Catholicism, Easter, Jesus

Keeping Vigil

“Are you sure He said three days? Maybe you’re remembering wrong.”

“I’m pretty sure. Wish I was wrong though.”

I wonder if any such conversation occurred between the disciples on that first Holy Saturday. It is the full day of Christ being dead in the tomb. The day of waiting, trying to avoid doubt, remembering all the things He said and promised. It must have been a terribly long day. If I were in that locked room with Mary and the eleven remaining disciples, I’d probably have been grumbling with impatience. “Why not this morning? Yesterday and last night were awful enough, why must Jesus make us wait any longer? If He’s coming back as He said He would, why not this morning? It’s the sabbath, after all, so wouldn’t today be appropriate? What is tomorrow? Sunday? Sundays mean nothing to us. He should have risen today.” It’s sad how easily I can imagine myself making these comments.

But with the death and Resurrection of Christ, God was doing something entirely new. Truly Sunday meant nothing to the world in the days when Christ walked the earth. The pagan religions certainly held it in no special regard, it was simply another day of the week. The Jewish people had their holy sabbath from Friday sundown through Saturday. What was Sunday to them? This reality in itself reveals the radical newness of the divine work of the Paschal Mystery. With the Resurrection, God gave us a new holy day. He sanctified Sunday as the weekly anniversary of His defeat of sin and death, making it a great high feast for all who belong to Christ. The influence of Christ is unstoppable and so we find Sunday to be ‘different’ from all other days of the week even among those who do not worship God or practice the Chrsitian faith.

Indeed God did something new and when God does something new it is on His terms – His wise and perfect terms. His terms often involve plenty of waiting time for our part. With the waiting comes a choice: grumble against God’s ways, perhaps mysterious, inconvenient or difficult, and try impatiently to move things along by our own will or keep vigil. The two approaches to waiting could not be more different. Keeping vigil as we wait upon the Lord to fulfill His promises and carry out His will implies so much. Hope- for why keep vigil if you have not the hope that what you are waiting for will come through in the end? Trust and surrender- placing that which we wait for into the hands of God, into the secure and steady grip of His love. Patience- refusing to demand God perform on our terms, we peacefully allow Him to take the lead, make the move and direct the work. A Prayerful Spirit- our vigil might not be free of questions or doubts or pain, but by prayer we bring all of that to the feet of our Lord; “with confidence [we] draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

This is a day of vigil. Indeed, each day is opportunity to keep vigil for we are all waiting on the Lord. For answers to prayers, for guidance, for mercy and ultimately for Him to welcome us into eternal life, we keep vigil. On the wood of the Cross we kneel at the feet of the enthroned Resurrected Christ.

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