This fifth book of ours is now by the help of God to be produced. For after the four books which have been composed on the customs of the monasteries, we now propose, being strengthened by God through your prayers, to approach the struggle against the eight principal faults, i.e. first, Gluttony or the pleasures of the palate; secondly, Fornication; thirdly, Covetousness, which means Avarice, or, as it may more properly be called, the love of money, fourthly, Anger; fifthly, Dejection; sixthly, “Accidie,” 819 which is heaviness or p. 234 weariness of heart; seventhly, κενοδοξία which means foolish or vain glory; eighthly, pride. And on entering upon this difficult task we need your prayers, O most blessed Pope Castor, more than ever; that we may be enabled in the first place worthily to investigate the nature of these in all points however trifling or hidden or obscure: and next to explain with sufficient clearness the causes of them and thirdly to bring forward fitly the cures and remedies for them.
Acedia. It is much to be regretted that the old English word “Accidie” has entirely dropped out of use. It is used by Chaucer and other early writers for the sin of spiritual sloth or sluggishness. See “The Persones Tale,” where it is thus described: “After the sinne of wrath, now wol I speke of the sinne of accidie or slouth: for envie blindeth the herte of a man, and ire troubleth a man, and accidie maketh him hevy, thoughtful, and wrawe. Envie and ire maken bitternesse in herte, which bitternesse is mother of accidie, and benimeth him the love of alle goodnesse; than is accidie the anguish of a troubled herte.” The English word lingered on till the seventeenth century, as it is used by Bishop Hall (Serm.V. 140), in the form “Acedy,” which is etymologically more correct as being nearer the Latin Acedia and the Greek ᾽Ακηδία, a word which occurs in the LXX. version of the Old Testament in Isa. 61:3, Ps. 119:28; Bar. 3:1, Sir. 29:6 (cf. the use of the verb ἀκηδιάζω in Ps. 61:2, Ps. 102:1, Ps. 143:4; Ecclus. xxii. 14). In ecclesiastical writers the term Acedia is a favourite one to denote primarily the mental prostration induced by fasting and other physical causes, and afterwards spiritual sloth and sluggishness in general. It forms the subject of the tenth book of the Institutes, and is treated of again by Cassian in the Conferences V. iii. sq., cf. also the “Summa” of S. Thomas, II. ii. q. xxxv., where there is a full discussion of its nature and character.—cf. Dr. Pagets essay “Concerning Accidie” in “The Spirit of Discipline.”