Vespers is a sunset evening prayer service in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours. The word comes from the Greek ἑσπέρα ("hespera") and the Latin vesper, meaning "evening". It is also referred to in the Anglican tradition as evening prayer or evensong. The term is also used in some Protestant denominations (such as the Presbyterian Church and Seventh-day Adventists) to describe evening services.[1][2]

Benedictine monks singing vespers on Holy Saturday

Current use

Roman Rite Catholic

Incensing During Solemn Advent Vespers

Vespers, also called Evening Prayer, takes place as dusk begins to fall. Evening Prayer gives thanks for the day just past and makes an evening sacrifice of praise to God (Psalm 141:1).[3]

The general structure of the Roman Rite Catholic service of vespers is as follows:

  • Vespers opens with the singing or chanting of the words Deus, in adiutorium meum intende. Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen. Alleluia. (O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Alleluia.) ("Alleluia" is omitted during Lent.)
  • The appointed hymn (from the hymnarium) is then sung;
  • The appointed psalmody is then sung: in the liturgy in general use since 1970 there are two psalms and a New Testament canticle, while in the older form of the Roman Rite, five psalms are sung instead. Each psalm (and canticle) concludes with a doxology (Gloria Patri) and is preceded and followed by an antiphon. Additionally, most Psalms also have a short caption explaining how the Psalm/Canticle relates to the Church in a Christological or spiritual way; lastly, English translations oftentimes have a psalm-prayer said after the Gloria and before the antiphon.
  • After the psalms, there is a reading from the Bible.
  • Following the reading, there is a short responsory consisting of a verse, a response, the first half only of the Gloria Patri, and then the verse again.
  • Then the participants sing the Magnificat — the canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the Gospel of Luke 1:46-55. The Magnificat is always preceded by an antiphon, and followed by the Gloria and an antiphon. At Solemn Vespers, the Altar is incensed during the Magnificat.
  • The preces (intercessory prayers) are then said (in the post-1970 Roman Rite), followed by the Our Father, and then the closing prayer (oratio) and final blessing/invocation.
  • The office is frequently followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Byzantine Rite

The Byzantine Rite has three basic types of vespers: great, daily, and small. Great vespers is used on Sundays and major feast days (those when the Polyeleos is prescribed at matins) when it may be celebrated alone or as part of an All-Night Vigil, as well as on a handful of special days e.g., Good Friday and Pascha afternoon; on certain days of strict fasting it also commences the divine liturgy. Daily vespers is otherwise used. Small vespers is a very abbreviated form used only on the afternoon before a vigil and is redundant to the subsequent great vespers, being a place holder betwixt the ninth hour and compline and is seldom used except in monasteries where the vigil literally lasts all night.

Since the liturgical day begins at sunset, vespers is a day's first service and its hymns introduce the day's themes.

Great Vespers

Eastern vespers entrance
Orthodox priest and deacon making the Entrance with the censer at Great Vespers.

The general structure of the service is as follows (psalm numbers are according to the Septuagint):

  • Vespers opens with a blessing by the priest and then "Come, let us worship ..."; when part of an All-Night Vigil, the blessing that normally begins matins is used; when part of the Divine Liturgy, the blessing that is part thereof is used.
  • Proemial Psalm (Psalm 103 (104)): "Bless the Lord, O my soul; O Lord my God, Thou hast been magnified exceedingly...".
  • The Great Litany (also called the "Litany of Peace")
  • A selection of psalms, called a kathisma is sung. On Saturday evening, it is the First Kathisma (Psalms 1-8).
  • "Lord I have Cried" (Psalms 140 (141), 141 (142), 129 (130), and 116 (117)) is chanted in the tone of the week. Starting with the last two verses of Psalm 141 (142), stichera (stanzas) about the feast day (or Christ's resurrection on a Saturday evening) are chanted alternately with the verses.
  • The Entrance is made with the censer
  • The hymn Phos Hilaron ("O Gladsome Light") is sung.
  • The Prokeimenon is chanted.
  • On feast days, there are three or more readings from the Old Testament, called Paroemia ("Parables").
  • The prayer "Vouchsafe, O Lord", is read.
  • The Litany of Fervent Supplication
  • On major feast days, a Litiy will be served at this point. The clergy and the cantors will process to the back of the church in front of an icon of the feast or saint being commemorated. After the cantors chant hymns pertaining to the feast, the deacon or priest will read a litany with several long peititions, to which the cantors respond with Kyrie eleison ("Lord, Have Mercy") many times. The priest ends with a long prayer invoking the intercessions of the saints and the Theotokos.
  • The Aposticha are chanted. These are verses that teach about the feast day (or on a Saturday evening, Christ's resurrection).
  • The Nunc dimittis, the Canticle of St. Simeon ("Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace...") (Luke 2:29-32), is read.
  • The Apolytikia (troparia of the day) are chanted. If it is an All-Night Vigil on Saturday night, the hymn "Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos" is chanted instead.
Table set with five loaves, wheat, wine and oil for artoklassia.
  • On major feast days, the artoklasia is performed, at which the priest will bless five loaves of bread which have been prepared in the center of the church, together with wheat, wine and oil. These will be distributed to the faithful later in the service (if it is an All-Night Vigil). Then Psalm 33 (34) is read up to the verse "O fear the Lord, all ye his saints; for there is no want to them that fear him." The next verse "Rich men have turned poor and gone hungry, but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good thing" is chanted.
  • The dismissal is given by the priest. If it is an All-Night Vigil this is a simple blessing by the priest; otherwise, it is the full dismissal sequence.

