Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Somehow, every time I'm at the hermitage, I manage to sleep through the 5:15 a.m. bell for Vigils. The strange thing is, I love Vigils, and most mornings, I do the office on my own, using the same Psalter the monks use. But for some reason, I can't seem to get out of bed when I've got the chance to actually be in chapel with the community. What's going on?

Laziness, perhaps, or resistance to being ordered out of bed by the bell. Who knows? What's more important is Vigils itself, and what can happen spiritually during the wee hours of the night. And thinking about that helps me realize something important: for years, God has been waking me up for Vigils without my realizing it. Regular bouts of insomnia that keep me wakeful till 2:00 a.m., or (more frustratingly yet) wake me out of a sound sleep at 3:00, have actually led to some of the richest and most fruitful times in my life. Almost invariably, I wind up at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and a single light burning while the rest of the household sleeps around me--and in that deep silence and peace, I find myself writing about things that are far beyond what I consciously know. In those somber, chill, moonlit hours before dawn, everything else has been suspended, and all the stresses and challenges of the day are hushed. And this is the one time of the day I am sleepy enough and uncomfortable enough to be distracted out of my usual cares and responsibilities, the one time I'm momentarily capable of listening instead of thinking or analyzing.

Vigils: the lonely depths of the night, in which I'm sometimes--if I am very blessed--able to hear the still, small voice of God.


Anonymous said...

Great post, Paula. I was well into my forties before it occurred to me that waking up in the middle of the night could be a good thing--a time to enjoy the quiet and to just be. This is a lovely description of listening to God. Thanks.

Mary DeTurris Poust said...

I'm going to remember this the next time I'm wide awake at 2 a.m. I did have a single experience similar to what you're writing about. I was awake because of a worry and the only thing that calmed my soul was to go to the kitchen, light a candle, and listen to God in the silence. It was so powerful, and yet I have not managed to drag myself out of bed for a repeat performance.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Vinita. I don't know if this happens to writers more often than other folks, but so many times after that insomniac quiet time, I wind up filling pages in the journal with things I didn't grasp before.

Mary, thank you for this story. And my guess is that it will happen again, now that you have seen what it might be about.