O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, love of power, and idle talking give me not.” (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, part 1)

How very “post-post-modern” of St. Ephrem that the spirit of “idleness” (inactivity, sloth, procrastination) and its outgrowth of “despondency” (various forms of depression and feelings of unfulfillment) are the very first concerns of his famous prayer. In our time, when opportunities abound for every form of distraction and entertainment, whenever and wherever th WiFi is working, these “spirits” have become our everyday companions.

St. John Climacus says that despondency makes one “look out the window” (in his context, of the monastic cell, The Ladder XIII.13). Indeed it makes me look “elsewhere,” away from the here and now, which, in despondency, ceases to satisfy. Despondency makes one lukewarm toward one’s own vocation; toward one’s own “mission” in life. It can make a previously happily-married man wander off to seek another woman.

The good news is that the challenge of despondency, when I stand up to it in Christ, in the grace-filled tools He offers me, leads to immense spiritual growth. “Nothing brings so many crowns,” writes that same author, St. John Climacus, “as a battle with despondency.” (XIII.12)

So let me begin this morning with an active, conscious, gratitude for, and attentiveness to, the here and now. Let me take a bit of time to be alone with God, in heartfelt prayer on my knees, thanking Him and asking Him to discipline me in His simple ways, guiding me and nudging me forward amidst the pesky calls of idleness and despondency.

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