A period of “staying awake” for spiritual reasons. Traditionally, watches have been kept before the Blessed Sacrament on the night of Maundy Thursday at the “Altar of Repose.” Watches may also be kept to provide prayer and comfort for the sick or the dying. The term derives in part from Christ's question to his disciples at Gethsemane, “Could you not watch with me for an hour?” (Mt 26:40). In the seventeenth century, Deacon Nicholas Ferrar instituted a “Night Watch” at Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire, England. During these watches one or more members of the extended Ferrar family recited the whole Psalter while kneeling.
Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.