“A Spirit of Compunction”?

Pour out a spirit of compunction, O God,
on those who bow before your majesty…

The Prayer over the People from which this phrase comes was heard for the first time at the end of Mass on Ash Wednesday this February. The prayer illustrates two of the issues that have emerged from the use of the new translation of the Missal.  Firstly, there are aspects of the text in the original Latin edition that need greater consideration because in this case the tone of the prayer is out of keeping with traditional forms. Secondly, some of the words used in the new translation seem to have been chosen deliberately to sound more like their Latin counterpart.

The original phrase, spiritu compunctionis, comes from one of the prayers used at the beginning of the Ash Wednesday celebration for the blessing and imposition of ashes in the pre-Vatican II Missal.  The phrase was removed by the compilers of the New Missal when the prayers for the blessing and imposition of ashes were reworked for the Novus Ordo of 1970.  The phrase reappeared when the 3rd edition of the Latin Missal was issued in 2002 in the form of a Prayer over the People at the final blessing – compulsory on Ash Wednesday – with other prayers over the people (optional on weekdays and compulsory on Sundays) to be used at the end of Mass on the other days in Lent.  The published English text of this prayer on Ash Wednesday not only chooses to use a Latin-sounding equivalent (in contrast to the words that the ICEL bishops had proposed – “spirit of sorrow”), but also, in both Latin and English, causes considerable symbolic rupture to the spirit of the liturgy of the celebration of the Eucharist on that day.

Where did these Prayers over the People come from?  After Vatican II one of the ways the compilers chose to interpret the desire of the universal church to renew the Liturgy and to render it more up to date was to take out the fixed Prayer over the People at the end of all weekday Masses during Lent, and to provide a range of optional blessing prayers for Sundays only, allowing the priest to choose the most appropriate form.  The texts provided in 1970, however, were rather slim in number, with just a formula for Passiontide and several in Ordinary Time being appropriate for Lent.

The Lenten Prayers over the people, which appear in missals up to and including 1967, seem to have been used as a spiritual aid and comfort to members of the faithful as they traversed the Lenten journey toward Holy Week.  Examples in an edition of 1961 (translations by the monks of St. Andrew’s Abbey, Bruges, Belgium) show expressions of encouragement and healing, protection, strength and mercy: “Spare, O Lord, spare Your people; that having undergone the punishment that they deserve, they may find relief in Your mercy” (Thursday after Ash Wednesday); “Protect Your people, Lord, and in Your mercy cleanse them from all sin; for no harm shall hurt them if no wickedness has dominion over them” (Friday after Ash Wednesday); “May Your faithful people, Lord, be strengthened by Your gifts, so that in receiving them they may desire them, and by seeking them may receive them for ever “ (Saturday after Ash Wednesday).

These are just a few examples and there are many others. The Prayer over the People for Ash Wednesday had a particularly encouraging ring to it:

Look with favour, Lord, on those who bow before your majesty so that they who are refreshed by Your divine gift may be always sustained by Your heavenly help.

So, what of the prayers over the ashes and over the penitents from which the new Prayer over the People originated?  As I stated earlier, it comes, not from the end of Mass, but from the very beginning. From the time of the origins of the custom, and up to the 11th century in most places, the giving of ashes at the beginning of Lent marked the occasion of the dismissal of the members of the Order of Penitents from the church by the bishop.

from a 1595 Pontifical, the expulsion of the public penitents on Ash Wednesday...

He sprinkled ashes on their heads, led them out of the church, and closed the door on them.  They were barred from Mass until Thursday in Holy Week.

...and their reconciliation on Holy Thursday

In the pre-1970 missals there were two prayers to bless the ashes, and two prayers for the penitents who were to receive them.  One of these prayers captures the sense of guilt and sorrow that would be appropriate for those repentant sinners who were seeking forgiveness, but who needed to ritualise the experience of longer penance through the forty days of Lent:

Lord, You are moved by humiliation and appeased by satisfaction; give ear in Your goodness to our prayers and mercifully pour forth the grace of Your blessing on Your servants whose heads are sprinkled by these ashes, so that You may fill them with the spirit of compunction (spiritu compunctionis), and effectually grant what they have duly prayed for and ordain that what You have granted may remain always established in them whole and entire.