On strict fast days when food and drink are prohibited before vespers, e.g., Christmas Eve, the Annunciation when it falls on a weekday of great lent, or Holy Saturday, Vespers is joined to the Divine Liturgy, functioning in place of the typica as the framework of the hymns of the Liturgy of the Catechumens. After the readings from the Old Testament, the Trisagion is chanted, followed by the Epistle and Gospel, and the Divine Liturgy proceeds normally from that point. On these occasions, as at other times when the Gospel is read at vespers, the Little Entrance is made with the Gospel Book instead of the censer.

The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts always is similarly combined with Vespers, with the first half of Vespers (up to and including the Old Testament readings) making up a significant portion of the service.

Armenian Liturgy

The office of vespers Armenian Երեգոյին Ժամ Eregoyin Zham commemorates the hour when “the Son of God descended from the Cross, and was wrapped in the winding sheet, and laid in the tomb.”

Vespers is the only service in the Armenian daily office other than the Morning Service which has hymns proper to the commemoration, feast, or tone assigned to it: a vespers hymn after Psalm 142 (or after Gladsome Light if it is appointed for the day) and the “Lifting-up Hymn” after Psalm 121.

Vespers undergoes a wide range of changes depending on the liturgical season. The following outline contains only some of these variations.

Outline of Armenian Vespers

“Blessed is our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our Father...”

Psalm 55:16 “I cried unto God, and he heard me in the evening...(Es ar Astouats kardats`i...)”; Psalm 55:17 “I waited for my God...(Spasēy Astoutsoy imoy...)”; “Glory to the Father...Now and always...Amen.”; “And again in peace...”; “Blessing and glory to the Father...Now and always...Amen.”; “Peace to all.”

Psalm 86; “Glory to the Father...Now and always...Amen.”; “Glory to you, O God, glory to you. For all things, Lord, glory to you.”; “And again in peace...”; “Blessing and glory...Now and always...Amen.”; “Peace to all.”

Psalm 140 “Rescue me...(Aprets`o zis...)”; Psalm 141 “Lord I called unto you...(Tēr kardats`i ar k`ez...)”; Psalm 142 “With my voice I called out unto the Lord...(Dzayniw imov ar Tēr kardats`i...)”; “Glory to the Father...Now and always...Amen.”

At Sunday Vespers (Saturday Evening): “Alleluia, Alleluia. Gladsome light...(Loys zouart`...)”; Exhortation for the blessing of candles: “Blessed Lord who dwells in the heights...(Awrhneal Tēr...)”; Proclamation: “Having assembled...(Hasealk`s...)”; Exhortation: “Having assembled...(Hasealk`s...)”

Vespers Hymn (varies)

At Sunday Vespers (Saturday Night): Proclamation: “Let us all say...(Asasts`owk`...)”; Exhortation: “We have the intercessions...(Barekhaws ounimk`...)”

During Fasts: Proclamation: “Let us beseech almighty God...(Aghach`ests`ouk` zamenakaln Astouats...)”

Otherwise continue here:

Prayer: “Hear our voices...(Lour dzaynits` merots`...)”; “Holy God...(varies)”; “Glorified and praised ever-virgin...(P`araworeal ev awrhneal misht Astouatsatsin...)”; Exhortation: “Save us...(P`rkea zmez...)”; Proclamation: “And again in peace...That the Lord will hearken to the voice of our entreaty...(Vasn lsel linelov...)”; “Blessing and Glory to the Father...Now and always...Amen.”; “Peace to all.”

Psalm 121 “I lifted my eyes...(Hambardzi zach`s im...)”; “Glory to the Father...Now and always...Amen.”

Hymn After Psalm 121 (varies); Proclamation: “For the peace of the whole world...(Vasn khaghaghout`ean amenayn ashkharhi...)”; Prayer: “Father compassionate...(Hayr gt`ats...)”

On fasting days:

Exhortation: “Almighty Lord...(Tēr amenakal...)”; Proclamation; Prayer

On fasting days and lenten days which are not Sundays (Saturday evenings), continue here:

The Prayer of Manasseh; “Glory to the Father...Now and always...Amen.”; Exhortation; Proclamation; Prayer; “Remember your ministers...(Yishea Tēr zpashtawneays k`o...)”; “Merciful and compassionate God (Barerar ev bazoumoghorm Astouats...)”

On Sundays (Saturday Evenings) and during the 50 days of Easter:

Psalm 134: “Now bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord...(Ast awrhnets`ēk`...)”; Psalm 138; Psalm 54; Psalm 86:16-17; “Glory to the Father...Now and always...Amen.”; Proclamation: “Let us entreat...(Khndrests`ouk`...)”

On Sundays: Prayer: “King of peace...(T`agawor khaghaghout`ean...)”

On Sundays during Eastertide: Prayer: “By your all-powerful and joyous resurrection...(K`oum amenazawr ev hrashali...)”

On Feasts of the Cross: Proclamation: “By the holy cross...(Sourb khach`iws...)”; Prayer: “Defend us...(Pahpanea zmez...)”

All services conclude with: “Blessed is our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our Father...”

East Syriac Liturgy

Vespers are known by the Aramaic or Syriac term Ramsha in the East Syriac liturgy which was used historically in the Church of the East and remains in use in Churches descend from it, namely the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.

