Jesus defeats the noonday devil
‘Cheesed off.’ That was the succinct summing-up of someone in our monastery (she is fluent in Latin and Greek), who thought I was making heavy weather of trying to explain the meaning of acedia. She had a point, but it is a complex problem. It was recognised nearly 1,700 years ago by the scholar and theologian Evagrius of Pontius, and tackled ever since by numerous writers, including St Thomas Aquinas and Aldous Huxley. The noonday devil is a variation on the theme of ‘the destruction that wasteth at noonday’ – noon being the hour of evil spirits – occurring in Psalm 91, and it means far more than sunstroke. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary’s definition of acedia is succinct: ‘sloth, torpor’. Then it quotes Chaucer’s ‘The Parson’s Tale’: ‘The sin of acedia’ (italics mine). This is not an involuntary misfortune, but something which it is possible to take in hand, irrespective...
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