It would seem entirely appropriate, ritually, that a prayer requesting a spirit of sorrow/guilt for sin would be used during the ritual of giving ashes to members of the Order of Penitents, who would then be led out of the church.  But for all who remain?  Perhaps it was doubts about this that led the compilers of the 1970 missal to rework the prayers at the beginning of the ceremony, thus providing the celebrant with a choice of two blessing prayers, while at the same time removing the spiritu compunctionis text altogether.

The 2002 reform of the Missal brings with it the restoration of the Prayers over the People during Lent.  These are consoling and appealing prayers for the most part.  On Ash Wednesday, however, the compilers of the Missal did not simply reuse the pre-Vatican II prayer, but created their own version out of several of the pre-Vatican II texts: the second ash blessing prayer, the opening phrase of the Prayer over the People, and the first prayer over the penitents.  Our published new translation renders it in this way [ICEL 2011]:

Pour out a spirit of compunction, O God,
on those who bow before your majesty,
and by your mercy may they merit the rewards you promise
to those who do penance.

This prayer seems entirely appropriate for members of the Order of Penitents – massive and notorious public sinners who would have been led out of the church to begin their extended period of penance.  It is understandable that they would experience guilt and sorrow for their sins.  It seems singularly unsuited as a prayer for those present in church for the celebration of the memorial of Christ’s redeeming passion and death, and over people who, just a few minutes before, have received the Body and Blood of Christ himself.  As such, therefore, it seems to cause rupture in the flow of the liturgy: the presider, having just given the sacrament of salvation to the people, then prays for them to be filled with guilt and sorrow for sin; and these are the last words they hear in church on Ash Wednesday.

Those who managed to hear the text correctly for the first time in English on this Ash Wednesday (“Did he say compulsion or compunction?”) may justifiably have experienced the inquisitiveness which Liturgiam Authenticam (2001) predicted, but they may also have experienced confusion and even frustration.  For those who grasp the meaning of the prayer as a whole it becomes apparent that this is an inappropriate prayer, and in the wrong place in the celebration of Mass on Ash Wednesday.

Andrew Cameron-Mowat, SJ is Lecturer in Liturgy at Heythrop College, University of London.


  1. “As such, therefore, it seems to cause rupture in the flow of the liturgy: the presider, having just given the sacrament of salvation to the people, then prays for them to be filled with guilt and sorrow for sin; and these are the last words they hear in church on Ash Wednesday.”

    Which, to me, seems entirely appropriate to start Lent. I don’t see where the rupture is. Those in venial sin can still receive the Eucharist, but venial sin is still sin for which we should be “filled with guilt and sorrow”. And we are still subject to temptations to sin, and are still capable of sinning; and, moreover, will probably sin in the future. Therefore, compunction is something we ought to be cultivating at all times, whether for ourselves or for the wider world. (The lives of the saints when they were on earth give us this example!)

    Newman’s sermon “Moral Consequences of Single Sins” would seem to be apt here.

    1. I agree. The Mass cannot be seen strictly as an isolated hour-in-itself, but must be taken as one part of the entire progression of the church year and the mystery of salvation which it tells. The prayer over the people at the end of Ash Wednesday Mass marks the end of a Mass, yes, but on a broader scale it marks the sendoff to go begin Lent.

      Perhaps the problem with this post is the naive view that there is some sort of incompatibility between the joy of Communion with Christ and compunction or sorrow at one’s own failings.

    2. @Matthew Hazell – comment #1:

      If I may be permitted to comment on two-year old postings. I came across this site, and discussion of ‘spirit of compunction’, via a Google search after noting the phrase for the first time yesterday during an Ash Wednesday mass.

      This blog very aptly deomonstrates one of the problems facing our church. It seems to be taking place in an academic vacuum – the pastorally detached atmosphere criticised so eloquently by Pope Francis. The major issue with ‘spirit of compunction’ – and phrases like it in the new mass translation – is that the great majority of the average congregation just don’t understand it. In fact, with an MA in philosophy and 25 years as a practising Catholic, I didn’t understand it. Neither did the presiding priest. Imagine, then, the position of the many second language speakers who make such a significant contribution to the life of the church, here and abroad.