Oriental Orthodox

In some Oriental Orthodox churches, Vespers is called the Raising of Incense. Vespers is an introduction and preparation for the Liturgy, consisting of a collection of prayers, praises and Thanksgiving prayers which request the Lord's blessings upon the sacramental service.[4] This is true for the Coptic Orthodox Church; use of the term and order of services are somewhat different in the Ethiopian, Syriac, and the other Oriental Orthodox Churches.

The rites of Vespers in the Coptic Orthodox Church are as follows:

  1. The Thanksgiving Prayer - As with all Coptic Orthodox services, Vespers first thanks God "for everything, concerning everything, and in everything"
  2. The Verses of the Cymbals
  3. The Prayer for the Departed
  4. The Doxologies - commemorating the saints of the church and the liturgical season of the church
  5. The Creed
  6. The Prayer for the Gospel
  7. The Reading of the Psalm and Gospel
  8. The Absolution, Conclusion, and Blessing

In other Christian churches and religious bodies

Since its inception, the Anglican communion has maintained an evening office, which is called evening prayer (or evensong). There are prescribed forms of the service in the Anglican prayer book. A similar form of the service is found in the Vespers section of The Lutheran Hymnal. The Anglican breviary contains Vespers in English according to the pre-1970 Roman rite. For information on that service, see above, as in the Roman breviary. The Liberal Catholic Rite also includes Vespers, including the Te Deum as an alternative to the Magnificat.[5]

Daily office books that conform to the historic structure of Vespers have also been published by the Pilgrim Press (The New Century Psalter) and Westminster John Knox Press (Book of Common Worship Daily Prayer). Both publishing houses are affiliated with churches in the Reformed tradition.

From its traditional usage, the term vespers has come to be used more broadly for various evening services of other churches, some of which model their evening services on the traditional Roman Catholic form. Presbyterians and Methodists, as well as congregationalist religious bodies such as Unitarian Universalism, often include congregational singing, readings, and a period of silent meditation, contemplation, or prayer.

Some regular community vespers services are completely areligious (or at least are not sponsored by any church) and serve simply as a time for quiet contemplation in the evening hours.

In addition, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, synagogues in the Classical Reform tradition sometimes referred to their Friday evening worship services as "vespers". Nowadays, such services are instead called kabbalat shabbat, which means "welcoming the Sabbath".

Historical development

This section incorporates information from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1917. References to psalms follow the numbering system of the Septuagint, and said in the Latin of the Vulgate.


Before the fourth century allusions to the evening prayer are found in the earlier Fathers, Clement I of Rome (Clemens Romanus), St. Ignatius, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, the Canons of St. Hippolytus, St. Cyprian. Pliny the Younger, in his famous letter at the beginning of the 2nd century, speaks of liturgical reunions of the Christians in the morning and in the evening: "coetus antelucani et vespertini". Vespers is, therefore, together with Vigil, the most ancient Office known in the Church.[6]

The Rule of St. Benedict was written about 530-43. Much earlier than this we find an evening Office corresponding to both that of Vespers and that of Compline. Its name varies. John Cassian calls it Vespertina synaxis, or Vespertina solemnitas. Benedict used the name vespera which has prevailed, whence the French word vêpres and the English vespers. The name, however, by which it was most widely known during that period was Lucernalis or Lucernaria hora. It was so called because at this hour candles were lit, not only to give light, but also for symbolical purposes. The "Peregrinatio", the date of which is probably the 4th century, gives the liturgical order as practised at Jerusalem. The author states that this Office took place at the tenth hour (four o'clock in the evening); it is really the Office des lumières, i.e. of the lights; it was celebrated in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; all the lamps and torches of the church were lighted, making, as the author says, "an infinite light". In the "Antiphonary of Bangor", an Irish document of the 6th century, Vespers are called hora duodecima, which corresponds to six o'clock in the evening, or hora incensi, or again ad cereum benedicendum. All these names are interesting to note. The hora incensi recalls the custom of burning incense at this hour, while at the same time the candles were lighted. The ceremony of the lights at Vespers was symbolic and very solemn.[6]

Vespers, then, was the most solemn office of the day and was composed of the psalms called Lucernales (Psalm 140 is called psalmus lucernalis by the Apostolic Constitutions). Cassian describes this Office as it was celebrated by the monks of Egypt and says they recited twelve psalms as at the vigil (matins). Then two lessons were read as at vigils, one from the Old, and the other from the New Testament. Each psalm was followed by a short prayer. Cassian says the Office was recited towards five or six o'clock and that all the lights were lit. The use of incense, candles, and other lights would seem to suggest the Jewish rites which accompanied the evening sacrifice (Exodus 29:39; Numbers 28:4; Psalm 140:2; Daniel 9:21; 1 Chronicles 23:30). It may thus be seen that the Lucernarium was, together with Vigil, the most important part of the Offices of the day, being composed of almost the same elements as the latter, at least in certain regions. Its existence in the fourth century is also confirmed by St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Basil, St. Ephraem, and, a little later, by several councils in Gaul and Spain, and by the various monastic rules.

