It was 5.30 am and three undergraduates slumbered on the Chapel floor of St Anselm Hall. Meanwhile the Chaplain and 37 years their senior (aka the Vicar of Totttington) paced about the place wrapped in his cassock and scapular; the heating had gone off and it was more than a touch chilly and he warmed himself next to the well lit votive candle stand. It was second All Night Vigil that had been arranged in Hall and this year it was in support of Fortalice and thee wonderful and important work that they undertake for victims of domestic violence and abuse.
During the Vigil prayers were said at intervals of about three hours culminating with a celebration of Holy Communion at 8.00am, These followed the ancient Offices of the Church that were set by St Benedict of Nursia nearly one thousand five hundred years ago. At 4.00 am in the morning seven students arrived in their gowns to say Terce (one appeared in his pyjamas and night gown). Throughout the Vigil music was played on the piano by various volunteers and a small choir of eight sang Tallis, amongst other composers quite beautifully and in a way that had never happened in Chapel before. Undergraduates came in from Spain, Poland, Lithuania, the Basque, Switzerland, France, Sweden and many other places besides. It was a quite wonderful and donations both financial and practical filled the vestibule.
The next day, as I batted on with tasks that needed to be attended to in Totttington, I suddenly realised the extent of my gap of years from the young people who so marvellously supported our efforts! Living out the Christian faith does take an effort; it requires us to make choices; it is not resignation to some sort of crude fatalism; it invites us to nurture in our inner lives an active trust in God who is with us in whatever circumstances is with us. Rather like the Vigil in Slems it also involves a lot of patience and an investment is silence. Lent is that time when we are encouraged to discover, or perhaps more accurately put aside, some time for silence and to be with God. The Church is always available for this purpose; I find myself popping in at all sorts of times during the week. All one has to do is get the key and open the door, sit down, light a candle maybe and be still. As one very wonderful Benedictine Nun once wrote to a novice, “Patience is faith in the providence of God.”
Keep the Faith. The Vicar