21 September 2007

The Beauty of Evening Prayer

Ah, Vespers or Evening Prayer? That is, LSB offers two settings of the sunset service. One, Vespers, following very closely the traditional Vespers of the middle ages, and which was extensively used and loved in Lutheran parishes of the 16th and 17th century as the usual way to begin a Feast or the Lord's Day. People gathered the day prior to the Feast and on each Saturday, prayed Vespers, and afterwards those who would commune the next day went to confession.

Vespers in LSB is quite faithful to the old ordo, by and large, though it does move the office hymn up to right after the Psalmody.

But it is Evening Prayer that I dearly love. The opening versicles affirming that in Jesus Christ we have a light that no darkness can overcome - doesn't matter WHAT darkness is threatening to engulf you at the moment. Then the glorious Phos Hilaron. That hymn was already so old in St. Basil's day that no one knew who first composed it, just that Christians regularly used it to greet the evening light.

The Psalmody in Evening Prayer begins with Psalm 141 set to a very haunting melody. LSB Altar Book notes that incense is fitting with the singing of this Psalm that asks that "let my prayer rise before You as incense." Two more psalms follow. Then the Office Hymn. Tonight's was "O Christ, Who Art the Light and Day."

Then the Scripture reading(s) and response. A new setting of the Magnifcat has been included in this rite. Get to know it, because it's a winner. The main body of the Magnificat is set to chant in the style of Anglican chant with a refrain of the first verse of Magnificat that occurs at the beginning, in the middle, and after the Gloria Patri.

Evening Prayer closes with the Ektenna, a litany that leads us to pray for many, many things, asking for them all the mercy of God; the collect for peace; and the Lord's prayer. Benedicamus and Benediction bring it to a close.

The Collect for Peace is a gem shared by both Vespers and Evening Prayer, and it asks the most wonderful thing. Peace, yes, but peace that is "free from the fear of our enemies." Get it? Not peace by God eliminating our enemies, but by Him eliminating in us the fear of them! In other words, real peace, the peace that passes understanding, that comes not from external things being set in a way that we prefer, but our hearts being set at rest in God.

Yes, Evening Prayer is truly one of the great treasures of LSB, and much as I love Vespers, I think I prefer Evening Prayer to it! What about you?


Michael said...

Wonderful insight. Thanks for the photo also.

Anonymous said...

In our parish, we have used the Evening Prayer from LW for 10 years now during Advent and Lent, and there is division in the house as to whether the "new" Magnificat in LSB is to be prefered to the "old" one in LW..... we REALLY liked the "old" Evening Prayer's Magnificat.....

Oi! The "hell" of living in unity.... what shall we choose?

A Wayfarer

William Weedon said...

Thanks, Michael.

Anon, I very much like the old Magnificat as well, but the new one is also VERY nice. I confess, I didn't like it *at first* because it was different. But having used it repeatedly, I find myself very drawn to it.

Future Church said...

Pastor Weedon,

I should have read this post before writing above. I can only speak for myself when I say that I've been drawn for some time to the idea of an evening prayer service. If you should happen to implement it at St. Paul, I'll definitely be a regular visitor...which reminds me, I look forward to the taping this Sunday. :-)