“‘What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’.”
Have you ever heard of bi-modal sleeping? Historians and archeologists tell us that prior to the 19th century, many people around the world divided the night into two segments with a period of being awake in between. For example, they would go to bed shortly after the sun went down, but rise again a few hours later for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, and then return to bed until morning. This is sometimes referred to as the “second sleep.”
A recent article on the second sleep states that:
During this waking period, people would relax, ponder their dreams, or have sex. Some would engage in activities like sewing, chopping wood, or reading, relying on the light of the moon or oil lamps.
Medieval monks used to rise in the middle of the night for prayer (called Vigils) and then return to bed. I know many people who, when they are battling insomnia or just can’t sleep for some reason rise to pray. Some even tell me they start praying the rosary while lying in bed and gradually drift back to sleep. One person told me her mother said the angels finish the rosary if you start it and then drift off. I love that idea!
Keeping vigil, that is rising in the night for prayer, is a powerful spiritual practice. It enables us to find some quiet and watch for the Lord’s coming. It is a practice that just about anyone can begin, whether you watch for the Lord for a few minutes as you drift back to sleep or rise from your bed and pray. Some of us are called to vigil when our anxieties or racing minds just won’t let us fall back asleep. Follow that call to keep vigil!
Prayer itself is a form of being awake. When we pray, we wake ourselves up to the reality of God’s presence. It is not surprising that Jesus tells his disciples to keep watch.
Advent is a special time for us to pray and keep watch. Follow Jesus’ call to keep vigil. You might be surprised at what you discover.
Parish Pastoral Leader