If you were to find yourself in a Catholic church on a Sunday evening, anytime before a hundred years ago, you might be surprised to find a church full of people, not for Holy Mass, but for the chanting of psalms, singing of hymns and prayer, as well as benediction. It was a long-held tradition for Catholics to honour The Lord’s Day by beginning the day with Holy Mass in the morning and ending with what is called Vespers in the evening.
Vespers is a part of the liturgy of the Church known as The Divine Office, The Liturgy of the Hours, and sometimes as the Breviary. The Divine Office is the official public prayer of the Church, which has been in existence, in some form, from the early Church. Whenever we pray it, we are not just praying as individuals, but we are entering into union with the whole Church and our voice becomes that of the Church. The psalms is the largest part of the Office, and in praying the psalms we are praying the words that Christ himself would have prayed in his own prayer.
The Mass and the Divine Office go hand in hand, the Divine Office surrounds the Mass and attempts to retain its fruits throughout the whole day at assigned times, hence the name, Liturgy of the Hours. Vespers is that hour prayed around sunset, in which we give thanks to God for the day passed, but also for all God’s saving graces.
On the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we held our first public Solemn Vespers, and in accordance with the Second Vatican Council which states, “pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually (SC 100)” we hope to provide more opportunities for people to join us in public Vespers in the future, and revive the great tradition of honouring the Lord’s Day by Mass and Vespers.
Although as we begin this endeavour, we may not always be able to have Solemn Vespers and Benediction, we do hope to move towards this. The best way to see when Solemn Vespers is happening is to check the parish bulletin and the events page of this website, where you can also subscribe to the calendar feed.
This 360 video is from Solemn Vespers for the Feast of the Assumption, the view is from within the Schola