In the 6th century

In the sixth century the Office of Vespers in the Latin Church was almost the same as it has been throughout the Middle Ages and up to the present day. In a document of unquestionable authority of that period the Office is described as follows: The evening hour, or vespertina synaxis, is composed of four psalms, a capitulum, a response, a hymn, a versicle, a canticle from the Gospel, litany (Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison), Pater with the ordinary finale, oratio, or prayer, and dismissal (Regula Sancti Benedicti, xvii). The psalms recited are taken from the series of psalms from Pss. 109 to 147 (with the exception of the groups 117 to 127 and 133 to 142); Pss. 138, 143, 144 are each divided into two portions, whilst the Pss. 115 and 116 are united to form one. This disposition is almost the same as that of the "Ordo Romanus", except that the number of psalms recited is five instead of four. They are taken, however, from the series 109 to 147. Here, too, we find the capitulum, versicle, and canticle of the "Magnificat". The hymn is a more recent introduction in the Roman Vespers; the finale (litanies, Pater, versicles, prayers) seems all to have existed from this epoch as in the Benedictine cursus. Like the other hours, therefore, Vespers is divided into two parts; the psalmody, or singing of the psalms, forming the first part, and the capitulum and formulæ the second. Vesper time varied according to the season between the tenth hour (4 p.m.) and the twelfth (6 p.m.). As a matter of fact it was no longer the evening hour, but the sunset hour, so that it was celebrated before the day had departed and consequently before there was any necessity for artificial light (Regula S. Benedicti, xli). This is a point to be noted, as it was an innovation. Before this epoch this evening synaxis was celebrated with all the torches alight. The reason of this is that St Benedict introduced in the cursus, another hour—that of Compline—which was prescribed to be celebrated in the evening, and which might be considered as a kind of doubling of the Office of Lucernarium.[6]

Office of Vespers in the Middle Ages: Variations

As has already been remarked, the institution of the office of compline transformed the lucernarium by taking from it something of its importance and symbolism, the latter at the same time losing its original sense. St. Benedict called it only Vespera, the name which has prevailed over that of lucernarium (cf. Ducange, "Glossarium med. et inf. lat.", s.v. Vesperae). The Gallican liturgy, the Mozarabic Liturgy, and, to a certain extent, the Milanese, have preserved the lucernarium (cf. Bäumer-Biron, l. c., 358). The Eastern Orthodox Church retains the "Lumen hilare" and some other traces of the ancient lucernarium in the offices of vespers and compline (cf. Smith, "Dict. Christ. Antiq.", s.v. Office, Divine). In the Rule of St. Columbanus, dated about 590, Vespers still has twelve psalms, amongst which are Pss. cxii and cxiii, the Gradual psalms, Pss. cxix sqq. (cf. Gougaud, "Les chrétientés celtiques", 309; "Dict. d'arch. chrét. et de liturgie", s.v. Celtique, 3015). The "Antiphonary of Bangor", a document of Irish origin, gives for vespers Ps. cxii and also the "Gloria in Excelsis". For modifications since the 12th century, cf. Bäumer-Biron, l. c., II, 54 sqq.

Changes as of 1917

The decree "Divino afflatu" (November 1, 1911) involves important changes in the old Roman Rite office. There is an entire rearrangement of the psalms (see Reform of the Roman Breviary by Pope Pius X) with new ones appointed for each day of the week. These psalms are to be recited with their antiphons, not only at the Office de tempore (Sundays and feriæ) but also on feasts of a lesser rite than doubles of the second class, that is to say, on simples, semidoubles (double minors), and double majors. On feasts which are doubles of the second class and a fortiori of the first class, as well as on feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Angels, and Apostles, the psalms are proper to the feast as heretofore. On all feasts, of whatever rite, the second part of vespers, that is, the capitulum, hymn, antiphon of the "Magnificat", is taken from the Sanctorale. On semi-doubles and those of a lesser rite the suffrages are now reduced to a single antiphon and orison which is common to all the saints heretofore commemorated, whilst the preces ("Miserere" and versicles) formerly imposed on the greater feriæ are now suppressed.

Structure: 1917-1969

The office of Vespers in general use before 1970 continues to be used today by those adhering to the Roman Rite as in 1962 or to earlier versions. The structure of Vespers prior to 1970 is as follows:

  • Vespers begins with the singing or chanting of the opening versicles Deus, in adiutorium meum intende. Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen. Alleluia. (O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen. Alleluia.) From Septuagesima until Easter, Laus tibi Domine, Rex aeternae gloriae (Praise be to Thee O Lord, King of eternal glory) replaces Alleluia.
  • Five psalms are sung, each concluding with the doxology Gloria Patri. Each psalm is preceded and followed with an antiphon.
  • The Little Chapter, a short biblical verse, is read.
  • The hymn, which varies according to season and feast, is sung, followed by its versicle and response.
  • The Magnificat, preceded and followed with an antiphon, is then sung.
  • The preces are then said on certain greater ferias.
  • The collect of the day is said, followed by commemorations of any concurring feasts according to the rubrics.
  • If Compline does not immediately follow, Vespers may end with the seasonal Marian Antiphon.
  • The office is frequently followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Symbolism: the Hymns

