Evening prayer is celebrated by the laity and clergy of the parish every Sunday at 6:30 p.m. in the chapel. During the Easter session, we meet at 6 p.m. and extend our Easter celebration by enjoying dessert together in Bryce Hall before we begin our prayer in the Chapel.
The structure of Evening Prayer
Evening prayer begins with an “invitatory,” where the presider (usually a deacon, although a lay person may also lead Evening Prayer) says – “God, come to my assistance” as we all make the sign of the Cross. Our response is “Lord, make haste to help me” together with the Glory be to the Father.
This is followed by a hymn. We then are seated, and we pray two psalms and a canticle (a hymn text from scripture). At Epiphany, we usually read them antiphonally – one group in the Chapel reads one verse, the second group reads the next, and so on, back and forth between the two groups.
Then there is a reading from scripture, sometimes a short homily, and a response to the reading recited by all. We then sing the Magnificat, the prayer of Mary found in Luke 1, and pray intercessions for the world, the parish, and other intentions of those gathered. We pray the Lord's Prayer, a concluding prayer, and receive a blessing from the deacon or priest. We end with the exchange of the Peace of Christ.
The Public Prayer of the Church
Together with the sacrifice of the Holy Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours is the public prayer of the Church. By setting aside specific times each day for prayer, the day is sanctified to the Lord.
This practice began in apostolic times in the Jewish custom of saying prayers and psalms at specific times during the day. The book of Acts records that the Apostles often prayed at the 3rd, 6th, and 9th hours of the day. It developed over many centuries, primarily in monasteries and convents, and in the “Breviary”, which is the daily prayer of priests and deacons.
With the renewal of the Second Vatican Council, the laity were invited to join the clergy and religious in praying the Liturgy of the Hours. There are three “Major Hours” – the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer. There are four “Minor Hours” – midmorning, noon, and midafternoon, and night prayer.
Ordained ministers use the Liturgy of the Hours as part of the work that Christ continues through his people. Lay people may pray the Liturgy of the Hours as individuals, or in the company of others as we do at Epiphany on Sunday evenings. This celebration is an extension of the Eucharistic celebration that calls forth various devotions of the people, most especially adoration and worship of the Blessed Sacrament.
The hymns and litanies of the Liturgy of the Hours use the psalms,canticles, and readings to express the symbolism of the time of day, liturgical season, or the feast being celebrated. When we pray with the psalms, we pray the prayers that Jesus used during his life here on Earth. Evening prayer and the other prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours are meditative dialogues on the mystery of the Lord, through scripture and prayer.
Where to find more information.
There are websites and apps that can assist you in praying the Liturgy of the Hours if you wish to do so in your own private prayers.
Universalis offers the texts at its website and has an app that can be downloaded for use with smart phones.
The Divine Office has online texts for all the prayers of the day plus offers an app for use on smart phones.
e-Breviary has online texts formatted for printing as booklets for use in groups that pray the Liturgy of the Hours together.
As far as books are concerned, the full liturgy of the hours is a four volume set and is not generally used by lay people. Christian Prayer is a one-volume edition of the Liturgy of the Hours from Catholic Book Publishers. This version contains the complete texts of Morning and Evening Prayer for the entire year. It lacks the variety of proper readings and prayers found in the four volume edition. However, it makes a good "starter edition" for the laity, and generally is adequate for following along in community recitation of the Office. There is also a large print edition for the visually impaired.