      This sort of problem won’t be solved by catechesis. It is a fundamental issue of expressive elegance and clarity. The people of God deserve something better at the start of Lent, and it is a great pity that the academic commentators on this blog were not able to say so. Perhaps more time mixing with the sheep is needed?

  2. Pour out a spirit of compunction

    I associate the word “compunction” with the “gift of tears” which is not necessarily the same as being sorrowful (which I usually associate with sadness and mourning) all of which may be unaccompanied by tears.

    Sorrow, sadness and mourning frequently lead to depression, inaction, and self-absorption.

    The “gift of tears” often leads to joy, compassion for others, and humble service of others.

    It tends to wash away depression, inaction and self-absorption.

    The “gift of tears” is as easily triggered (perhaps even more easily triggered) by deep identification with the not only the sorrows, sadness and mourning of others but also with their triumphs over trials and tribulations as part of our own deepest longings for wholeness and life.

    While the dictionary says that compunction comes from piercing, I always think of unction, anointing with the gift of tears.

    However advanced we might be on the road to salvation, we should always pray for the “gift of tears.”

    1. Very well put. Compunction has more energy than sorrow or sadness; it is less static and more other-directed.

      That said, it seems that this prayer may be better placed earlier in this particular liturgy, and the author’s essay on that dimension of things is quite interesting.

    2. Jesuit Father Irenee Hausherr’s “Penthos: The Doctrine of Compunction in the Christian East” writes a great deal about the gift of tears and how it ought to lead to greater charity. There is a wonderful quote from the Verbum Seniorum: “Truly you are blessed, Abba Aresenius, for you wept for yourself in this world.” This reminds me of another quote from the Russian philosopher, Lev Shestov, “And [s]he who can weep can hope.”

  3. The most likely origin of the prayers over the people seems to be that they were spoken by the bishop as he left the church and passed the penitents gathered near the door. See ‘Le “orationes super populum” della “editio typica tertia” del “Missale Romanum”’ Ecclesia Orans 19 (2002) 189-240 and earlier bibliography there cited.
    Of the 73 such orations in the current Missale Romanum, 38 (that is, the bulk) are from the Veronese Sacramentary, which was not available to the compilers of the 1570 Missal.

  4. Speaking of Mass texts, I was quite surprised to hear (and then looking it up online at the Vatican website to see) that the Pope did not use the usual “pontifical greeting,” “Peace be with you,” at the beginning of the Sunday Mass in Leon, Mexico, but an “original text” that is NOT in the Missale Romanum, editio tertia.

    I may be mistaken, but I think the Spanish “Book of the Chair” is the source of this greeting, and may in turn have taken it from the Italian Messale Romano, seconda edizione (1983):

    ” La gracia y el amor de Jesucristo, que nos llama a la conversion,
    esten con todos ustedes.”

    So much for sticking to MR3 in Latin as the source for all approved liturgical texts. Clearly the Spanish version of Vox Clara hasn’t taken control of los libros liturgicos yet!

  5. Gilbert and Sullivan have forever spoilt ‘compunction’ for me; when I hear that word, the only thing that comes to mind is the first scene from Iolanthe:

    (SOLO)We are dainty little fairies,
    Ever singing, ever dancing;
    We indulge in our vagaries
    In a fashion most entrancing.
    If you ask the special function
    Of our never-ceasing motion,
    We reply, without compunction,
    That we haven’t any notion!

    No, we haven’t any notion, any notion!
    Tripping hither, etc.

    To add comic effect the singer often spits out the second syllable: comPPPUNction.

    Remorse, yes. Regret. Sorrow. Repentance. Contrition.

    But please, not ‘compunction’.

    1. Your thoughts have become corrupted by the world, for your penance you need to read

      Penthos: The Doctrine of Compunction in the Christian East by Irenee Hausherr


      Maybe Liturgical Press will give you a free copy!

      I would tell you more about it. But it is spring; the garden and the outdoors take up more of my time, so I don’t care to hunt it out refresh my mind and prepare a summary.