Notwithstanding the changes brought about in the course of time, Vespers still remains the great and important Office of the evening. As already pointed out, it recalls the sacrificium vespertinum of the Old Law. In the same manner as the night is consecrated to God by the Office of the Vigil, so also is the end of the day by Vespers. It terminates, as Matins formerly terminated, and Lauds at present terminates, by a lection, or reading, from the Gospel, or canticum evangelii, which, for Vespers, is always the "Magnificat". This is one of the characteristic traits of Vespers, one of the liturgical elements which this particular Office has retained in almost all regions and at all times. There are, however, a few exceptions, as in some liturgies the "Magnificat" is sung at Lauds (cf. Cabrol in "Dict. d'arch. et de liturgie", s.v. Cantiques évangéliques). This place of honour accorded so persistently to the canticle of Mary from such remote antiquity is but one of the many, and of the least striking, proofs of the devotion which has always been paid to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church. The psalms used at Vespers have been selected, from time immemorial, from Pss. cix to cxlvii, with the exception of Ps. cxviii, which on account of its unusual length does not square with the others, and is consequently ordinarily divided up into parts and recited at the little hours. Pss. i to cviii are consecrated to Matins and Lauds, whilst the three last psalms, cxlviii to cl, belong invariably to Lauds. The series of hymns consecrated to Vespers in the Roman Breviary also form a class apart and help to give us some hints as to the symbolism of this hour. The hymns are very ancient, dating probably, for the most part, from the 6th century. They have this particular characteristic—they are all devoted to the praise of one of the days of the Creation, according to the day of the week, thus: the first, "Lucis Creator optime", on Sunday, to the creation of light; the second, on Monday, to the separation of the earth and the waters; the third, on Tuesday, to the creation of the plants; the fourth, on Wednesday, to the creation of the sun and moon; the fifth, on Thursday, to the creation of the fish; the sixth, on Friday, to the creation of the beasts of the earth; Saturday is an exception, the hymn on that day being in honour of the Blessed Trinity, because of the Office of Sunday then commencing.

Solemn Vespers before the Second Vatican Council

On weekdays that are not major feasts Vespers features hardly any ceremonies and the celebrant wears the usual choir dress. However, on Sundays and greater feasts Vespers may be solemn. Solemn Vespers differ in that the celebrant wears the cope, he is assisted by assistants also in copes, incense is used, and two acolytes, a thurifer, and at least one master of ceremonies are needed. On ordinary Sundays only two assistants are needed while on greater feasts four or six assistants may be used. The celebrant and assistants vest in the surplice and the cope, which is of the color of the day. The celebrant sits at the sedile, in front of which is placed a lectern, covered with a cloth in the color of the day. The assistants sit on benches or stools facing the altar, or if there are two assistants, they may sit at the sedile next to the celebrant (the first assistant in the place of the deacon and the second assistant in place of the subdeacon).

The celebrant and assistants follow the acolytes into the church wearing the biretta. Upon arriving in the sanctuary the acolytes place their candles on the lowest altar step, after which they are extinguished. The celebrant and assistants kneel on the lowest step and recite the Aperi Domine silently, after which they go to their places and recite the Pater noster and Ave Maria silently. A curious practice which exists from ancient times is the intoning of the antiphons and psalms to the celebrant. The rubrics presuppose that the first assistant or cantors will intone all which the celebrant must sing by singing it to him first in a soft voice after which the celebrant sings it again aloud. The five antiphons and psalms are sung with the first assistant intoning the antiphons and the cantors intoning the psalms. During the singing of the psalms all sit. After the psalms, the acolytes relight their candles and carry them to each side of the lectern for the chapter. The assistants follow, standing facing each other in front of the lectern. The celebrant then sings the chapter, after which all return to their places. The first assistant intones the hymn to the celebrant, and all stand while the hymn is sung. The first assistant intones the Magnificat to the celebrant, who sings the first line aloud. The celebrant and the first two assistants go to altar, and the altar is then incensed as at Mass while the first two assistants hold the ends of the cope. Other altars in the church may be incensed as well. The first assistant then incenses the celebrant, after which the thurifer incenses the others as at Mass. If there are commemorations, the acolytes and assistants again go to the lectern as described above for the chapter. The choir sings the antiphons, the cantors sing the versicles, and the celebrant sings the collects. After all commemorations, the celebrant sings Dominus vobiscum, the cantor sings Benedicamus Domino, and the celebrant sings Fidelium animae.... The Marian antiphon is said in the low voice. Especially in English-speaking countries, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament often follows Solemn Vespers.

Musical settings

The psalms and hymns of the Vespers service have attracted the interest of many composers, including Claudio Monteverdi, Antonio Vivaldi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Anton Bruckner. (Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Vespers" is really a setting of the Eastern Orthodox all-night vigil.)

See also


  1. ^ "Home - Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver". 2015-05-15. Retrieved 2015-05-22.
  2. ^ Keith Danby. "Welcome to Christ Church Deer Park - There's Life Here!". Retrieved 2015-05-22.
  3. ^ "Vespers". 2013-04-16. Retrieved 2015-05-22.
  4. ^ "The Spirituality of the Rites of the Holy Liturgy in the Coptic Orthodox Church by H.G. Bishop Mettaous". Retrieved 2015-05-22.
  5. ^ The Liturgy of the Liberal Catholic Church
  6. ^ a b c "Catholic Encyclopedia: Vespers". Retrieved 2015-05-22.

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.

Advent Sunday

Advent Sunday, also called the First Sunday of Advent or First Advent Sunday, among the Western Christian Churches, is the first day of the liturgical year and the start of the season of Advent.

All-Night Vigil (Rachmaninoff)

For the liturgical service, see All-night vigilThe All-Night Vigil (Pre-reform Russian: Всенощное бдѣніе, Vsénoshchnoye bdéniye; Modern Russian: Всенощное бдение) is an a cappella choral composition by Sergei Rachmaninoff, his Op. 37, premiered on 23 March 1915 in Moscow.

The piece consists of settings of texts taken from the Russian Orthodox All-night vigil ceremony. It has been praised as Rachmaninoff's finest achievement and "the greatest musical achievement of the Russian Orthodox Church". It was one of Rachmaninoff's two favorite compositions along with The Bells, and the composer requested that its fifth movement (Nunc Dimittis) be sung at his funeral.The title of the work is often mis-translated as simply Vespers. This is both literally and conceptually incorrect as applied to the entire work: only the first six of its fifteen movements set texts from the Russian Orthodox canonical hour of Vespers.

