04 April 2013
Staying Awake with Christ
I wanted to share with you something I experienced on Holy Thursday. During the Order of Darkness service we have after the Washing of the Feet, the gospel readings take us through Christ's betrayal, trial, suffering and finally his crucifixion. It's very emotional as the 12 candles are extinguished two by two, and then the entire church is left lit by the single candle, Christ's light...and then finally we are left in complete darkness.
I've always wondered about the Garden of Gethsemane story. How Jesus asks His disciples to stay awake with Him and pray, and returns to find that they had fallen asleep. Didn't they care about Him? Didn't they know what He was going through? How could they not stay awake after He had asked them? Well, I won't be making that judgement on them again, let me tell you. Because I got to walk in their shoes this Holy Thursday.
So there we were, in the dark, praying on our knees, keeping vigil with Christ. It's a long service after an doubly long day at work. Much like the fishermen that were disciples, my day starts early at 5:00 a.m. I went to service that night with an open heart, with a love for our Lord, and hurting because of the suffering He endured for us. I attended the prayer service because I wanted to be there for Him. I wanted to stay awake. And then slowly, as the service went on, in the darkness, the fatigue of the day set in. My eyes were already closed in prayer...it was dark, and I could feel myself, more than once slipping away from prayer. I'd catch myself and wake myself up, and continue....until it would overtake me again. Eventually, I did make it through, but it wasn't easy for me.
I thought about the disciples. Sure, I was kneeling in church with others like me. But Christ's disciples were in a garden. During this service in church we know what we are there for...we know the service will be long. And we also have our priest and deacons there doing the readings. I was imagining how it would be had I been left alone, in a dark, warm garden, asked to stay awake after a long day of work (and not desk job work, but real physical work.)
What I learned from this beautiful service is that the disciples fell asleep not because they didn't love Him, and not because they were just tired, but more so because they were human. I imagine that Christ knew this. And as disappointed as He would be, I'm pretty sure that He understood. Finally, I think that being human shouldn't be the cop out to not being able to follow through on what we are commanded. We need to be "fully awake" to Christ's teachings, giving it our best shot. And should a little dozing happen to take over, give ourselves a little nudge to wake up, refocus ourselves, and continue on, fully awake, in the light.
You can hear this post read on this week's episode of "The Next Step with Fr. Vazken"