Friday, March 12, 2010

Diligence as Delight

I was going through old papers and found a few articles on sloth and diligence which I wanted to make a note of before I burn the papers.

An article on diligence --

The word "diligence" comes from a Latin word meaning "to love." A related Latin word gives us "delight." In its original meaning, diligence is attentiveness, care, and concern in what we do, and eagerness, quickness, and zeal to do it. In consists in making the most of God’s gifts out of love for him and his Kingdom.
Maybe that makes some sense of my puzzle about Jerome writing "voluntas" for what I usually read in modern version as "delight" in Psalms 1. Diligence sounds like a scary word -- "keeping your nose to the grindstone" -- but when you think of it as a labor of love, it seems to make things much clearer somehow.

The article goes on to say that the main aspect of diligence is spiritual. This is why Mary was commended while Martha was gently rebuked by Our Lord, I suppose. One was letting herself get scattered and irritable while the other was completely diligent and focused on what mattered. As the article says:

This is why the contemplative life of, say, cloistered religious is not a form of laziness. As it ought to be lived, the contemplative life makes use of the greatest of God’s gifts: union with Him in prayer. Even those of us who are not contemplatives need to be fruitful in using this gift. If we are not diligent in our spiritual life first, our other activities are are not offered to God and are so much useless motion. We are like a child who, on being told to pick up his clothes, simply flings them into another corner of the room.
I was just reading the Rule of St Benedict where he often refers to "The Work of God" meaning their contemplative religious life.

Another article was an excerpt from a book by Fr Lorenzo Scupoli called The Spiritual Combat. Here it is on Google Books. It was recommended by St Francis de Sales; it is full of practical advice for conquering oneself. I found this helpful:

You may, at first, find your strength insufficient to undergo all the difficulties and troubles that you will encounter on your road to perfection. Then you must acquire the habit of hiding them from yourself. They will appear more insignificant than the slothful are apt to imagine them to be.

When an act must be repeated many times in order to acquire some particular virtue, and this has to be continued for several days in opposition to countless powerful enemies, begin to do these acts as though a few would suffice and your trouble would soon end.

Attack one enemy at a time, as though you had but one to encounter. Be confident that, with God's grace, you will master them all. In this way you will overcome your sloth and acquire the contrary virtue.

Use the same method in regard to prayer. If you are to pray for an hour, and the time seems long, begin as though you were to pray but a quarter of an hour. When that is finished, propose another quarter hour, and the hour will elapse imperceptibly.

If, however, during this period you experience a great repugnance and aversion to prayer, cease praying for a while. In a short time return again to the prayers that you had interrupted.

This is also true in regard to manual labor. If you feel that you are overwhelmed by the amount of work before you and by the difficulties involved, do not permit indolence to discourage you.

Begin with what demands your immediate attention and do not think of the rest. Be very diligent, for when this is well done, the remainder will follow with much less trouble than you had anticipated.