All-Night Vigil (Tchaikovsky)

The All-Night Vigil for choir (Russian: Всенощное бдение для хора, Vsyenoshchnoye bdyeniye dlya khora) is an a cappella choral composition by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, his Op. 52, written from 1881 to 1882. It consists of settings of texts taken from the Russian Orthodox all-night vigil ceremony.

This work, like Sergei Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil, has been referred to as the Vespers. Like the Rachmaninoff, this is both literally and conceptually incorrect as applied to the entire work, as it contains settings from three canonical hours, Vespers, Matins and the First Hour.


The Apolytikion (Greek: Ἀπολυτίκιον) or Dismissal Hymn is a troparion (hymn) said or sung at Orthodox Christian worship services. The apolytikion summarizes the feast being celebrated that day. It is chanted at Vespers, Matins and the Divine Liturgy; and it is read at each of the Little Hours. The name derives from the fact that it is chanted for the first time before the dismissal (Greek: apolysis) of Vespers. In the Orthodox Church, the liturgical day begins at sunset, so Vespers is the first service of the day. The term apolytikion is used in Greek tradition. In Slavic tradition the term troparion is specifically used to stand for Apolytikion, whilst troparion is of more generic usage in Greek tradition.

The apolytikion could be compared in the Western liturgy to the collect or post-communion, inasmuch as it changes for each feast-day of the year and specifically commemorates the subject of the feast.

Asiatic Vespers

The Asiatic Vespers (also known as the Asian Vespers, Ephesian Vespers, or the Vespers of 88 BC) refers to an infamous episode prior to the First Mithridatic War, serving as the casus belli, or immediate cause of the war. Rome had been asked to arbitrate long-standing disputes between the Kingdom of Bithynia and the Kingdom of Pontus, which were located side-by-side on the south shore of the Black Sea. The ruling families of each had descended from Persian satrapies unincorporated into the empire of Alexander the Great. Roman troops had been drawn into Anatolia as allies of the Republic of Rhodes, which had holdings there. Now that they were there, the two kings decided to ask the Roman Senate to settle their dispute.

After deliberation the Senate decided to back Bithynia. The king of Pontus, Mithridates VI, hitherto a friend of Rome, whose ancestors had sent ships to help it in the Third Punic War, was willing to accept this decision. The Senate's control over its troops in the field, however, was minimal. At the instigation of the soldiers, the Roman officers in Anatolia began to urge the Bithynians to ravage Pontus, claiming the decree of the Senate had created an armed conflict. It had not. The Senate had no such intent. It had instructed the army that in the event of war between Bithynia and Pontus, they were to assist the Bithynian army. In that capacity they would have a share in the spoils of war accrued from plundering the rich towns of Anatolia.

Eager to please their Roman advisors, the Bithynians began to ravage Pontus assisted by Roman soldiers of mercenary intent. In vain Mithridates attempted to object through diplomatic channels. Despairing of that course of action he turned to his friends and allies in Anatolia, convincing their uncertainty through gifts and promises. He would rid them of the Romans with a single blow. He convinced them to orchestrate the assassination of all Roman and Italian citizens in Asia Minor (Anatolia). The massacre was planned scrupulously to take place on the same day in several towns scattered over Asia Minor: Ephesus, Pergamon, Adramyttion, Caunus, Tralles, Nysa, and the island of Chios.Estimates of the number of men, women, and children killed range from 80,000 to 150,000. Slaves who helped to kill their Roman masters and those who spoke languages other than Latin were spared. Although successful for the short term, the blow fell short of ridding Anatolia of Romans. All who could fled across the Aegean to seek refuge in the port of Rhodes, firm allies of Rome, and henceforward to be deadly enemies of Mithridates. When word of the massacre reached Rome, the mood of the people turned to outrage. The Senate in special session declared war on Mithridates, formulating a mandate to be given to the consuls of the year. The instigatory behavior of the Roman advisors to Bithynia mattered little in the face of this tragedy; it was not, however, forgotten by the historians, who did not hesitate to form moral judgements in their histories.

The declaration was immediate, but implementation of the mandate was delayed by civil war at Rome. Sulla received it first from the Senate. After Sulla had taken command of the legions at Nola, a Roman Assembly passed a law stripping him of his authority in favor of a corrupt politician. At the instigation of his men he marched on Rome to assert the authority of the Senate. Assured of its and his authority he crossed the Adriatic with minimal troops and no heavy warships, after one year of doing nothing on the eastern front.. Meanwhile, Mithridates had created a large fleet that scoured the Aegean of Romans. He subverted the city of Athens, making use of his partisans there, including the peripatetic philosophers. He could not, however, despite maximum effort, take the port of Rhodes, as the Rhodians were master mariners, on whose ships the Romans had redesigned their own. When Sulla's men finally arrived to conduct a siege of Athens, all mainland Greece had rallied to the Roman cause. A series of conflicts known as the Mithridatic Wars followed.The date of the massacre is disputed by modern historians who have written about the question at length. Sherwin-White places the event in late 89 or early 88 BC. Badian, saying "precision seems impossible," places it in the first half of 88 BC, no later than the middle of that year.

