An elder said: A man who keeps death before his eyes will at all times overcome his cowardice.
Reading: Mark 13:35-37
35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
Nothing makes me more grumpy than when we are staying somewhere which has a hard bed. I just cannot get comfortable. Within minutes my hips hurt and there is little prospect of a good nights sleep. Added to which the next day is not only sleep deprived but I find myself limping around from hip ache.
The keeping of vigils is an ancient Christian practice. While the rest of the world slept, the old hermits and monks stayed awake, deliberately depriving themselves of sleep to pray through the dark watches of the night for the safety and protection of humankind. For them, the wilderness was the dark abode of Satan and his demons, the kingdom of death. Sometimes, like St. Anthony, they purposely inhabited tombs to put themselves in closer contact with the enemy. They were vigilant warriors whose weapon was prayer.
But they also believed in keeping physical death before their eyes, an inescapable reality for every human being. The contemplation of death, they thought, put everything else into perspective: it highlighted the temporary nature of life, it brought into focus the brevity of time, and it gave urgency to their daily work for God.
However, Cistercian Michael Casey suggests:
Our Christian faith keeps reminding us that death is the doorway to eternal life, so that there is no need to blot it out of consciousness. . . . One of the high points of monastic profession is the triple chant: ‘Receive me, O Christ, according to your promise and I shall live; do not disappoint me of my hope.’
We can be released from the terrible fear of annihilation that accompanies faithlessness and unbelief. When we confront what we most fear, we prepare ourselves for the moment when we must take our leave.
I’m going to try sleeping on the floor for one hour – no longer! I know I’ll not sleep so I will reflect about my own death
Lord God, help me ponder what is almost impossible to comprehend, the hope of et in the promises of Christ; and then be thankful.