Waiting and watching do not come easy for us impatient, busy, on-the-go Americans. But for our Christian faith and life, waiting and watching are good spiritual discipline and restore peace and order to our restless, chaotic lives.
So I ask you: Can you “do the Vigil”? Now, I don’t mean some kind of new dance or the latest diet craze to hit the stores. What I mean is, can you watch and prepare for a great religious feast? Can you actively set aside the pressures of the world, and all the things that you think you have to do, and join with others in God’s family to anticipate a joyous celebration? Can you “do the Vigil”?
I ask this question because on Saturday, April 15th (yes, a Saturday…and in the evening!) we will have the privilege here at Good Shepherd for the first time to “do the Vigil”–Easter Vigil, that is.
This thing called a “vigil” might sound like a foreign language to you. However, we often do vigil activities in other areas of life. For example, when a loved one is injured or severely ill and is in the Intensive Care Unit in the hospital, we naturally keep vigil. We sit by the bedside praying and reading Scripture with our loved one. We wait in the waiting room for updates. We support and encourage our family members, and we give them a should to cry on when they sob with tears and sorrow. We sit with our injured or ill loved one and hold his or her hand. We’re waiting and watching. That’s keeping vigil.
We often see another example of keeping vigil when an eagerly anticipated movie is about to debut. When one of the Star Wars movies comes to theaters, people often “camp out” outside the theater to buy their tickets or get their seats at the first showing. That’s keeping vigil–waiting and watching for the big event to come. Another example is when we keep Vigil on Christmas Eve at the candlelight Divine Service, hearing the Word and receiving the Sacrament as the hours turn over to Christmas Day at midnight.
When you look up the word “vigil” in the dictionary, you see how closely the word is tied to the life of faith:
vigil…1 a: a watch formerly kept on the night before a religious feast with prayer or other devotions b: the day before a religious feast observed as a day of spiritual preparation c: evening or nocturnal devotions or prayers … 2: the act of keeping awake at times when sleep is customary; also: a period of wakefulness 3: an act of watching or surveillance (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary: 150th Anniversary Edition,1981, p.1295).
As Christians, we get to “do the Vigil” for the most important event ever to occur: the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. On April 15th this year we will prepare for the “big event” of Easter with a Vigil. We will prepare spiritually by means of hearing the stories of God saving His people, by celebrating Baptism, and by partaking of the Sacrament of the Altar. We will have to work actively on “keeping awake” (in a way), because this service will happen at night, and will last longer than normal services. But please don’t let that keep you away from keeping vigil! After all, if we can routinely watch 2 hour movies of fictional stories (or even longer sporting events) in the evening hours, we can most certainly set aside time and make the effort to spend time hearing and celebrating the true, life-changing story of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us.
So plan now to “do the Vigil”–the Easter Vigil–on April 15th. Watch the church calendar for the time we’ll start, and read upcoming newsletter articles for more information about what will happen in the Easter Vigil and what it means for our life together in Christ’s Church.