The name "Vèpres éphésiennes" was coined in 1890 by historian Théodore Reinach to describe the massacre, making a retrospective analogy with the Sicilian Vespers of 1282. Subsequent historians have adopted some variation of the phrase, using Vespers as a euphemism for "massacre".

Corpus Christi (feast)

The Feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for "Body of Christ") is a Catholic liturgical solemnity celebrating the real presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in the elements of the Eucharist—known as transubstantiation. Two months earlier, the Eucharist is observed on Maundy Thursday in a sombre atmosphere leading to Good Friday. The liturgy on that day also commemorates Christ's washing of the disciples' feet, the institution of the priesthood and the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. The feast of Corpus Christi was established to create a feast focused solely on the Holy Eucharist emphasizing the joy of the Eucharist being the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

The feast is liturgically celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday or, "where the Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is not a holy day of obligation, it is assigned to the Sunday after the Most Holy Trinity as its proper day". In the liturgical reforms of 1969, under Pope Paul VI, the bishops of each nation have the option to transfer it to the following Sunday.

At the end of Holy Mass, there is often a procession of the Blessed Sacrament, generally displayed in a monstrance. The procession is followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. A notable Eucharistic procession is that presided over by the Pope each year in Rome, where it begins at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran and passes to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where it concludes with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

The celebration of the feast was suppressed in Protestant churches during the Reformation, because they do not hold to the teachings of transubstantiation. Depending on the denomination, Protestant churches instead believe in differing views concerning the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, or that Christ is symbolically or metaphorically part of the eucharist. Today, most Protestant denominations do not recognize the feast. The Church of England abolished it in 1548 as the English Reformation progressed, but later reintroduced it.

Entrance (liturgical)

In Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches, an entrance is a procession during which the clergy enter into the sanctuary through the Holy Doors. The origin of these entrances goes back to the early church, when the liturgical books and sacred vessels were kept in special storage rooms for safe keeping and the procession was necessary to bring these objects into the church when needed. Over the centuries, these processions have grown more elaborate, and nowadays are accompanied by incense, candles and liturgical fans. In the liturgical theology of the Orthodox Church, the angels are believed to enter with the clergy into the sanctuary, as evidenced by the prayers which accompany the various entrances.

The bishop has the right to enter and leave the altar (sanctuary) through the Holy Doors at any time, and is not restricted to the liturgical entrances, as the priest and deacon are.

Les vêpres siciliennes

Les vêpres siciliennes (The Sicilian Vespers) is a grand opera in five acts by the Italian romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi set to a French libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles Duveyrier from their work Le duc d'Albe, which was written in 1838. Les vêpres followed immediately after Verdi's three great mid-career masterpieces, Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata of 1850 to 1853 and was first performed at the Paris Opéra on 13 June 1855.

Today the opera is performed both in the original French and (rather more frequently) in its post-1861 Italian version as I vespri siciliani. The story is based on a historical event, the Sicilian Vespers of 1282, using material drawn from the medieval Sicilian tract Lu rebellamentu di Sichilia.

Lity in the Eastern Orthodox Church

The Lity or Litiyá (Greek: Λιτή(Liti), from litomai, "a fervent prayer") is a festive religious procession, followed by intercessions, which augments great vespers (or, a few times a year, great compline) in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches on important feast days (and, at least according to the written rubrics, any time there is an all-night vigil.). Following a lity is another liturgical action, an artoklasia, and either of these terms may be used to describe both liturgical actions collectively.


The Magnificat (Latin for "[My soul] magnifies [the Lord]") is a canticle, also known as the Song of Mary, the Canticle of Mary and, in the Byzantine tradition, the Ode of the Theotokos (Greek: Ἡ ᾨδὴ τῆς Θεοτόκου). It is traditionally incorporated into the liturgical services of the Catholic Church (at vespers) and of the Eastern Orthodox churches (at the morning services). It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn. Its name comes from the incipit of the Latin version of the canticle's text.

The text of the canticle is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke (1:46–55) where it is spoken by Mary upon the occasion of her Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. In the narrative, after Mary greets Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist, the latter moves within Elizabeth's womb. Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith (using words partially reflected in the Hail Mary), and Mary responds with what is now known as the Magnificat.

Within the whole of Christianity, the Magnificat is most frequently recited within the Liturgy of the Hours. In Western Christianity, the Magnificat is most often sung or recited during the main evening prayer service: Vespers in the Catholic and Lutheran churches, and Evening Prayer (or Evensong) in Anglicanism. In Eastern Christianity, the Magnificat is usually sung at Sunday Matins. Among Protestant groups, the Magnificat may also be sung during worship services, especially in the Advent season during which these verses are traditionally read.

Philip III of France

Philippe III redirects here. It can also refer to Philippe III de Croÿ and Philippe III, Duke of Orléans.Philip III (30 April 1245 – 5 October 1285), called the Bold (French: le Hardi), was King of France from 1270 to 1285, the tenth from the House of Capet.

Philip proved indecisive, soft in nature, and timid. The strong personalities of his parents apparently crushed him, and policies of his father dominated him. People called him "the Bold" on the basis of his abilities in combat and on horseback and not on the basis of his political or personal character. He was pious but not cultivated. He followed the suggestions of others, first of Pierre de La Broce and then of his uncle King Charles I of Naples, Sicily, and Albania.

His father, Louis IX, died in Tunis during the Eighth Crusade. Philip, who was accompanying him, came back to France to claim his throne and was anointed at Reims in 1271.

