Canto 7 Inferno: Avarice, acedia

An immodesty of wealth is the definition of avarice. Covetousness and greed are synonyms. The hoarders and spendthrifts are in this circle of Hell. Virgil and Dante first encounter Plutus the god, demon in Hell, of wealth. Virgil rebukes Plutus and they go on their way. I like to see how cowardly the demons of Hell are even in their ferocious appearance. Cerberus is passed by almost comically in the previous Canto.

At the end of this Canto, Virgil and Dante come upon the river Styx where the wrathful and sullen (those afflicted with acedia are punished).

First, the avaricious. Wealth is not the root of all evil, pride is. But wealth must be handled with temperance as all things must be. One must provide for themselves and their family. But not be so tight with money that others suffer. Greed is a poison that shuts off the valve of love toward others. There is a difference between needs and wants. Our wants become insatiable (Esolen, 437). But one must not be a spendthrift either, being reckless with money. One must be temperate, just, and prudent with wealth, coupled with faith, hope and love.

(an aside: in the previous entry, I talked about Cantos 6 being preludes to authority. In the next entries, I will speak about authority more specifically. But to coincide with authority–those in the position of authority, a ruler must be just and being just with wealth is one thing a ruler must be.)

A few words on the sullen, those afflicted with acedia: they are at the bottom of Styx which is basically a bog, though classically a river of the underworld in Greek mythology. The sullen are the slothful, but more specifically, those afflicted with acedia. Acedia is an old word. It means those with spiritual indifference, spiritual apathy, not taking delight in what we should take delight in, sin against festivity or Sabbath as Thomas Aquinas put it.

Sabbath is rest. Not relaxing and reclining and not caring about things–much like ennui. But Sabbath is rest in God, union with God. After our work and toil, there is rest. A peace, a contentedness beheld in the light and love of God. And taking delight in the created order and the Creator himself (Esolen). Apathy is akin to not caring about the Creator and his created order. Those in Hell sigh and bubble as they speak their woe that many cannot clearly hear. They are forever apathetic to all things and cannot enjoy the free air only sucking in murky water.

Be wise with wealth, with your possessions. Not hoarding or foolishly giving away all–unless you are taking the vow of poverty and have all you need. But also be aware of acedia in your own heart. It leads to blindness and selfishness. Anxiety and depression too.

The Inferno is a great book to read to examine your own heart. At least it is for me.

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