“That was for the Lord a night of vigil, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. That same night is a vigil to be kept for the Lord by all the Israelites throughout their generations. Exodus 12:42”
Listen to: Melissa Etheridge, "Pulse"
Across the nation this past week, there have been countless vigils and memorials for the 49 innocent lives murdered last Sunday in Orlando by a lone shooter with an Big Sauer MCX assault rifle.
In times of distress and evil, the faith community is called to prayer and action. Vigil comes from the Latin word meaning wakefulness. In the hours of the night, time symbolized by the forces of darkness, we gather as symbols of light, healing and hope. We recall the words of John 1:5: “The light shine in the world and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Vigils are an ancient practice and they take many forms. There are all night vigils, vigils for two hours or so, vigils that stretch over a period of weeks. Vigils are held for many versions: personal turmoil, the needs of an individual, to the oppression experienced by a group of people to the entrenched problems of the nation. Remember the “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” and the “Grandmothers of the Plaza” in Argentina? They kept up an active presence from 1977 to 2006 demanding the whereabouts of their disappeared children. They are an important example to us of what it means to keep vigil in the long haul. To face evil with truth and spiritual power.
The psalmist repeatedly reminds us of the important to bring our prayers constantly before God “evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, And He will hear my voice. (Ps. 55:17)” and throughout the night we are to meditate and bring to God the burdens of our heart (Ps. 119: 62, 63:6). Jesus prayed all night (Luke 6:12) and Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns at midnight in prison. (Acts 16:25). Vigils are powerful and we cannot neglect prayer in the fight against evil. However we must be organized and use all our resources at hand to ensure that Orlando, Sandy Hook, Columbine, San Bernardino, Charleston, and too many others, end here. Let this be our vigil: that the candles do not go out and the prayers do not cease and the memories do not fade. Yes this is our vigil and we will pray and act and it will last until this evil ends. A vigil that spans time, space, creed and all distinctions. We will keep the vigil going and strong. Let's stand together and help end this thing.
Prayer: Vigilant God, help us be vigilant in matters of evil and social justice. Give us the strength to stay present and awake for however long it takes. Amen.