Your Heart, His Home Keeping watch in the little hours

grant whitty 694044 unsplash Eucharistic adoration / / Grant Whitty on Unsplash

When the good folks who organize perpetual adoration are trying to recruit adorers – a formidable and honorable task to be sure, one I certainly couldn't do – this is the verse they often use on the flyer: "Can you not stay awake with me one hour?" And this, of course, recalls the Lord's words to his sleepy disciples who kept nodding off while he was in prayerful agony anticipating his passion. 

An extraordinary moment is captured in that verse, and I understand why they choose it. It is a remarkable accounting of the Lord's deep desire for our friendship, our company. It also recalls the natural entreaty of a man in need of support and the failure of human weakness. What it does not immediately recall is joy.  

In recent years, in addition to my usual holy hour commitments, I've started serving as a substitute adorer. Once every few months I am asked to take one of the "ironman hours" – those brutal hours between 2 am and 5 am, in many ways the hidden life blood of perpetual adoration.

When I was young and healthier, keeping a holy hour in the middle of the night was a common habit, and frankly, fairly easy for me. With more than half my life behind me and a slightly less healthy body, a holy hour in the middle of the night, though I cherish this intimate time with Jesus, has taken on a new timbre of sacrifice, but far more importantly, joy. 

It is unfailingly moving to enter the chapel at 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning and find there an adorer, often on their knees, deep in prayer, keeping close company with the King of Kings. This being their regular habit, not something out of their ordinary routine. I marvel at their faithfulness with deep gratitude. We make our quiet exchange as I take the watch, and after a moment, their footsteps disappear into the darkness and I am left alone with Jesus where the sweetest silence descends and envelopes me like a warm blanket. This is the Jesus who knows my name and is so delighted that I have come.

There is a unique quiet that visits the adoration chapel in the middle of the night, a stillness that cannot be recaptured easily in the daytime. In these, the little hours of the morning, I am more and more convinced that it is not only the hour of agony that the Lord wishes to share with us in this devotion – though sometimes it is that hour, too – but perhaps even more so, Jesus invites us to know him in those early hours of perfect joy, those shepherd hours, when those simple and faithful men of good will kept watch; those who, while quietly and humbly fulfilling their normal duty, also lived in anticipation of Emmanuel. It was in their normal routine that the sky erupted in music and glory and a mystery they could barely comprehend. 

These nameless few would race to that hidden cave and find the word made flesh in the unspoiled innocence of a holy infant – a Messiah who knew them by name and was so happy they had come.

This hidden Jesus, this innocent child-Savior, this font of all joy, this answer to all anxiety, this conqueror of every fear and tribulation, this Prince of Peace, Holy One, Comforter: he is there too desiring your friendship. 

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