The Guardian of Victory

Vigilance

 

Part 22

 


In the Latin translation of the Scriptures there are a number of "V words" that play an important role in the effort to chart our course to Christ. Venite! - Come! Videte! - See! Vacate! - Be still! Perhaps the most important is the one which our Lord used with particular solemnity: Vigilate! It can be translated a number of ways: Keep watch! Be alert! Stay awake! Be on guard! But no matter what translation you choose, its importance remains: What I say to you, I say to all. Watch! Vigilate!

(Mark 13:37)


VIGILANCE is the sentinel of the spiritual life. It is the guardian of victory in the quest for holiness. VIGILANCE safeguards both peace and perseverance. It enables us to triumph over the little and large temptations to mediocrity, routinization, half-heartedness, mean-spiritedness. VIGILANCE helps us to go the extra mile on the path to holiness. It keeps us alert for the pitfalls on the way to our Lord, and invites us to recognize His summons to come, to see and to be still before the unfolding of His plan in our lives.


Perhaps his forays into the world of knighthood and battle made St. Francis of Assisi a man of exceptional VIGILANCE. The merchant's son knew what it was to keep watch, to be alert in battle, to be on guard in the face of earthly enemies. When he entered the Lord's service, Francis transposed the lessons he learned as an aspiring knight into viable spiritual weapons to fight the battles of the Lord. Like St. Paul, the saint from Assisi soon learned that in the wars of the spirit, we are not contending against flesh and blood... but against the powers and the spiritual hosts of wickedness.
(Eph. 6:12) And, like St. Paul, the Little Poor Man learned that VIGILANCE is the guardian of every spiritual victory in Christ.


VIGILANCE marked every aspect of St. Francis' spiritual quest. He was known for keeping long, solitary vigils through the night, watching and waiting for the Lord in silence and prayer, building up his spiritual reserves through contemplation. He practiced VIGILANCE in thought and encouraged others to do likewise. To the friar who was struggling with thoughts of pride and arrogance, the Seraphic Patriarch advised nurturing humble, thankful thoughts. To those fearful of falling in times of temptation, he counseled nourishing interior VIGILANCE with prayers of praise and the remembrance of God's greatness and goodness.


The Franciscan philosophy of VIGILANCE is very simple: We take every thought captive to obey Christ
(2 Cor. 10:6) Unguarded thoughts too often lead to unguarded words. The Little Poor Man was aware of the great power which words have to lift up or to tear down, to wound or to heal. He made his own the earnest prayer of the Psalmist: Set a guard over my mouth, 0 Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 140:3) The sturdy guard VIGILANCE also enabled St. Francis to avoid acting out of mere impulse, of responding uncharitably or impatiently to the untoward, the unexpected or the difficult in his life.


VIGILANCE is, above all, love. It IS the way toward our encounter with Christ. (Navarre Biblical Commentary) This kind of VIGILANCE kept St. Francis' spiritual life so vibrantly fresh that even on his deathbed he could energetically proclaim: Let us begin! VIGILANCE ensures that we, too, remain alert as we await the Lord so that when He comes and knocks He may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in  His praise. (Collect for Monday of the First Week of Advent)




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