by Gary Penkala
Part I: Introduction
"Public and common prayer by the people of God is rightly considered to be among the primary duties of
the Church. The Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine Office, enriched by readings, is principally a prayer of
praise and petition. In fact, it is the prayer of the Church with Christ and to Christ."
"The Liturgy of the Hours, like other liturgical actions, is not something private but belongs to the whole
body of the Church. Where possible, the principal Hours (Morning and Evening Prayer) should be
celebrated communally in church by groups of the faithful."
These excerpts from the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours show the Church's concern
that the faithful unite in liturgical prayer, even beyond Sunday Mass. The season of Advent offers an
appropriate opportunity for us to celebrate the Hours, most especially Evening Prayer (Vespers). The
Catholic Liturgy Book states, "Evening Prayer has a dual character- praise for the gifts of the day
gone by and PENITENCE for the sins we have committed. It sets the approach of night within the context
of Christian hope, and is marked by a strong sense of God's mercy and HOPE FOR THE COMING OF
CHRIST, who is the light of the world." One can see from the capitalized phrases above that the themes of
Advent and the basic themes of Evening Prayer overlap considerably.
While there are many books and pamphlets available on Vesper services for Advent, all the elements of this
liturgical service are available already to most parishes for use in communal services. Those using a
standard hymnal like Worship have outlines and materials within the hymnal. Others may use the
following adaptation. It should be noted that it is ALWAYS desirable to stray as little as necessary from
officially approved texts and translations, even with congregational involvement. Under unusual
circumstances it may be necessary to substitute a paraphrased version of a psalm or canticle in the interest
of having a familiar and singable setting. This should be done with caution, and should ultimately lead the
congregation to a familiarity with and appreciation of approved settings. While the clergy (bishop, priest or deacon)
should participate in a leadership role in Evening Prayer, the service may be celebrated fully and properly
even with no clergy present.