Sunday, April 5, 2009


For the last fifteen hundred years, every evening, every day of the year, in all Benedictine and other monasteries around the world, prayers rise like evening incense in thanksgiving for the day that is coming to its natural end. Where morning Lauds sings praise for new birth and creation, Vespers is poignant farewell to daylight, and to life itself. Yet it is also a time of hushed and hopeful anticipation.

Each Sunday evening, the Camaldolese sing of this "homeland of our hope," as St. Aelred of Rievaulx puts it, that lies beyond the edges of the horizon and the last flare of the sinking sun: "O Radiant Light, O holy Glory of God the immortal blessed Father in heaven. O Christ Jesus! Now as the sunset comes upon us and we see the evening lights, we praise God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit! It is right at all times to sing your praise with all the universe, O Son of God: you are the Life of the world!"

I often find myself close to weeping during Vespers: it is a daily reminder that everyone and everything I love is fragile, mutable, and passing. But at the same time--and this, perhaps, is what really accounts for those trembling tears--it is a powerful symbol of the promise of Christ that though we die, yet shall we live.

1 comment:

Chris and Debi Lorenc said...

I love vespers, too, Paula. It's the hour I most often celebrate on my own. Do you know Brother David Steindl-Rast's "Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey Through the Hours of the Day"? It accompanies a Gregorian chant CD. What I love about Brother David's little text is how he relates each liturgical hour to our own necessary "natural" rhythms in the day.