Thursday, 17 April 2014

What does it mean to watch and pray?

The night of that first Maundy Thursday in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus tells Peter, James and John: "Remain here and watch with me... Watch and pray." (Matthew 26.38,41)

But what did he mean by "watching"? Of course, they'd have been familiar with soldiers keeping watch, looking out vigilantly for the approach of the enemy. Were they supposed to be keeping an eye out for Judas and the mob?

I don't think so. The Psalmist writes about a different kind of watchkeeping. "As the eyes of servants / look to the hand of their master, / as the eyes of a maidservant / to the hand of her mistress, / so our eyes look to the Lord our God / till he has mercy upon us." (Psalm 123.2)

Jesus was keeping a contemplative watch on the night before Calvary. Facing the pain of the cross he sought one again the assurance that this was his Father's will. And then he waited, kept silence, listened for the gentle voice, watched.

For us, too, these days leading up to Easter are a good time for stillness. For quiet wonder. For receptive beholding of the mystery at the heart of all life and creation. A good weekend for contemplation.

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