We are coming up to a month since Easter Sunday. The month of April was a challenging one for me personally, and I thought I would write a bit on how the indulging of the appetites leads one to be tepid in spiritual things, which in turn is only remedied by a good confession.
First, a quick quote from St. Teresa of Avila:
Prayer and comfortable living are incompatible – The Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila
This is an important quote as it relates to the appetites. Broadly speaking, appetites are a created thing that are presented in our day-to-day life. These are things such as food, comfort, TV, entertainment, friendships, etc. In themselves, they are not evil; however, a disordered attachment to them is. Eating food is fine when the end goal is merely to feed us, but if we find that we only desire the best food and strive for it daily, we may have wandered from an ordered attachment to a disordered one. The same can be said with TV. A little bit is fine, but if we are spending a disproportionate time of our day being consumed by TV, this is not good.
The damage caused by disordered appetites is this: instead of being solely preoccupied with God and fulfilling His will, the disorder appetites lead one to be solely occupied with oneself and the fulfilling of our will. If we allow ourselves to be overrun by our appetites, we generally will develop a distaste for all things God, and our very relationship with Him begins to wean. This is where tepidity comes in. Tepidity is just sort of a lack of interest growing spiritually and for anything to do with the spiritual life. It encompasses a lot of things: a disgust for spiritual things, a sluggishness to perform our spiritual exercises, etc. Take a look at this reference for a more detailed explanation (The Three Ages of the Interior Life). Being in this tepid, lukewarm state is disastrous in the long run. Though the soul at this point may not be in a state of mortal sin, if this tepidity is not resolved overtime, it may be a cause for one to fall into mortal sin.
Tepidity is really the enemy of all those who are actively striving for virtue, and it is so easy to fall into. The reason I think April was challenging for me is that coming out of Lent, the one fast I stuck to began to wean. Once this fault begins to occur, it is a catalyst for other things to attack the soul as well. It is always little by little that we fall into this state of tepidity. Perhaps we made a resolution to not watch TV, and having no alcohol during the week. At first we are able to do it, but then we slowly introduce an extra 10 minutes of TV one day a week, and we slowly start having a beer every other day. Before you know it, we are consuming 3 hours of TV a day and few beverages as well. It is very easy to fall into this state! Once we are beginning to get sucked into this state, it may be very hard to see that we are heading off a cliff. One has to be very vigilant and mindful of these stumbling blocks because we can be in a state of tepidity for quite sometime without noticing it. What helps me to see all this is my daily spiritual journal. Sometimes it takes a week for me to clue in, but when I am entering into a tepid state, I see a typical pattern: missed one of my daily devotions, shorting of meditations, not following through with resolutions, and so forth. Without documenting this stuff, a soul that is ardently striving for virtue may be in a state of tepidity for many weeks, months or even years! This can even slowly spill into our work and family life. Everything can be affected by this tepidity.
As St. Teresa of Avila describes above, comfortable living, this indulging in our appetites is not compatible with the soul who is striving for perfection. These disordered appetites are like a black tar that weighs down the soul. It makes it sluggish, it blinds it from seeing clearly, and it really hinders spiritual progress. We have to be careful to be someone who strives always for the most comfort in life. Being a follower of Christ means having a lot of discomfort. We have to bear this while we are here on earth.
If you read the title, you may have guessed what the cure is: confession. I think there is something very powerful with the sacrament of reconciliation. As I describe above, it really does remove this black tar that is covering our soul. It liberates it from tepidity. Of course, the soul can still fall right back into tepidity, as will happen to most of us, but once we are liberated, we ought to strive to be further strengthened by the Eucharist, and a strong prayer life. All these things will give us the strength to ward of indulging in the appetites, and will allow us to stay clear of tepidity. This is a life long fight, it really is. Some days/weeks it is easier, others it is harder. There is much to be said about picking yourself up quickly when you fall into this rut. Do not allow yourself to linger too much in this state. I find some souls dig themselves deeply into this state, and this pit of darkness almost becomes a home for them. Perhaps make a firm resolution to go to confession at least once a month. Going more frequently could help even further, but go at the pace you are able to go at. Do not allow yourself to stew in this state.
As always, see the intercession of the Blessed Mother. She knows that we need help, so let us seek her aid so that we can receive an abundance of grace to stay clear of tepidity!