Holding Vigil

Used with permission

“Vision After the Sermon “by Paul Gauguin

“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.”  Gn. 32:24

“…I saw God face to face, and my life was spared.”  Gn. 32:32

Recently, I enjoyed viewing the work of my favorite Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin.  “Vision After the Sermon” took me by the shoulders and shook me awake.  “Pay attention to me!” it shouted.  Initially, it profoundly disturbed me.  I identified with Jacob and felt abandoned on the other side of the river, left to wrestle alone.  I was angry that the spectators judged from afar, while Jacob fought on their behalf.  My response was so intense, I let it live itself out, unattended for a week.

Spirit has done her work in the meantime.  Today, as I return to the painting, it whispers, “They are not spectators.  They hold vigil for Jacob.”  Awe impregnates me.  What a holy thing it is to hold vigil for someone who struggles to see the face of God.  When we are aware of someone’s struggle and we set aside a time to surround him with the light and grace of God, we are in solidarity with him, even while standing on the other side of the river.  Because we vigil, our loved one, or a group about whom we care, is not alone.  We can send someone the energy of God whenever we think of her throughout the day.  In this way, the spectator becomes a participant.

I have experienced the spiritual practice of holding vigil before an important meeting.  It can have a profound effect on the outcome, because it frees us from the need to force a desired outcome, thus allowing the Spirit to guide the struggle.  When we intentionally pray for the openness to see the face of God in unexpected places- even in a business meeting- our lives as we know them are spared, changed.

It comes to me that I hold vigil with all of you who read these reflections.  We wrestle together.  We are a community in search of the Face of God.  Thank you.  Amen.