Vigils

Periods of prayer, services of worship, or times of fasting* held during the night or on the day before a church festival. Nocturnal services began very early in Christian history and were possibly influenced both by the example of Jesus praying at night and by His parable of the Ten Virgins with the arrival of the Bridegroom at midnight. Certainly by about a.d. 200, vigils were kept for a part of the night before the services at Easter and Pentecost. In the Western Church the vigils have gradually become daytime rather than nighttime activities. They are regarded as periods of fasting and preparation for major festivals. In the Roman Church a vigil of fasting is enjoined before Whitsunday and before the feasts of the Assumption, All Saints, and Christmas, while periods of devotional preparation are expected for others. The Church of England's Prayer Book enjoins sixteen vigils for sixteen holy or feast days.