The night before a big trip is often fraught with preparations. Searching for tickets, laying out maps and directions, checking and double-checking bags—not to mention worrying about keys or a wallet—all take time. Journeying for an outdoor adventure only requires more equipment, and frequently more preparation. Often I sleep very little during these nights preceding a journey or an adventure. Even after the preparations are made, the night, which ought to be restful, can become a time of watching and waiting. Marked by readiness and anticipation, the night before a big day passes slowly, and eventually morning comes.
The watchful night spent in waiting is not irredeemable. Vigils have a powerful significance in the life of the Church. Held on the eve of various significant feasts, vigils are marked by chanting the psalms, singing hymns, listening to sermons and periods of prayer and meditation. In the Middle Ages, a squire anticipating his knighting ceremony would pass the night in a chapel in prayer. A vigil, whether it precede a knighting or a feast, is a spiritual awakening, a preparation for celebration. Much like making arrangements for a journey, a vigil readies the believer for the great event of the next day.
Today marks the vigil which begins the Feast Day of Holy Father Dominic. This day will be full of preparations for the feast of our beloved founder, but we will mark our vigil particularly with the Liturgy of the Hours in his honor. Tonight, watch, wait, and pray with the Dominicans, and enter more fully into the celebration of one of the Church’s holiest and most innovative saints.
Image: The Death of St. Dominic, Bl. Fra Angelico