Sunset Meditation – Vespers

Sunset Meditation - VespersVespers is the sunset evening prayer service in the many denominations liturgies of the canonical hours. The word comes from the Greek ἑσπέρα (“hespera”) and the Latin vesper, meaning “evening”. It is also referred to in the Anglican tradition as evensong. The term is also used in some Protestant denominations to describe evening services. Vespers, takes place as dusk begins to fall. Its purpose is to take a moment to give thanks for the day just past and makes an evening sacrifice of praise to God (Psalm 141:1). In the Catholic church the climax of Vespers is the Magnificat, the great thanksgiving song of the Church. 

In medieval times most work ended at sunset. Field work, gardening and work which required good light could ot be done after the sun had gone down. Depending on the time of year, Vespers  were said in late afternoon to early evening. At bedtime in the monasteries there were devotions in the sleeping quarters (lessons, chapter of faults, abbot’s blessing), which developed into Compline. Lay people often practiced bedtime prayer as well.

Today most people are still working or stuck in commuting at the time of Vespers. The race home, picking up takeaway food on the way or if lucky to have food at home, having little time to unwind and relax before eating. I am fortunate to be done with all that because the hours for Vespers are one of my favorite times of day and I have the luxury of quiet time before fixing dinner for myself and the cats. In fact I wrote much of this post as the afternoon moved into Vespers time.

I am not the only one who finds the Vespers hour compelling. Many artists potrayed this time when chuch bells tolled. The Vesper Bell by Friedrich Dürck, Mikhail Botkin’s Vespers in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi (1861) and Vespers by American Artist Edward Lamson Henry, are wonderful examples. (Sorry, all illustrations copyrighted but you can see them on line) Of course composers were inspiredby Vespers. There is Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers for example. The Magnificat has been set to music by J S Bach, Vivaldi and Bruckner. And then there are the poets. Although even as a small child I doubt Christopher Robin went to bed as early as Vespers that is what Milne titled the poem he wrote about his son. I think Vespers was more familiar in the twentieth century than Compline, as it is still part of Anglican services and does have an end of day feel to it.


A.A. Milne

Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.God bless Mummy. I know that’s right.
Wasn’t it fun in the bath to-night?
The cold’s so cold, and the hot’s so hot.
Oh! God bless Daddy – I quite forgot.If I open my fingers a little bit more,
I can see Nanny’s dressing-gown on the door.
It’s a beautiful blue, but it hasn’t a hood.
Oh! God bless Nanny and make her good.Mine has a hood, and I lie in bed,
And pull the hood right over my head,
And I shut my eyes, and I curl up small,
And nobody knows that I’m there at all.Oh! Thank you, God, for a lovely day.
And what was the other I had to say?
I said “Bless Daddy,” so what can it be?
Oh! Now I remember it. God bless Me.
Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

This one is a little more modern and adult. As a gardener I appreciate this little heart to heart, imagining the gardener coming in tired and sweaty to reflect on the day and the state of the plants. I can really relate to his sort of Vespers.


In your extended absence, you permit me 
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report 
failure in my assignment, principally 
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow 
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold 
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come 
so often here, while other regions get 
twelve weeks of summer. All this 
belongs to you: on the other hand, 
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots 
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart 
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly 
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of 
that term. You who do not discriminate 
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence, 
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know 
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible 
for these vines.


About angela1313

I am a cat lover, a writer, and an overextended blogger trying to foster for a cat rescue, finish a Master's degree and rehab a fixer upper house i bought.
This entry was posted in Joys of Life, Life's Conundrums, Music, Poetry, Ritual and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Sunset Meditation – Vespers

  1. Pingback: Before I Lay Me Down to Sleep – Compline | Kimchee and Catnip

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.