      Perhaps others have read it and can give a summary.

      1. That looks VERY good, Jack. A book on Orthodox spirituality written by a Jesuit, no less. Thank you … and I hope you’re enjoying the spring!

    2. Jonathan, WHY when I read those G&S words (as with many others of theirs that come to mind) do I see images of the “men of the reform of the Reform” dressed up in their beloved lace and the remnants of gilded baroque grandeur, prancing . . . ???

      1. “She may very well pass for forty-three in the dusk with the light behind her.”

        There are a number of candidates among their immenses quequing up to be counted here.

  6. Interestingly, the translators of the 2010 Roman Missal have inverted the word order of the first two lines of the Latin text. This syntactic inversion is very common across the translated propers of the year. Indeed, this strategy might well be considered a hallmark of the translators’ style.

    The Latin reads: Super inclinantes se tuae maiestati, Deus, spiritum compunctionis propitius effunde, et praemia paenitentibus repromissa misericorditer consequi mereantur. Per Christum […]

    A painfully literal translation might read: “Bowing themselves before your majesty, God, graciously pour out a spirit of compunction, and having promised favors for the repenting, may they merit to attend sorrowfully. Through Christ” […]

    (For some reason, the translators of the new missal often do not translate nouns and adjectives of supplication such as propitius. I am not sure why, especially because the translators are quite conscientious about translating verbs of supplication such as quaesumus.)

    The translators’ inversion of finite and participial clauses rightly follows English’s precedence for finite sentences. Even so, the logic of Latin syntax places submission to the divine majesty before compunction. The inversion of the finite and participial constructions in the English suggests that a heartfelt contrition precedes submission to God. A person listening to the Latin without reading a vernacular translation first might well conclude that deep sorrow is not the principle human condition, but rather the consequence of a direct encounter with God.

    I agree with previous contributors that “compunction” is a a poor translation for compunctionis. Nevertheless, I suspect that the syntactical limitations of English and the subsequent compromise of the Latin prayer is more pressing than the translation of this difficult Latin word.

  7. I am not sure about that painfully literal translation, Jordan. The inclinantes are clearly the direct object of super…effunde, and praemia repromissa (‘the promised rewards’) the object of consequi, which is turn the object of mereantur. As far as I can tell, the 2010 translators effectively elided consequi into mereantur. And misericorditer modifies the pleading subjunctive in mereantur, doesn’t it?

    So a truly ‘literal’ translation would be something more like this:

    Upon those who bow themselves before your majesty, O God, graciously pour out a spirit of repentance, and mercifully grant that they may merit to attain the rewards you have guaranteed to the penitent.

    I think the sense of repromissa (vs promissa) is of a formal promise, a formal undertaking – hence ‘guaranteed’ in the above. Is that right?

    1. re: Jonathan Day on March 26, 2012 – 2:18 am

      Thank you Jonathan for the critique and your fine translation. In the previous translation I tried to show Latin grammatical relationships qua Latin. The broken English was intentional, if slightly faulty. Often Latin propers privilege the direct object clause over the finite statement. This is in opposition to English syntax. This inversion can affect an English speaking listener’s comprehension of spoken Latin prayer. The raw Latin syntactical data has to be mentally rearranged after the prayer has been recited.

      The Latin syntactical order is this way. I tried to reproduce this order in English, even if doing so creates bad English.

      A = subordinate direct object clause
      B = subject finite sentence

      If the Latin proper reads A, B / A, B
      A suitable English translation must read B, A / B, A

      You are quite right that super is being used as prepositional direct object and not as an adverb. Lewis and Short (Perseus) suggests that the preposition super + accusative always means “over” or “above”, like ὑπέρ.

      You have translated inclinantes se as “who bow themselves” (or, as Brigid Rauch has suggested, “bending” themselves). While inclinantes would be placed in a relative clause in English, inclinantes is not in a relative clause in Latin syntax qua Latin. inclinantes might be a participial noun instead (cf. Allen and Greenough’s §20b n.1-2 and §286), often translated with the word “ones”. super inclinantes could be translated “over the [ones] bowing” or similar. inclinantes dovetails nicely with the dative paenitentibus (“the repenting [ones]”) in the next subordinate clause.


