Wigilia - December 2019
From the Pastor
It’s fascinating to read how different countries and cultures prepare for Christmas. One of my favourite traditions is found in Poland with their Wigilia or ‘Vigil’ that takes on Christmas Eve. A meal is shared that in-cludes the breaking and sharing of thin wafers called, oplatek. These wa-fers are not just distributed among the human members of the household. Pets and farm animals all partake of oplatek.
An old Polish legend tells of domestic animals being given the power of speech every Christmas Eve at the stroke of midnight. There’s a hope that, on receiving oplatek, the animal will have a conversation with the rest of the family and make the most of their brief, yearly chance for a chat!
This legend grew from St Luke’s Biblical account of Christ’s birth. There is a reasonable assumption that there were animals in the stable where the baby Jesus was born. There is also a reasonable assumption that these creatures joined in worshipping the Son of God – in their own way. After all, in Job 12:7-10 (ESV) we read of Job himself saying:
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every liv-ing thing and the breath of all mankind.”
And in Psalm 66:4 (ESV) the psalmist states:
All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah
There’s rather less Biblical evidence to suggest that your pet will merrily talk to you before you head off for Midnight Mass (or Pasterka – Shep-herd’s Mass) later that morning. Nonetheless, Wigilia is a charming ob-servance that reminds everyone of the importance of being vigilant or watchful, where Christ is concerned.
When Jesus knelt to pray in the Garden of Gethemane, he asked Peter, James and John to accompany Him. In Mark 14:34, Christ commands them to watch and, just four verse later, he commands them to, “watch and pray.” In the minds of many of Jesus’ followers, watching and praying were inextricably linked. Watchfulness in prayer is of great importance.
• Like the animals in the stable, we’re called to join with all creation in expectant vigil, waiting for Christ’s appearing. Now, we await the Second Coming where He shall arrive in glory to judge the world.
• Like the Disciples, we prayerfully try to be vigilant so that we don’t fall into temptation, or sleep and apathy. There are many hazards in our Christian walk and we must avoid them by moving ever more close to our Lord in prayer.
Like the Polish families who celebrate Wigilia, we must be expectant of the miraculous in a world that is broken, but redeemed; a world that is fre-quently evil, but made in love; a world that remembers a Saviour’s birth, but is longing for Him to come again…
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. [Romans 8:19-21]