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Vigils


Thurs­day. [Phil 1:20–27; Luke 6:12–19] And He con­tin­ued all night in prayer to God. Here is the founda?tion 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 mo?nastics 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 move?ment, 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.

Saint Theo­phan the Recluse