      1. re: Jordan Zarembo on March 26, 2012 – 1:42 pm

        (from previous post)

        Yes, misericorditer, which is best translated as you have, “mercifully”, is an adverb with mereantur. I also agree that repromissa has a stronger (or as you say, more formal) meaning than “promise”. Perhaps “guarantee” might work well here.

        In an unpolished English B, A / B, A order the blessing might read:

        “God, graciously pour out a sprit of [repentance] over the ones bowing themselves before your majesty and [mercifully] may they merit to follow favors having been [guaranteed] for the repenting ones.” (your corrections in brackets)

        Your translation is quite excellent and much more refined than my intermediate efforts. The crude translation above perhaps illustrates why consequi dropped out in the official translation. The meaning of consequi can be inferred in English without a loss of much meaning.

  8. From the time of the origins of the custom, and up to the 11th century in most places, the giving of ashes at the beginning of Lent marked the occasion of the dismissal of the members of the Order of Penitents from the church by the bishop.

    The real problem is that we have not come to terms with the vast deference between Reconciliation as a social rite (the Order of Penitents) in the first thousand years and Reconciliation as a private psychological rite (the practice of Confession) in the last thousand years, and their relationship to Lent.

    Behind this is the unwillingness to come to terms with the huge differences that have occurred in sacramental practices (one could really wonder how these are the same Sacrament at least from the social science viewpoint).

    The Order of Penitents during Lent made sense as a logical development parallel to the Rite of Christian Initiation. Once it was replaced by Confession, everyone became Penitents with disastrous results. Laity became second class citizens, year around Penitents, who went to Confession and Communion twice a year at Christmas and Easter, or perhaps even at Easter alone. It took Vatican II to recover the universal call to holiness.

    Unfortunately, however, we have not rethought Lent.

    Is it really a season in which we want every one to become Penitents? Should we all put on ashes and refrain from the Eucharist? Obviously not.

    In the Roman Tradition, daily Eucharist during Lent was an early development. The Eastern Tradition does not celebrate the festive Eucharist but does give communion from the Pre-Sanctified Eucharist at a Vespers Service. In each case the normal thing for most Christians is to be a communicant rather than a Penitent during Lent!!!

    So Lent cannot be a time when we all become “psychological” if not “social” penitents. We need to rethink Lent.

      1. I agree with Karl.

        And I would add: we need another look at the metaphors we associate with Lent. According to some, it is all about ‘spiritual warfare’; and that in turn usually means fighting external sources of evil.

        Others speak of ‘spring cleaning’, others of ‘healing’. Is our repentance a matter of putting things right before a tribunal (and is the confessional primarily a legal tribunal?) or of seeking healing and health? Or all of the above?

        For several years before she died, I carried on a correspondence with a very kind and, I think, saintly Orthodox woman, who lived as a hermit. I remember her giving two pieces of advice around Lent. First, she said, don’t think that it is a good idea for you, as a layman out in the world, to try to adopt the discipline of a monastic during Lent. Second, don’t indulge in ‘self-help’; seek out the guidance of a spiritual doctor, who can prescribe an appropriate regime for the season.

    1. I want to second Karl’s suggestion for a thread on this. I think it touches on an essential disagreement between those who prefer the results of Vatican II and those who want to reform the reform.

      1. Perhaps it’s worth throwing SC 109 into the mix. Though the official Vatican website translation just misses the point (!), and no doubt, as with many other points, the phrasing reflects committee compromises, it’s clear that the Council is shifting us away from individualistic acts of penance to a recalling of baptism and to something more corporate. Whatever the origins of the Lenten prayers, we are now an Easter people, somehow remembering a journey in one sense already accomplished.

