What does Easter do to Sloth?
In a previous post on loneliness, I mentioned my interview with Justine Toh for the Centre for Public Christianity, which was broadcasted on ABC Radio National’s program Soul Search. In that interview, we focused on the topic of the vices and explored how vices, including the deadly sin of Sloth, land one in a state of isolation.
That interview focused on the Lenten season, but Justine has since revisited our interview a couple of times, and still thought it relevant in the Easter season. She resurrected the interview in written form for ABC News and again as part of a larger discussion on Easter in the God Forbid podcast. More specifically, Justine and I looked at how our contemporary ecology of distraction, made up as it is by countless digitally mediated forms of entertainment, is closer to the heart of the deadly sin of Sloth than just sheer laziness (I must add that this point comes from RJ Snell’s life changing book on Sloth, Acedia and Its Discontents).
Moreover, we explored how that motley crew of fourth-century Egyptian monks and nuns, better known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers, were aware of this distracting aspect of Sloth, even though they did not have the same infrastructure of entertainment that we are surrounded by today.
In our chats, we mentioned how attention can form a site of resistance to Sloth and the architecture of amusements and spectacle. This became particularly poignant as we enter Holy Week, when we celebrate not simply a memory of Christ’s passion. As the Palm Sunday Gospel (from Luke) reminded us, what we behold a spectacle of the Crucifixion.
It seemed to me that in the Paschal season, amidst the sea of distractions, I am being called to fix my gaze and attention on that spectacle of the bleeding Christ, that spectacle that would otherwise make people turn away their faces, as Isaiah (53:3) put it.
Good Friday calls me to behold that gruesome sight - and by extension all gruesome sights. Holy Saturday calls me to stay with that sight. Easter Sunday teaches me to recognise in that sight the pulsating reality of the living God.
Death may have overwhelming power over my perception of my circumstances - and indeed distract me via my perceptions - but I am called to realise my limitations finding my own way to life. More importantly, Easter constantly knocks on the closed door of my perceptions, reminding me that somewhere in that circumstance beats the heart of the living Messiah.