am yet in bed, tired, weary, and and yet trying to pray for others. A call came from one of the rather estranged adult children. At first the hermit's voice betrayed its tearfulness--self-pity, surely, plus a bit of fear in letting go of emotional self-protection. Yet, before long, the hermit was sharing and asking questions, even if not getting detailed responses. The heart was loving, once again, from this heart to that one. Love never really leaves, does it?
Then decided to read the next step in John Climacus' The Ladder of Divine Ascent. He writes of despondency, which he also calls "tedium." In a short rendering, the solitary hermit monk, John, clarifies and diagnoses exactly what is this nothing Catholic hermit's current aliment. Despondency.
When time and again, am picking up the book to read another step or few pages within a step of the 6th century, holy man's guidance, the content addresses exactly what this Catholic hermit needs! This is what occurs when we do not dismiss some nudge or a word, or name, or image that comes to us. A couple or more weeks ago the name "John Climacus" popped into the mind. After researching online, found the book he wrote in the 6th century or earliest years of 7th century.
From that point on, purchasing a used book on line, St. John Climacus has entered Te Deum Hermitage and is a present help to this pathetic hermit herein.
Not everyone will benefit at any given time, to some book another is reading. However, this book is worth reading for anyone who has not had an inner showing of what holy person or holy writing His Real Presence is choosing. If nothing else has been shown or told you, in other words, The Ladder of Divine Ascent by John Climacus will prove worthy of your time and thought.
As to despondency, and overcoming it, it seems best to present some of Climacus' points.
Despondency or tedium of the spirit...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 God has no mercy and no love for men. It is a laziness in the singing of the 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.
Tedium is rebuffed by religious life, but it is the 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 hermit's cell and comes creeping up to live nearby.
Tedium loves to be involved in hospitality, urges the hermit to undertake manual labor so as to enable him to give alms, and exhorts us to visit the sick, even recalling the words of Jesus Who said, "I was sick, and you came to visit Me" (Matthew 25:36). Tedium reminds those at prayer of some job to be done....She searches out any excuse to drag us from prayer....Tedium suggests we call upon the fainthearted and discouraged and sets one languishing to try to lift up the other....
Tedium is a kind of total death for the monk....Tedium is one of the eight deadly vices, and indeed the gravest of them all. ...nothing gains as many crowns for the monk as the struggle against this.
We have a good idea of how despondency, or tedium, immobilizes us. Next, John Climacus sets out how to conquer this vice. Snippets are offered here, to aid us in overcoming this horrible ailment!
This tyrant [despondency, tedium] should be overcome by the remembrance of past sins, battered by hard manual labor, and brought to book by the thought of the blessings to come.
Tedium's modus operandi (Climacus calls it tedium's many mothers), are as follows:
- Stolidity of Soul
- Forgetfulness of the Things of Heaven, or
- Too Heavy a Burden of Troubles
- Changing from Place to Place
- Disobedience of One's Superior
- Forgetfulness of the Judgment to Come, and
- Sometimes the Abandonment of One's Vocation
In this selection, this Catholic hermit sees itself, specifically, in many points. The lack of hope, the inability to rise from bed and return to manual labor, the lapsing from praying the Psalms (yes, so soon after returning to them and doing so well!), and too heavy a burden of troubles. Why, the hermit was even considering that perhaps it had no vocation at all, and perhaps this solitary path and the hardships of current existence, are a ruse. Perhaps the hermit could grab back its life of the old way, of the world, in which the distractions helped pass the time and bring a forgetfulness of the narrow way and the spiritual climb.
But no, this man who achieved great holiness in his earthly life and who followed the path of Jesus Christ in detail and profound humility, is guiding this nothing Catholic hermit through his writings, and he has nailed it--nailed it!--right down to the cross upon which this hermit has been struggling. And the struggle has been nearly motionless, inert, and despairing at times, and that because hope had been overcome by troubles, and the spiritual practices had been ignored due to the sirens of attending to other matters, other distractions, even if at the time they seemed important.
While there is too much to The Ladder of Divine Ascent to share specifically, this nothing Catholic hermit recommends to you readers, that if His Real Presence places a spark of interest in your hearts and minds, order it online, either new or used, from Amazon.com or Abebooks or some other bookseller. Some libraries might even have a copy in storage! Let John Climacus guide, if His Real Presence so desires him to be of assistance to you as he is to this nothing hermit. If not now, perhaps another time, the name John Climacus and his book may come to your mind as it did here, recently.
Note: There are two publications. One is The Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press, with excellent introduction by Bishop Kallistos Ware. The other publication is more costly, but some prefer the translation; it is published by The Holy Transfiguration Monastery. The Paulist Press edition is what this hermit is reading, as well as an 87-year-old spiritual friend. Each of us is having no difficulty understanding, and both are benefiting greatly.