Evening Prayer, sometimes called vespers, is an official rite of the church that is as ancient as the Eucharist. It is part of what we call the Liturgy of the Hours and is truly part of the church’s liturgy. We believe that Christ is truly present whenever the church gathers to pray and sing in celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours. The two primary hours that are celebrated are in the morning and evening. These hours use the daily rhythm of the sun to symbolize the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The structure of the prayer is very simple: we gather for praise, petition, listening to God’s word, and listening in the silence of our hearts. The praise is in the form of psalms and canticles from the Scriptures; the petitions are similar to the General Intercessions at Mass. We listen to a reading from God’s word and we reflect on that reading in silence or with the help of a homilist. Like the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours is a sung prayer. Sunday vespers, or evensong, was once a common experience for Catholics. Encouraging its popularity puts us in touch with very early traditions of the church.
If your parish is looking for a popular devotion that is an official liturgy of the church, this is one that will join them in communion with the rest of the church throughout the world. Depending on people’s desired prayer time and availability, either Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer can be scheduled. If you are looking for a simple book to just “try it out” without paging through the more complicated volumes of the “Liturgy of the Hours” book set, or even the abbreviated “Book of Christian Prayer,” try Praise God with All Creation. If your parish has a “rosary group,” Rosary Reflections will give them an updated, scriptural approach to this devotion.
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Caroline M. Thomas
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