Philip made numerous territorial acquisitions during his reign, the most notable being the County of Toulouse which was annexed to the Crown lands of France in 1271. Following the Sicilian Vespers, a rebellion triggered by Peter III of Aragon against Philip's uncle Charles I of Naples, Philip led an unsuccessful Aragonese Crusade in support of his uncle. Philip was forced to retreat and died from dysentry in Perpignan in 1285. He was succeeded by his son Philip the Fair.

Psalm 110

Psalm 110 is the 110th psalm of the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "The LORD said unto my Lord". In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and in its Latin translation in the Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 109 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Dixit Dominus". It is considered both a royal psalm and a messianic psalm. This psalm is a cornerstone in Christian theology, as it is cited as proof of the plurality of the Godhead and Jesus' supremacy as king, priest, and Messiah. For this reason, Psalm 110 is "the most frequently quoted or referenced psalm in the New Testament". Classical Jewish sources, in contrast, state that the subject of the psalm is either Abraham, David, or the Jewish Messiah.

The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant liturgies. Because this psalm is prominent in the Office of Vespers, its Latin text has particular significance in music. Well-known vespers settings are Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610), and Mozart's Vesperae solennes de confessore (1780). Handel composed Dixit Dominus in 1707, and Vivaldi set the psalm in Latin three times.

Sicilian Vespers

The Sicilian Vespers (Italian: Vespri siciliani; Sicilian: Vespiri siciliani) was a successful rebellion on the island of Sicily that broke out at Easter 1282 against the rule of the French-born king Charles I, who had ruled the Kingdom of Sicily since 1266. Within six weeks, approximately 13,000 French men and women were slain by the rebels, and the government of King Charles lost control of the island. It was the beginning of the War of the Sicilian Vespers.

The 39 Clues

The 39 Clues is a series of adventure novels written by a collaboration of authors, including Rick Riordan, Gordon Korman, Peter Lerangis, Jude Watson, Patrick Carman, Linda Sue Park, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Roland Smith, David Baldacci, Jeff Hirsch, Natalie Standiford, C. Alexander London, Sarwat Chadda and Jenny Goebel. It consists of five series, The Clue Hunt, Cahills vs. Vespers, Unstoppable, Doublecross, and Superspecial. They chronicle the adventures of two siblings, Amy and Dan Cahill, who discover that their family, the Cahills, has been the most influential family in history. The first story arc concerns Dan and Amy's quest to find the 39 Clues, which are ingredients to a serum that can create the most powerful person on Earth. This series' primary audience is age 8–12. Since the release of the first novel, The Maze of Bones, on September 9, 2008, the books have gained popularity, positive reception, and commercial success. As of July 2010, the book series has about 8.5 million copies in print and has been translated into 24 languages. The publisher of the books is Scholastic Press in the United States. Steven Spielberg acquired film rights to the series in June 2008, and a film based on the books was set to be released in 2016 but production has not yet started as of May 2019. The series also originated tie-in merchandise, including collectible cards and an interactive Internet game.

Vesperae solennes de Dominica

Vesperae solennes de Dominica, K. 321, is a sacred choral composition, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1779. It is scored for SATB choir and soloists, violin I and II, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones colla parte, 2 timpani, and basso continuo (bassoon and organ).

It was composed in Salzburg at the request of the Archbishop Colloredo for liturgical use in the city's cathedral. The title "de Dominica" signifies its use in Sunday services. In 1780, Mozart composed another setting of Solemn Vespers, the Vesperae solennes de confessore, which shares many musical similarities with this work.

Vespers (album)

Vespers is an album by soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy recorded in 1993 and released on the Italian Soul Note label.

Vespers Rising

Vespers Rising is a part of The 39 Clues franchise, which includes the 39 Clues books, card packs, and interactive online games. The book is a transition between the first series, The 39 Clues, and the second, Cahills vs. Vespers. It was written by Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman, and Jude Watson. The book was released on April 5, 2011. Unlike the other 10 books (with the exception of the last one), the title card shows a series of dots rather than a globe.

Vespro della Beata Vergine

Vespro della Beata Vergine (Vespers for the Blessed Virgin; SV 206 and 206a) – more properly in Latin Vesperæ in Festis Beatæ Mariæ Virginis, or casually Vespers of 1610 – is a musical composition by Claudio Monteverdi. The liturgical vespers is an evening service following the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. In scale, Monteverdi's Vespers was the most ambitious work of religious music before Bach. This 90-minute piece includes soloists, chorus, and orchestra and has both liturgical and extra-liturgical elements.

The text is compiled from several Biblical texts that are traditionally used as part of the liturgy of vespers and for Marian feasts in the Catholic Church: the introductory Deus in adiutorium (Psalm 70), five psalm settings, sacred motets (called Concerti) between the psalms, a traditional Marian hymn, a setting of the Magnificat text and the concluding Benedicamus Domino.

War of the Sicilian Vespers

The War of the Sicilian Vespers or just War of the Vespers was a conflict that started with the insurrection of the Sicilian Vespers against Charles of Anjou in 1282 and ended in 1302 with the Peace of Caltabellotta. It was fought in Sicily, Catalonia (the Aragonese Crusade) and elsewhere in the western Mediterranean between, on one side, the Angevin Charles of Anjou, his son Charles II, the kings of France, and the Papacy, and on the other side, the kings of Aragon. The war resulted in the division of the old Kingdom of Sicily; at Caltabellotta, Charles II was confirmed as king of the peninsular territories of Sicily (the Kingdom of Naples), while Frederick III was confirmed as king of the island territories (the Kingdom of Trinacria).

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