Monks, nuns, and hermits do it … maybe the rest of us should now, too!
What is the spiritual tradition behind night prayer?
Jesus used to spend nights in prayer, burning with love for his Father, surrendering everything. He was in his Father’s presence. So, the night prayer exposes us to this kind of love. A religious sister rises in the night because God is calling her. She doesn’t fear losing precious sleep. What can she offer the One who has given Himself for the sake of love if not some of her time?
How do you pray in the silence of the night?
Alone in her cell, a sister prays to the living God and His word in the Scriptures keeps her awake. Guided by the Virgin, she comes into the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, communing with angels and saints. This loving vigil allows her to join the other members of her community who are also praying in the privacy of their own cells. All of them together become a part of the great mystical body of the Church.
Women and men religious are not experts in prayer; they have to struggle and humbly let God come to them like the rest of us do.
What does night prayer contribute to the world?
Like a mother who can hear her baby cry, the sister hears the groans of those who suffer and silently watches over the sleep of her sisters and brothers in Christ. She must love those who have refused the love of God, console those who doubt and despair. She is there to give voice to the silent, to shed tears with those who cry alone in the dead of night.
Can this prayer be a form of penitence?
In her humility and suffering, the sister discovers a sense of joy in the presence of God that everyone ignores. Like a watchman awaiting daybreak, she waits for the coming of Christ, who will dry our tears. Her nightly vigil hails the Resurrection, life’s triumph over death. In the name of the whole Church and of all mankind, she awaits the return of Christ: “Maranatha! Come, Lord!”
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