Season after Pentecost, 2023
Why should you return to a church on a Sunday evening (assuming you were there that very morning) to attend the service of Choral Evensong? If you ever find yourself moved by the choral music you hear in worship on Sunday mornings, you will find an abundance of sacred choral music offered to the glory of God in this shorter candlelit service.
Dale Adelmann's article at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta speaks to this well: "Think Evensong isn’t for you? Well, if you ever resonate with the choirs’ musical offerings on Sunday morning, you will find Evensong to be an especially rich revelation of the glory and presence of God."
"Have you ever been to Evensong?" 13 September 2015
Evensong (the service of Evening Prayer, sung) is drawn almost entirely from the Bible and has been sung regularly in the Anglican Church since the sixteenth century. Its purpose is to give thanks in song and sight to God, the Giver of all beauty. This service brings together many elements of the older monastic offices of Vespers and Compline, particularly their respective canticles the Magnificat (Luke 1) and the Nunc dimittis (Luke 2). There is wide variety of music spanning four centuries that has been written specifically for this evening liturgy.
“We live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender”
You may find that Evensong the ideal place to introduce a friend or colleague to the rich liturgical and musical heritage of the Episcopal Church. With neither sermon nor Eucharist, the more contemplative atmosphere at Evensong can be a wonderful experience for a new or returning Christian.
Furthermore, there is an indescribable quality to worship at the time of the sun’s setting. The energetic quality of the morning liturgy is familiar to American Christians; the contemplative quality of Evensong, less so.
The service in the morning is a ready complement to our addiction to busyness (cars!), need for control (iPhones!), and love of energy (Starbucks!).
This service in the evening helps us to turn our attention away from ourselves to remember many different aspects of our relationship to God: including the act of surrender.
“We live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender. Each morning we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day in the world of time; each night we surrender to the dark to be taken to play in the world of dreams where time is no more. At birth we were awakened and emerged to become visible in the world. At death we will surrender again to the dark to become invisible. Awakening and surrender: they frame each day and each life; between them the journey where anything can happen, the beauty and the frailty.”
– John O’Donohue, quoted from "Between Awakening and Surrender: John O’Donohue on Beauty, the Enchantment of Falling in Love, and the Vortex of Desire" Brainpickings 21 September 2015.
I invite you to frame your day with worship, including Evensong. Seek out an Evensong if you can. Or gather with others and read Evening Prayer (use Rite I if you wish to use the language often heard at Evensong) from the Book of Common Prayer.
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