"The Noonday Devil" by Jean-Charles Nault, OSB. A Revised Review
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The first time I read this 205-page paperback, "The Noonday Devil: Acedia, The Unnamed Evil of Our Times" was back in August 2015. I have picked it up a second time, and was even more impressed with it than the first. This is an intriguing read on the subject, written primarily from within the context of monasticism, and for monastics. It includes an interesting historical trek through Benedict, Evagrius, John Cassian, Gregory the Great and Aquinas. And it takes on the dead-end concoction of William of Ockham, and his "liberty of indifference" (96).
Acedia, that "Noonday Devil" is a broad vice that shows itself in loss of heart and motivation, discouragement, despair, desertion from place, perpetual need for activity and change, and so forth. "Acedia is the temptation to withdraw from the narrowness of the present so as to take refuge in what is imaginary; it is the temptation to quit the battle so as to become a simple spectator of the controversy that is unfolding in the world" (135). It affects people in the middle of the day or in the middle of life (20). It attacks priests and pastors, married couples and singles. And the "chief remedy for acedia is found in the joy of the gift" (201), which is the joy of God himself, and is captured in the incarnation of Christ. Nault teases out the multifaceted ways acedia exhibits itself, and he sanely examines the practical, but also grace-filled, ways acedia is remediated.
"The Noonday Devil" is a very Roman Catholic book written by the Abbot of Saint-Wandrille. For this reason many, or most Protestants, Reformed or Evangelicals, may not take it up, but they should! If read with a discerning eye even the staunchest non-Catholic reader will find that acedia is a vice that needs to be dealt with. And they will rejoice in the counter-measures of the Gospel that surprisingly crop up in this work. It is a book worth reading. This Presbyterian Minister highly recommends it! (Modified and expanded, 18 March 2020 MWP)
You can obtain the book here: The Noonday Devil
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