Thursday, March 22, 2012


A few nights ago, I had an odd moment of inspiration.

I decided to pull into church on my way back from work. This is not something unusual or extraordinary in itself, I often drop in on the way home, to find a moment of respite and quiet to gather my thoughts... and pray for the church's development for a few minutes.

However while I was there on this occasion, my mind drifted towards what different people do in Lent. I'm not a great person for giving things up, for which I have my reasons (I think if you are going to give something sinful up, you should do your best to give it up as permanently as possible... and not just for 40 days; I also believe fasting is something that should be enacted out of personal conviction as and when needed and not enforced primarily by the liturgical calendar).

However, there's one thing I do that if the weathers holds out, I cherish doing every year. On the night of Maundy Thursday, I travel to the edge of town and I sit and meditate for a while... usually about an hour. My method has evolved over time but my reasoning and purpose have always remained the same.

You see I'm very mindful of the moment in the Gospels where Jesus found himself emotionally isolated from his friends, due in no small part to their weariness:
"They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners."
Mark 14:32-42
Jesus prayed alone in Gethsemane
Knowing that God is not bound by time, I like to try and do my part... to keep watch for one hour. To think, pray and meditate about Jesus... in support of Jesus while in the past he is wrestling with his emotions in the garden. The very first year I did this, I went inside the local church to do it. However as I walked back home at about 3am (I was far more hardcore about it then), I decided to pause for a final moment of reflection in the park. It was then that one of those unique moments of magic that we so often miss if we are not alert to them, occurred. The church clock struck three times and over on the hills bordering the town, I heard a single lamb bleating.

That one moment defined the whole experience for me and gave me cause to try whenever I could to repeat the exercise al fresco. Following my time on the geographical Gethsemane, I went a step further and took to meditating on a hillside overlooking my town. Doing this has given me added insight because there is no light except that which you bring with you. Every noise you hear could be an animal or suspicious farmer wondering what on Earth you are doing. Every time the occasional car headlight sweeps past you from afar, you feel very exposed. These emotions have added to the experience for me... the psychological discomfort and insecurity they breed, help me to feel in a very small way, that I am sharing a minute glimpse... a microscopic  deposit of the kind of emotions that may have been with Jesus that night, many years ago.

The reason I'm bringing this up now and not merely at the time I do it, is because this year, I feel I'd like to encourage others to do something similar. This is why I've given my post a Twitter hashtag for a title. I am hoping to drum up a little support for the idea by using the hashtag #Vigil2012.

I don't imagine in a million years this is going to go viral or global... but it's something special and meaningful that I have appreciated over the years, that I want to be able to help others to discover and share in themselves.

I do appreciate that people have family commitments and in some cases a trip out into the wilderness might be inadvisable and dangerous. Do what you must to make it work for you in your personal circumstances... go in a group, or use a small room or open church, but spend the time however brief... and you won't be disappointed.

So spread the word with #Vigil2012 and if you do get involved, please let me know how you get on... I would be genuinely interested to know and share in your experience.



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