vigil

vigil

[vij-uhl]
vigil [Lat.,=watch], in Christian calendars, eve of a feast, a day of penitential preparation. In ancient times worshipers gathered for vespers before a great feast and then waited outside the church until dawn for the liturgy (Mass). Traces of this practice survive in the East, but the Western Church abolished it early because of disorders in the night watch. The Roman liturgy assigns a proper Mass for the vigil of each important older feast; two of them, Holy Saturday (Easter Eve) and the vigil of Pentecost, have special ceremonies.

A vigil (from the Latin vigilia, meaning wakefulness) is a period of purposeful sleeplessness, an occasion for devotional watching, or an observance.

It can also be the eve of a religious festival observed by staying awake as a devotional exercise or ritual devotions observed on the eve of a holy day , such as the Easter Vigil held on Holy Saturday. In the Eastern Orthodox Church an All-Night Vigil is held on the eves of Sundays and all major feasts during the liturgical year.

In Christianity, especially the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions, a vigil is often held when someone is gravely ill or dying. Prayers are said and votives are often made. Vigils extend from eventual death to burial, ritualistically to pray for a loved one, but more practically so they are never alone.

During the Middle Ages, a squire on the night before his knighting ceremony was expected to take a cleansing bath, fast, make confession, and then hold an all-night vigil of prayer to God in the chapel, readying himself for his life as a knight. He would dress in white, which was the symbol for purity.

When a Jew dies, a watch is kept over the body and Tehillim are recited constantly, until the burial service.

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