Eves, or Vigils

Eves, or Vigils the nights or evenings before certain holy days of the Church. In the primitive times, it was the custom for Christians to pass great part of the nights that preceded certain holydays in religious exercises; these, from their being performed in the night-time, were called vigils or watchings. One of the most remarkable in the early Church was the Easter vigil. According to the testimony of Lactantius and Jerome, the early Christians expected the second coming of Christ on this night, and prepared themselves, by fasting, prayer, and other spiritual exercises, for that great event. The illuminations on these vigils were often splendid. The night- watchings, in all probability, owed their origin to the necessity under which the primitive Christians lay of meeeting by night when the occasion ceased, the custom still continued. These night-meetings came to be much abused. Vigilantius, in the 4th century, strongly inveighed against them on the ground of their being injurious to the morals of young persons. He was opposed in this view by Jerome. Complaints, however, continued to increase, till at length the custom was abolished. The fasts, however, were retained, keeping the former name of vigils. The Church of England has assigned vigils to several of her festivals, but has prescribed no other observance of them than the reading. of the collect peculiar to the festival. The holydays which have vigils may be seen in the English Prayer-book, in the table of the vigils, fasts, and days of abstinence to be observed in the year. There are no vigils recognized in the Protestant Episcopal Church, the table of vigils being left out by the revisers. TheMethodist Episcopal Church observes one vigil in the year, the Watch-night, December 31, in which service is kept up until midnight. — Bingham, Orig. Eccl. book 8, chapter 10, § 1; 13:111, 4; Eden, Churchman's Dict. s.v.

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