Basil of Caesarea writes, in the conclusion of his Moral Rules, that the Christian’s specific identity consists in this vigilance directed towards Christ: ‘What is it that defines the Christian? Keeping watch every day and hour and being ready to carry out perfectly what pleases God, in the knowledge that the Lord will come at an hour we do not expect.’

Basil’s emphasis on the temporal dimension of vigilance is significant. A type of the vigilant man or woman is the prophet, who translates the gaze and the Word of God into the ‘today’ of time and history. Vigilance is inner lucidity, intelligence, the ability to think critically, awareness of and involvement in the world in which one lives, and freedom from distraction and dissipation. The vigilant person, who has achieved unification by listening to the Word of God and remaining inwardly attentive to the demands of the Word, becomes responsible – in other words radically not indifferent, aware of the need to pay attention to his or her surroundings, and in particular, capable of watching over others and taking care of them.

Enzo Bianchi, Words of Spirituality. (SPCK, 2002) 11.

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