Mission Center: The Episcopal Church: Community

‹‹ Return
Order of Worship for the Evening, An 

A form of evening service or vespers for use in the late afternoon or evening. It may be used as a complete rite instead of Evening Prayer, or as the introduction to Evening Prayer or another service, or as the prelude to an evening meal or other activity. It may also be used in private homes (BCP, p. 108). The historic roots of this service may be traced to the ritual blessing of light by Jews at the evening meal. This Jewish custom was continued in the ancient evening services of early Christians. This evening service included a blessing of light (lucernarium), a selection from the Psalter, and prayers. It could also include an agap' meal. Although this service continued in Eastern Orthodoxy, it disappeared in much of western Christianity as the monastic hours of prayer replaced the ancient congregational daily services (also known as cathedral offices). The 1979 BCP is the first Prayer Book to include this service.

At the opening of An Order of Worship for the Evening, the ministers enter a darkened church. The ministers may be preceded by one or two lighted candles. During Easter season, the Paschal candle is burning as the service begins. The officiant approaches the lighted Paschal candle and begins the service by its light. A short lesson of scripture may follow the opening acclamation. This lesson is optional. The officiant then says the Prayer for Light, using one of the forms in the rite or another suitable prayer. After the Prayer for Light, the altar candles are lighted, along with other candles and lamps. In Easter season, the candles are lighted from the Paschal candle. An appropriate anthem or psalm may be sung during the candle-lighting, or silence may be kept. The BOS provides a variety of anthems (lucernaria) for optional use at the candle-lighting. After the candle-lighting, there follows the singing of the Phos hilaron, or a metrical version of it, or another hymn. Incense may be used after the candle-lighting and while the Phos hilaron is sung (BCP, p. 143). The service may then continue with Evening Prayer, or the Holy Eucharist, or another office or devotion. The BCP directs that the Service of Light of this liturgy is to begin a Vigil of Pentecost (p. 227). In the BOS, this Service of Light is also used to begin a Vigil for Christmas Eve, a Service for New Year's Eve, a Vigil for the Eve of the Baptism of Our Lord, a Vigil for the Eve of All Saints' Day or the Sunday after All Saints' Day, a Service for All Hallows' Eve, and a Vigil on the Eve of Baptism. The Service of Light may also be used to introduce Advent and Christmas Festivals of Lessons and Music if these festivals take place in the evening. The service may be followed by a meal or other activity, with the Phos hilaron followed by the Lord's Prayer and a grace or blessing.

The service may also continue as a complete evening office. The Phos hilaron is then followed by a selection from the Psalter; a Bible reading which may be followed by a sermon or homily, a passage from Christian literature, or a brief silence; a canticle (which may be the Magnificat,  the traditional evening canticle, or another canticle) or hymn of praise; prayers, including the Lord's Prayer and possibly the collect of the day, or a collect proper to the season, or one of the prayers included in the rite, or one of the collects from. The Aaronic blessing in a threefold form (based on Nm 6:24-26) is provided in the as an option for the concluding blessing. A blessing over food may conclude the service when a meal is to follow. 


Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.
Click here to order...


Resources »



ECCC Annual Conference
1/22/2012  - 1/27/2012    - Camp McDowell, AL

NAECED Annual Meeting and Tapestries Conference
2/2/2012  - 2/4/2012    - New Orleans, LA

Why Serve 2012
6/6/2012  - 6/10/2012    - Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, VA

More Events

Back to Top