Watching is a craft to develop. To watch is to wait, patiently. Watching implies attention, yearning, and hope. If the fear in the night tells us that grace will not be enough, then in watching we must be attentive to the grace that is there.
During our discussions tonight on the absence of weekly liturgical prayer specifically for those who are mourning, we discussed the Mourner’s Kaddish which is said each week during a traditional Jewish prayer service. The prayer is as follows:
We ask God to keep watch with those who weep because we know the end. John gives us this vision of a transformed creation where the church is that beautiful, life-giving, at-one-ness with God. “Weeping may tarry for the night / but joy comes with the morning.” Ps. 30:5b.
It is in the quiet and in the solitude of the night that our unresolved sadness begins to spill out. We ask God to watch over those who persist in unresolved grief because we know that each of us will suffer from this persistent grief.
She ends this chapter with the promise that God does make: “he will keep us close, even in darkness, in doubt, in fear and in vulnerability. He promises that we will not be left alone. He will keep watch with us in the night.”
When we pray the prayers we’ve been given by the church – the prayers of the psalmist and the saints, the Lord’s Prayer, the Daily Office – we pray beyond what we can know, believe, or drum up ourselves.
As I prayed that night, I wanted to believe the things I proclaimed: that God knew and loved me, that this terrible moment, too, would be redeemed. I believed it and I didn’t. Reaching for this old prayer service was an act of hope.