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On Evening Prayer in Advent


Jesus Christ is the light of the world.

The Light no darkness can overcome.

Stay with us Lord for it is evening.

And the day is almost over.

Let Your light scatter the darkness,

and illumine Your Church.

Joyous Light of glory!  Of the immortal Father,

heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ.

And thus the service of light begins Evening Prayer.  I’m probably going to loose any remaining “confessional” cred I ever had by saying that I like Evening Prayer more than Vespers.  Yes, I know Vespers is older.  Yes I know, Evening Prayer is the “new thing” and therefore should be despised.  But I contend that it is a beautiful new thing.  The symbolism is profound.  And for me, Evening Prayer is the service evokes very fond memories not just of student-led chapel services at the seminary but even the “Bach at the Sem” services at which I worked running the sound board in the new Chapel of Sts Timothy and Titus.  I remember fondly singing Evening Prayer on Monday afternoons a cappella with “the whole house” after house tea at Westfield House, and privately in the church at my first parish before I went home to my family, on vulture’s row on my ship in the middle of the Persian Gulf, on the “lido deck” of my second ship after listening to the BBC during the opening months of Operation Iraqi Freedom, in the chapels of the medical aid stations all around Kuwait.  I think I even attempted to lead it at the chapel at Bethesda Naval Hospital, once.

Evening Prayer was, for me, the singular worthwhile contribution of the entire Lutheran Book of Worship project.  I learned it almost untouched from its LBW roots in the LCMS successor, Lutheran Worship.  I remember reading amidst effusive praise of Father Neuhaus in the wake of his death that long after he had become a priest in the Roman communion, there gathered weekly at his apartment in NYC a group of folks who sang Evening Prayer together out of the LBW.

I lament that the daily offices (Matins, Vespers, Compline) are not so well known among us Lutherans and I, quite frankly, resent having to make apology for using them.  I lament our families don’t use them in their homes.  I lament that our congregations don’t know them or at least don’t know them well enough to be comfortable using them.  And just in case someone thinks those services died with the monasteries, there was a never an English Lutheran  service book printed in the US that did not have at least Matins and Vespers.  When Lutheran congregations were having all those half-masses, they could have been singing Matins and they would have been the better for it too.

A parishioner likened liturgies to dance steps.  This one is worth learning.

When it’s done well, the service is truly beautiful and it always seems appropriate all the more so at Advent.

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