    2. Interesting points. I agree that public and private penance are sociologically quite different – it was after all precisely the sociological implications of public penance which led the Church to abandon it. I certainly do not agree, however, that the change to private penance (are we even sure that this was not also practiced, alongside public penance, in the early Church?) made the laity into “second class citizens” or that “it took Vatican II to recover the universal call to holiness”. For one thing, the change made it considerably easier to do penance, and the fact that the faithful of mediaeval times did not avail themselves of this opportunity more often seems to be down to a strange mix of mistaken over-reverence, tradition and laziness rather than a feeling of being “second-class”. Secondly, most theologians of the Middle Ages supported frequent Communion, and the Jesuits promoted it vigorously after the Reformation. As for “the universal call to holiness”, wasn’t St. Francois de Sales a prime exponent of that?

      But no, of course we shouldn’t all become public penitents and abstain from the Eucharist. But in the early Church, even those who were not public penitents fasted and prayed in preparation for Easter and in memory of Our Lord’s 40 days of fasting. In doing so they committed themselves more earnestly to doing good works and ridding themselves of sinful attractions. This is what we still do. Why rethink this?

  9. Sorry, but this whole discussion leads me to sing in my head: “Compunction junction, what’s your function?” And now it’s stuck as an earworm!

  10. In French it means: slightly affected seriousness; seriousness that is often a bit ridiculous.

    Is the nuance of being not merely serious or regretful of sin, but also with an additional laughable, affected, exagerated, or ridiculous dimension, not present in English?

    1. Following Claire’s note on the French connotations of componction, I did a bit of digging for modern English definitions. The results are ambiguous to say the least, suggesting that “compunction” is indeed a poor rendering of the Latin.

      From Middle English, from Old French, derived from Late Latin compunctio (a pricking), from Latin compunctus, the past participle of compungere (to severely prick), from com- + pungere (to prick, cf pungent).

      A pricking of conscience or a feeling of regret, especially one which is slight or fleeting.  Used in figurative sense by early Church writers. Originally a much more intense feeling, similar to “remorse” or “contrition.”


      1857, Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, ch. 6: He would have had no compunction whatever in flinging him out of the highest window in Venice into the deepest water of the city.

      1897, Bram Stoker, Dracula, ch. 3: I felt no compunction in doing so, for under the circumstances I felt that I should protect myself in every way I could.

      1920, D. H. Lawrence, Women in Love, ch. 8: But he felt, later, a little compunction. He had been violent, cruel with poor Hermione. He wanted to recompense her, to make it up.

      Another source provides two contrasting definitions

      1. Anxiety or deep unease proceeding from a sense of guilt or consciousness of causing pain.

      2. A sting of conscience or a twinge of uneasiness; a qualm; a scruple.

      Interestingly, Fr John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary defines it as “a momentary sorrow or regret for having done, or contemplated doing, something wrong. It may also be a slight feeling of remorse, without implying either complete repentance or a firm resolve not to do the same wrong thing again.”

  11. While it is bright sunshine this morning, there was frost over night and it is only slowly warming. So I dug out my copy of Penthos. The following are only from the preface and the first six pages. I wonder how many copies Litpress has on hand? They made need them if many of you think it is as interesting as I do.

    Thanks to Karl, Jonathan and Brigid for their kind words and interest. I have my own approach to rethinking Lent that I may send as a post to start of the discussion on rethinking Lent.

    But right now I think it is best to continue the discussion by exploring compunction. Each of the comments below could be a whole post in itself. But let us continue the discussion with them. If they provoke a lot of discussion, I will follow up with a seperate post reviewing Penthos to help further the discussion.

  12. Penthos is not a book about guilt or sin. The key text is the second Beatitude: Blessed -that is happy- are those who weep. For the ancient monks, unhappiness was the lot of those with dry eyes and cold heart. Unending happiness was perpetual compunction.

    Metanoia or repentance, is that moment of grace when the truth about ourselves and God strikes us, pierces the heart and makes new life possible.

    Wow! So far most of the discussion on this post has involved technical and literary issues. I hope this comment will stimulate a lot of discussion about how we experience happiness and sadness and our physiological reactions, weeping, dry eyes, warmth, coldness, sympathy, etc and their interrelationships..

  13. Three secular meanings of penthos: 1 mourning for relatives and friends. 2.Sadness over any mishap. 3. Lamentation for a dead god. What do the Fathers think of these?

