Saint Albert Catholic Chaplaincy, Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA Assistant Chaplain speaks on the need of keeping Vigil.
According to the Assistant Chaplain, Rev. Fr. Michael Ajiboye, we tends to misunderstand the real concept of vigil. He further narrated the real meaning of keeping vigil and its importance to Christendom.
As a lad, I went through different facets of spiritual maturity as expected of any child born into a devout Christian family of that time. So for me, to spend all night at prayer was part of life.
So you would understand if I tell you that vigil for me was spending the whole night at prayers. I am sure that is what most Christians understand vigil to be; all night prayer.
Hmmmmmmm! Is that all to vigil?
As a young boy filled with doctrines of a white – garment church, yes, that was all as far as vigil was concerned.
However, there was a switch in doctrines and dynamics, I became a Catholic and realised that as against the all night notion of vigil, Catholics have their vigil at 6pm (a new day begins at 6pm in Catholic reckoning, due to the Hebrew influence on her liturgy). This arouse my curiosity hence this write up.
From the Greek word agrypnia, we have the English derivative of Vigil. This word does not mean wakefulness as in avoidance of sleep in the actual sense (though it is quite similar).
To keep vigil really means to be alert, watchful, sensitive and receptive. Summarily, it means for us to be conscious of everything around us.
You remember that the Bible never said Jesus kept vigil at the garden of Gethsemane, rather we were told Jesus told his disciples to stay there while he prayed yonder (Matthew 26:36). He also told the chosen three to keep watch (Matthew 26:38).
When Jesus instructed us to watch and pray in Matthew 26:41, what was he demanding of us? To pray all night? Well, the answer is blowing in your mind.
Prayer is strongly recommended to be accompanied with watchfulness. Christ recommended it because the former without the latter is dangerous and can cause servile ignorance. In prayer, we do not change the mind of God, rather we dispose ourselves to the will of God.
This is true prayer! When we watch or keep vigil, we become conscious, alive, active, sensitive, alert and aware of the ways we live our lives and easily realise things that need adjustments. This is the true vigil we need to keep.
Keeping vigil I dare to say is not about praying all night, but becoming receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Vigil is when we go inward and allow the influence of our prayers to watch over us, to change us and humble us before the mightiness of God.
Majority of Christians today lack the proper understanding of vigil. We pray and pray without being watchful. This is why a lot of scholars have referred to us as notoriously religious but not truly converted.
It is more like we going to Chruch but not allowing the Church to go through us. We pray a lot but have refused to allow the prayers to influence us, to permeate our lives.
Jesus told us to watch and pray so that we don’t fall into temptation. Today we pray at all times and yet fall regularly into the test/temptation.
This is because we are not alert and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we are not conscious of our surroundings.
If we are watchful, we will know how to live better.
The Yorubas will say “pansa o funra, pansa ja, aja o funra aja jin”, we have lost the ability to keep the true and real vigil. We keep losing grace upon grace without being conscious of it, without seeing anything wrong with us.
When we lack the rectitude to be vigilant, we yield to the instinct of going stray. True vigil goes beyond spending all the night praying. It is making those prayers effective in our own very life.
This is why Catholic Theologians teach that good prayers change good Christians. Ask yourself if your vigil is all about all night prayers or a life that is directed by the promptings of the Holy Spirit, alive, active, receptive and conscious of the Lord’s presence; the answer can only be given by you.
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