The Noon Day Demon

Staff meetings early in my ministry left me exhausted. After the meeting, I would expend more energy replaying the meeting, trying to understand what happened, how I had been misunderstood once again, what my co-worker “really” meant by, etc. etc. etc….

After one particularly intense and conflicted staff meeting, I crashed into my colleague’s office with a great need to “debrief.” You might call this “triangulation.” The psychological definition of triangulation contains manipulation — trying to use a third person to communicate back to a second person, all in the hope of gaining some kind of control. But I think my triangulation took more of the form of the sociological definition. I was trying to validate data by verifying it with more than one source. I would ruminate in my office, trying to figure out what I had done to contribute to problems. Talking this over with someone else sometimes helped me get a better perspective. But usually my emotional energy was so depleted, I found it hard to concentrate on what should be the next task of ministry.

All this before noon….

Which is why when I came across the description of acedia, or “the noonday demon,” I was struck by the truth of it:

“The demon of acedia, which is also called the noonday demon, is the most burdensome of all the demons. It besets the monk at about the fourth hour (10 am) of the morning, encircling his soul until about the eighth hour (2 pm). [1] First it makes the sun seem to slow down or stop moving , so that the day appears to be fifty hours long. [2] Then it makes the monk keep looking out of his window and forces him to go bounding out of his cell to examine the sun to see how much longer it is to 3 o’clock, and to look round in all directions in case any of the brethren is there. [3] Then it makes him hate the place and his way of life and his manual work. It makes him think that there is no charity left among the brethren; no one is going to come and visit him. [4] If anyone has upset the monk recently, the demon throws this in too to increase his hatred. [5] It makes him desire other places where he can easily find all that he needs and practice an easier, more convenient craft. After all, pleasing the Lord is not dependent on geography, the demon adds; God is to be worshipped everywhere. [6] It joins to this the remembrance of the monk’s family and his previous way of life, and suggests to him that he still has a long time to live, raising up before his eyes a vision of how burdensome the ascetic life is. So, it employs, as they say, every [possible] means to move the monk to abandon his cell and give up the race. No other demon follows on immediately after this one but after its struggle the soul is taken over by a peaceful condition and by unspeakable joy.”, 3/30/37 4:00pm

I include this lengthy definition because subsequent posts will refer to some of the specific temptations all contained in the term acedia.

How do we get beyond the power of moods in our life? How do we handle our emotions without stuffing them or letting them rule us? That’s what I want to explore further.

I’d love to hear from you in the “Comment” section. What helps you conquer your moods without your moods defeating you?


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