Current Refectory Book- The Noonday Devil

“The Noonday Devil: Acedia, The Unnamed Evil of Our Times” by Dom Jean-Charles Nault, has been a vivid reminder to the monks of that mysterious spiritual malady that assails the soul of a monk at mid-day.  The original Greek root of “Acedia” meant to be without care – specifically, to be careless with respect to the honors due to the deceased.  Think a moment about what such carelessness reflects about the interior condition of a human being and you are pointed right at Dom Jean-Charles’ central thesis: that Acedia is a much graver and destructive spiritual malady than mere “sloth”, as it came to be thought of in the Medieval period.  This message is delivered by the author with a certain urgency and compelling seriousness which impressed the monks.  Among the chief aims of this “demon”; this actual distaste for the love of God itself, is to conceal from the monk afflicted by it that fact that he has any problem at all.  Weariness, melancholy, feeling overworked, discouragement, depression, might all be more readily recognized as pointers to this disease of the soul, but instability and activism are likewise signs that a monk has been overtaken by this demon.  Finally, Abbot Jean-Charles challenges his contemporaries to recognize that, left to our own devices as “authors” of ourselves and of our own destinies, we ultimately despair of ever being able to find a meaning for our existence.  Acedia, in the end, is rejection, distaste, even revulsion toward the truth of your greatness as a son or daughter of the Most High God.  But one must enter the struggle against this demon with hope and indeed there is grounds to be hopeful.  As Evagrius, (one of the first monks to teach and write about acedia) wrote: when one has actively and in faith engaged in combat with this demon, “a state of peace and ineffable joy ensues in the soul after this struggle.”