Seeker Vespers

JMJ

RECENTLY A FEW SOURCES (podcasts, etc) have called out that Vespers is supposed to be a part of Parish life especially on Sunday. I wondered what the source was for this claim and so I asked on Twitter. (When asking questions on Facebook one often addresses the “hive mind”. If doing so on Twitter, should one address the “Birdbrain”?) Anyway, folks on Twitter were quick to respond: it comes from the December 1963 V2 Constitution on Sacred Liturgy:

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.

Sacrosanctum Concilium ¶100

As both Sundays and “more solemn feasts” have a 1st Vespers the night preceding, it’s not totally clear from that text if “on Sundays” means Sunday night or Saturday night at the 1st Vespers. While either or both may be intended, for the purpose of this blog post I’m going to assume Saturday night, although what follows could be used Saturday or Sunday.

It seems that Vespers could be used as a very evangelical and open service: what our Protestant brothers and sisters refer to as a “Seeker Service” or a “Seeker-Friendly Service”. That is, one intended to introduce people to the faith, to draw them in and make them familiar with basic ideas.

The outline for Vespers is very much suited to this purpose. It is in the evening: one does not have to get up early in the morning for it. It has the added advantage of not being a communion service and so there is no portion of it closed to non-Catholics. VEspers does not need to be done in the Church: this is good if the “evening slot” happens to be occupied by a Saturday Vigil Mass then VEspers can be done in the parish hall or any other warm and inviting space. With the right music and atmosphere, this could even be done in the homes of parishioners. Additionally, Vespers does not require a priest so all that follows can be done by lay leadership or by a deacon. Below are two options – a “normal” Evening Prayer or Vespers and a “higher” or “fuller” version that includes Night Prayer or Compline. I have also included a third description for “At Home”. These are intended as opportunities for evangelical outreach on Sundays and Greater Feasts. There are no “smells and bells” on purpose. Everything in this post uses the available options to the fullest extent allowed by the rubrics. I have included citations from the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours (GILOTH) as needed. Where I think you might need additional permission I have indicated so.

The Basic Outline of Evening Prayer

  1. Opening Versicle and Response
  2. Hymn
  3. Antiphon and 1st Psalm
  4. Antiphon and 2nd Psalm
  5. Antiphon and Canticle
  6. Reading
  7. Responsory
  8. Antiphon and Gospel Canticle: Magnificat
  9. Sufferages
  10. Our Father
  11. Prayer of the Day
  12. Blessing and Dismissal

Vespers as Seeker Service

  1. Welcome and Introduction (ad lib)
  2. Opening Versicle and Response
  3. Hymn (Worship Music, Praise Chorus, etc)
  4. Antiphon and 1st Psalm (Gregorian Chant suggested)
  5. Sacred Silence
  6. Antiphon and 2nd Psalm (Sung as responsory psalm with antiphon set to a more contemporary melody.)
    GILOTH ¶125 In addition, when the literary genre of a psalm suggests it, the divisions into strophes are marked in order that, especially when the psalm is sung in the vernacular, the antiphons may be repeated after each strophe; in this case the Glory to the Father need be said only at the end of the psalm.”
  7. Sacred Silence
  8. Antiphon and Canticle (Suggested as a third style of music four part acapella chant such as Russian or shape note.)
  9. Sacred Silence
  10. Readings from Sunday’s Office of Readings.
    GILOTH ¶44. After the psalmody there is either a short reading or a longer one.
    ¶46. Especially in a celebration with a congregation, a longer Scripture reading may be chosen either from the office of readings or the Lectionary for Mass, particularly texts that for some reason have not been used. From time to time some other more suitable reading may be used, in accordance with the rules in nos. 248-249 and 251.
  11. Sacred Silence
  12. Homily/talk
    47. In a celebration with a congregation a short homily may follow the reading to explain its meaning, as circumstances suggest.
  13. Sacred Silence
    GILOTH ¶48. After the reading or homily a period of silence may be observed.
  14. Responsory
  15. Antiphon and Gospel Canticle: Magnificat (Suggested as Gregorian Chant – perhaps some Latin?)
  16. Sufferages
  17. Personal Intercessions as Needed
  18. Our Father (chanted)
  19. Prayer of the Day
  20. Blessing and Dismissal
  21. Closing worship music

Souped Up Version

As above with Nos 1-19. Instead of a blessing and dismissal at #20 proceed as follows:

  1. Prayer of the Day
  2. Worship music while exposing the Blessed Sacrament
  3. Holy Hour/Adoration
  4. Benediction
  5. Full Office of Night Prayer in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament Exposed
    1. Opening
    2. Confession
    3. Hymn
    4. Antiphon and Psalm as Responsory
    5. Reading
    6. Sacred Silence
    7. Responsory
    8. Antiphon and Gospel Canticle (Nunc Dimittis)
  6. Closing Prayer
  7. Antiphon to the Blessed Virgin
  8. (O Lumen Ecclesiae – b/c OP)

Vespers as Seeker Service at Home (Base Community)

At home (or in another location – eg Coffee Shop or Pub) Vespers can be celebrated as part of a base community gathering for Bible Study or faith-formation/faith sharing. In this more Domestic sort of way, it’s a good prelude to dinner. All the notes from above apply, so I’ve only added further explanations if changed.

  1. Welcome and Introduction (ad lib)
  2. Opening Versicle and Response
  3. Hymn (Worship Music, Praise Chorus, etc)
  4. Antiphon and 1st Psalm (Gregorian Chant suggested)
  5. Sacred Silence
  6. Antiphon and 2nd Psalm (Sung as responsory psalm with antiphon set to a more contemporary melody.)
  7. Sacred Silence
  8. Antiphon and Canticle (Suggested as a third style of music four part acapella chant such as Russian or shape note.)
  9. Sacred Silence
  10. Readings from Sunday’s Office of Readings.
  11. Sacred Silence
  12. Homily/talk Group Lectio
  13. Sacred Silence
  14. Responsory
  15. Antiphon and Gospel Canticle: Magnificat (Suggested as Gregorian Chant – perhaps some Latin?)
  16. Sufferages
  17. Personal Intercessions as Needed
  18. Our Father (chanted)
  19. Prayer of the Day – grace over any food…
    (Meal/Conversation/further lectio?)
  20. Blessing and Dismissal
  21. Closing worship music or – grace over any food… Meal/Conversation/further lectio?

Author: Huw Richardson

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He feeds the homeless and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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