    1. For Christians worthy of the name, death is birth to true life. At the burial of Caesarius, brother of Saint Gregory Nazianzen, their mother wore festive clothes.

    OK all you fans of white, black or purple at funerals. Just keep the discussion relevant to the meaning of compunction, etc.

    The local Orthodox Church used white in its Divine Liturgy to pray for the past members of its parish. Was this an imitation of our turn to white or an ancient tradition?

  14. 2. The great old man replies “One must absolutely not be saddened by anything in this world” This is clear enough in any case for sadness figures in the catalogue of the eight evil thoughts or capital sins. We should never make the disastrous mistake of confusing the fruit of grace penthos with the seed of hell lupe

    The direct opposite of penthos is accedia which dries up the source of tears and drives one to seek out distractions which are fatal to recollection. “The spirit of accedia drives away tears; the spirit of sadness ruins prayer for prayer is the result of joy and gratitude, and it begins with penthos

    Again Wow! Please bring your experiences to this way of thinking.

    From Wikipedia:
    Acedia (also accidie or accedie, from Latin acedĭa, and this from Greek ἀκηδία, negligence) describes a state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world.

    1. Accidie, for many centuries the archetypal problem for monks when they are going through the slough of despond. Nothing matters any more, least of all my vocation to this life.

  15. 3.Is there any question of sacred mourning? In the Apostolic Constitutions we find the term “mourning for the Lord” The text is used to justify fasting on a single Saturday of the year, the day when the “Lord goes below the earth”

    Fasting, though, is not compunction . The latter must be perpetual whereas fasting is limited to Wednesdays and Fridays and is forbidden on Saturdays and Sundays.

    Moreover the Apostolic Constitutions explicitly forbids mourning for Christ. Weeping for Christ is not Christian. Monastic penthos will never be found related to the death of Christ. Devotion to the Savior’s passion does not include those outward forms so familiar to us from a later age.

    Remember that the East does not fast on Saturdays during Lent. Saturday in many places was the first day that came to have a regular Divine Liturgy in addition to Sunday.

    Mel Gibson: however it really happened, early Christians did not envision it your way.

    1. Remember that the East does not fast on Saturdays during Lent. Saturday in many places was the first day that came to have a regular Divine Liturgy in addition to Sunday.

      While the rules on Saturdays are somewhat more relaxed in the usual observance, a blanket statement that “the East does not fast on Saturdays during Lent” is incorrect.

      1. On Saturdays in Lent (for instance), meat, fish, and meat products are forbidden. The eastern Churches don’t distinguish between abstinence and fasting the way we do in the West and they wouldn’t call a day where meat, fish, and meat products are forbidden a fast free day.

      2. Samuel

        Ah, but the other way of looking at it is that the Eastern rules treat Saturday more like Sunday. Whereas the Western rules historically treated Saturday more like Friday (putting aside all the indults, such as obtained in the USA, that mitigated this in effect for generations).

      3. The rules of fasting, while they need to be taken seriously, are not to be interpreted with dour and pedantic legalism; ‘for the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom. 14:17).”

        One has to recognize that these rules, along with the very long Divine Offices come from the monastic tradition. They are basically what monks are expected to do, i.e. their dietary rules.

        In the Orthodox tradition, monks are seen as trying to live an ideal Christian life; therefore the Divine Office and the dietary rules are ideals not “read the black do the red” like in the West. Both the Office and the dietary rules are adapted to the needs of the local parish community.

        For example the Service Books in the pews of the local OCA parish are authored by the pastor with the approval of the bishop. While not neglecting monastic ideals, he is very aware his people are not monks.

  16. I don’t know if this ties into the discussion above, but I think it does. The newly restored “Prayer Over the People” for daily Mass as optional includes the one for today (Tuesday of the 5th Week of Lent):
    “O God, who choose to show mercy not anger to those who hope in you, grant that your faithful may weep, as they should, for the evil they have done, and so merit the grace of your consolation. Through Christ our Lord.”
    Seems to me that the prayer implies that God places sorrow in our hearts that enable us then to “merit” the “actual” grace of consolation, but technically both the sorrow and the consolation are initiatives from God placed upon us.

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