What is Vespers?

Vespers is a word that may strike many of us as familiar—it might invoke the feeling of something ancient, meditative, quiet—and all of those impressions would be right. But Vespers is a new service for many of us at Christ Church Cathedral, and Fr. Tom thought it might be helpful to provide a bit of information about what, exactly, Vespers is, as we prepare for our 5 p.m. service on Sunday, December 17.

“Vespers” means, simply, “evening prayers.” Traditionally taking place near sunset, Vespers is said around the world by Christians from many denominations, including Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Lutherans, and, of course, Anglicans. In our Prayer Book, we follow “An Order of Worship for the Evening,” beginning on p. 29, for our Vespers service. The Prayer Book provides a basic rubric for the service, but also offers liturgical flexibility—so much, in fact, that both a Solemn Choral Evensong and a simple spoken evening prayer service could both fall under the umbrella of “Vespers.”

In short, the service allows us to keep many of our beloved traditions, but also to experiment and to develop new traditions. You may recognize elements from Evensong at Vespers, and if you have prayed Evening Prayer from the Prayer Book, you will recognize portions of the service that come from there, too. The service includes congregational singing in addition to choral music, a homily or sermon, readings, prayers, and silence.

Throughout the year, we will have several Vespers services. I hope you will join us for one of these beautiful, meditative services as we offer prayers and music in worship. The next Vespers service will be for the Feast of the Presentation, (also known as “Candlemas”) on Friday, February 2, at 7:00 p.m. The Bishop’s Choir School will be singing for their first service of the year, and candles will be blessed.