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All-night Vigils


Thurs­day. [Phil 1:20–27; Luke 6:12–19] And He con­tin­ued all night in prayer to God. Here is the foun­da­tion and be­gin­ning of Chris­tian all-night Vig­ils. A prayer­ful heat chas­es a­way sleep, and ex­hil­a­ra­tion of the spir­it does not al­low one to no­tice the pass­ing of time. True men of prayer do not no­tice this; it seems to them that they had just begun to pray, mean­while day has al­ready ap­pear­ed. But un­til one reach­es such per­fec­tion, he must take on the la­bour of vig­ils. Soli­taries have borne this and bear it; ce­no­bit­ic mo­nas­tics have borne this and bear it; rev­er­ent and God-fear­ing lay­peo­ple have borne this and bear it. But though vig­il comes with dif­fi­cul­ty, its fruit re­mains in the soul, di­rect­ly and con­stant­ly pres­ent — peace of soul and con­tri­tion, with weak­en­ing and ex­haus­tion of the bod­y. It is a state very valu­able for those who are zeal­ous a­bout pros­per­ing in the spir­it! That is why in plac­es where vig­ils are es­tab­lish­ed (on Athos), they do not want to give them up. Ev­ery­one re­al­izes how dif­fi­cult it is, but no­bod­y has a de­sire to re­scind this or­der, for the sake of the prof­it which the soul re­ceives from vig­ils. Sleep, more than any­thing, re­lax­es and feeds the flesh; vig­ils more than any­thing hum­ble it. One who sleeps abun­dant­ly is bur­dened by spir­i­tu­al deeds and is cold to­wards them; he who is vig­i­lant is quick in move­ment, like an an­te­lope, and burns in the spir­it. If the flesh must be taught to be good, like a slave, then there is no bet­ter way to suc­ceed in this than through fre­quent vig­ils. Here the flesh ful­ly feels the pow­er of the spir­it over it, and learns to sub­mit to it; while the spir­it ac­quires the hab­it of reign­ing over the flesh.