Will you spend an hour with me?
This will be something different in my blog, as I don’t think I’ve written about this subject matter before. Generally I write about TV, music, things that are irritating me, but today, I wanted to write a little about something that’s a little more serious; I’m writing about religion.
I don’t know who will be reading this, but I was raised (and still am) an Episcopalian. From talking to a few friends of mine, what I’m about to talk about isn’t a universal thing, as some people I talked to about it weren’t aware of it. I’m fairly sure it’s not just an Episcopal thing, but I am not sure of the scope. Anyway, what I’m speaking of is the Easter Vigil at my church that starts after the Maundy Thursday service and runs through to noon on Good Friday.
This is (as I understand it) based off the Mark 14:32-41 (it’s also in Matthew 26:36-41) passage in the Bible where Jesus talks about “spend an hour with me” in the garden of Gethsemane. What happens is that you sign up for an hour to “be with Jesus” and spend some time in quiet contemplation and prayer. It’s supposed to be symbolic of Jesus’ desire to have his disciples with him for an hour, as he knew he was about to be betrayed by Judas.
I’ve done this a few times in years gone by as a teenager, but this was the first time I had done it as an adult. My wife and I have recently become full members of the church we’ve been going to, and as I feel more at home in it, I wanted to start doing more than just showing up on Sunday for services. So I picked the 2AM-3AM slot for two reasons. First, it was open, and I wanted to make sure there weren’t any “holes” in the vigil. Second, I remembered that I wanted to pick times that were NOT convenient for me, as it made the vigil seem more real or important. If I had picked the 8PM Thu night slot, or say the 10AM Friday slot, it would be pretty easy to do, but 2AM-3AM is not terribly convenient.
I drove to the church pretty tired, as 2AM is about when I go to bed each night anyway. When I got there, I saw that the vestry and parishioners had done a fabulous job in making the designated room look pretty. There were plenty of candles and flowers all around the place, plus some nice quiet guitar music playing – a really serene nice place. It was also terribly dark, and I believe the room was set up to resemble a darkened garden which is what Gethsemane would have been had I been there. Anyway, I was already tired, and going to a room that was set up to resemble a darkened garden at 2AM is something one would think would be enough to make one sleepy. But that was NOT an issue for me. Once I sat there in the room looking at the makeshift altar, it was quite quite invigorating mentally. Sure, my body was tired, but there was no doubt in my mind I’d stay awake. Two of the other fellows who were on the same shift as me brought what I presume to be bibles, and read from them, but I brought nothing. My understanding of the service is that Jesus asked his disciples to stay with him, and not read, or listen to their iPods or something. I feel my attention should be focused on the vigil, not something else.
So I sat. And prayed. And thought. And remembered something our priest had said at some point in the previous couple of weeks. He said that a lot of folks wonder how God talks to people – it’s not like the clouds part, and you get a big booming voice talking to you – or even a silent one in your head. God doesn’t always speak in the classic, or even understandable sense of the term. But I believe he did last night. Towards the end of my hour vigil (which was more like an hour and twenty minutes, I didn’t really feel like going after I’d been there for 60 minutes), I had said my final prayer, and thought about the love of my wife and how that is a great gift to me, and the love of God. It was at that point that I got an overwhelming feeling of love wash over me, and I took it as God speaking to me saying “I love you”. It was quite a powerful feeling. This was just at 3AM and there was no way it was a drowsy sleepy dream thing, I was wide awake when this happened, and I almost busted out in tears when it happened. It was quite the powerful moment.
That’s what I took from this home with me. A renewed sense of God’s love, because I spent an hour in a church at 2AM being quiet and just “being with” Jesus. It was quite the event for me spiritually. I will definitely be back next year, as next year I will have a daughter, and I full well expect that everything will be different out of my eyes, and I’ll be interested to see how my spiritual side is changed being a father.
Oh, and one other cool thing my church is doing. At the end of the vigil today (as I write this, it’s slated to end in 40 minutes), some of the congregation will be taking the various plants that were used in dressing up the room and planting them around the church. There’s two huge piles of dirt out front there which I assume will be used in the event of planting. I thought it was a cool thing, that they’re not just going to toss all the plants in the trash.