An important kind of waiting

By | November 2, 2011

Waiting. We do not like to wait. Red lights, the doctor’s office, a long checkout line. We are grateful for instant news and email. Most of us cannot imagine having to wait to get home to make a phone call. We find waiting annoying. Others find waiting agonizing: waiting with the dying, waiting for a soldier to return home or waiting for test results.

Sunday’s Gospel speaks of another kind of waiting, “keeping vigil.” When we keep vigil we are exercising a spiritual discipline that is filled with longing expectation for something that is to come. Remember the feeling you had as a child waiting for Christmas? That same feeling is what our adult vigiling calls us to. Be alert, be ready, wait with expectation and assurance.

Are you aware that in every Catholic Church there is a symbol of our keeping vigil with the Lord? It is the burning sanctuary candle reminding us that Christ is present and we his people are gathered with him. If you are in a parish that provides votive candles the thought is similar. One who has offered a prayer intention leaves a candle burning at church to keep vigil after they have left.

We read in Scripture that the women kept vigil at the tomb of Jesus and on Pentecost the Apostles gathered in the upper room waiting for God’s Holy Spirit. The church today still provides us with opportunities to keep vigil. The Roman Missal contains “vigil Masses,” each with its own set of specific prayers and readings for occasions like the vigil of Christmas, the vigil of Pentecost and of course, the Mother of all vigils — the vigil of Easter (Holy Saturday).

There are other times that the church encourages us to literally keep watch through the night. Some parishes hold 40-hours devotion and all of us should be familiar with the Holy Thursday vigil. When I was little, the vigil hour was assigned based on the alphabet. With the letter Z, my family always was getting 4 a.m. Mom would wake us up, and off to church we’d go. I was in awe coming to church in the predawn hours. There was the monstrance gleaming, the church filled with the heavy scent of the beeswax candles and the stillness so thick, you could feel it. However, I remember wishing that on occasion Father would have started the assignments from the back of the alphabet! I would not have minded coming at 9 p.m., just once.

As you read this, someone is keeping vigil on your behalf. In Appleton, Chilton, Green Bay, Marinette, Neenah and Oshkosh someone is waiting on the bridegroom. These are the people gathering in the perpetual adoration chapels throughout our diocese. Three hundredsixty-five days a year, 24 hours a day, someone is keeping vigil with the Lord. Someone is praying for you and for me.

Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.

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