When I received the book The Noonday Devil, I wondered what kind of fiction title this would be. This would be a case of judging a book by its cover, as it is in fact a non-fiction title that deals with the subject of acedia. What is acedia? Acedia is a sin or an evil that is actually hard to define. Many people incorrectly equate it to sloth, but it is much more than that. In the days of Cicero, it was defined as a “lack of care,” because people who suffered from this evil did not bury their dead, but the Christian monk Evagrius defined it as a “relaxation of the soul.” Evagrius plays heavily in the first chapter, as his treatise “On the Eight Thoughts of Wickedness” is focused on. He has eight wicked thoughts in his treatise that the Christian must defeat, because he compared it to the eight nations that the Israelites had to defeat on their exodus from Egypt. Also in the first chapter, we see the “five principal manifestations of acedia,” and the “five remedies for acedia.” There is also a very brief section, which highlights four others who spoke/wrote on the subject of acedia.
Chapter Two is devoted primarily to St. Thomas Aquinas. In this chapter, we learn of two new definitions of acedia – “Sadness about spiritual good” and “Disgust with activity.” He then goes on to tell us about the sins that spring forth from acedia and the definitive way to defeat acedia. It’s pretty bold to claim that you have the definitive answer on defeating this sin, but when you learn what it is – the Incarnation or Jesus, because we couldn’t do it on our own, then it makes perfect sense. The last two chapters of this book deal with acedia in the Christian life, and then more specifically in the lives of religious, priests, and married couples. As I fall into the last category, I read and re-read this particular section. Abbot Nault explains that acedia can manifest itself in marriage by choosing not to give one’s self fully to one’s spouse and focusing on one’s self and not the spouse; by not being open to children; by seeking something outside of marriage that one feels they are not getting from marriage; and lastly by seeking sexual novelty and not realizing that the sexual act is meant to further unite the couple in marriage.
This book was a very profound and eye-opening read. Nault does a wonderful job of not only presenting the history behind this evil, but ways to combat and defeat this evil as well! Overall, I found the book to be a bit on the scholarly side; it takes several readings to fully grasp the message. One of the biggest lessons I took away from it was that we often confuse sloth for laziness, but it can also manifest itself in the form of being busy just for the sake of being busy. Let this be a lesson to me that just because I am not being lazy does not mean that there are not better uses of my time. If you are looking for an enlightening but challenging read, then I recommend this work.
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Copyright 2015 Stuart Dunn