A tradition on Maundy Thursday is to keep vigil through the night, meditating and praying, as Peter, James and John were asked to do in the Garden of Gethsemane.

For the past six years, St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church has observed this time of vigil by hosting an all-night reading of Dante’s “Inferno.” Tonight beginning at 9 p.m. in the church, you can hear “Inferno” read the way Dante originally intended.

Parishioners, distinguished poets, eminent translators, visiting scholars and other guests will read selected cantos. Each half-hour segment will begin with the tolling of the tower bells and include silent meditation, atmospheric music and the reading of one canto.

The reading will continue until 10 a.m. on Good Friday.

Attendees are welcome to stay for as much of the reading as they would like and arrive or depart at any time. Other areas of the church and columbarium garden are available for prayer and to keep watch throughout the night.

Many St. Philippians will participate as readers, hosts and musicians. Guest readers for 2014 include Fabian Alfie, head of the department of French and Italian at the University of Arizona. Alfie is a five-year veteran of the event.

Other special guests include Susan Karant-Nunn, director of the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies and Regents’ Professor of History at the UA, playwright Patrick Baliani, Anthony Cicchino, a student in the UA’s Department of Italian, Rabbi Helen Cohn of Congregation M’kor Hayim, poet Richard Tavenner and well-known local actor David Alexander Johnston.

This year, several sets of youth and their parents are participating in the wee hours.

Dante’s epic poem “Divine Comedy” is an allegorical account of the poet’s journey through the three realms of the dead during the last three days of Holy Week (which begins with Maundy Thursday) in 1300.

The portion titled “Inferno” tells of the journey through hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. Dante’s trip through hell is an inward journey to the dark heart of the human soul.

This annual tradition draws a wide and diverse community. It has become the custom of a United Methodist youth group from Phoenix to arrive in the small hours of the night and keep watch until the break of dawn.

St. Philip’s is at 4440 N. Campbell Ave., at the corner of East River Road. Parking is available in the north parking lot or under the solar covered parking structure on the east side. The office phone is 299-6421.

For more information about St. Philip’s services and programs, go to www.stphilipstucson.org online.