Light and Darkness

In community we are trying a little experiment for Advent. Instead of singing Vespers (Evening Prayer) at five or six every evening, we are timing it to coincide with the waning of the light. Benedict does, indeed, say that Vespers should be so timed that it can be completed without the use of lamplight, but in the modern world most communities have adopted the practical, if rather prosaic, custom of a fixed hour. At least, that way, most of the community will turn up!

What have we to report of our experiment so far? First, we have been captivated by the sheer beauty of the darkness stealing across the lawn outside; the grey November sky flushed with touches of palest pink; the clouds softly luminous; beads of rain slipping down the windows like liquid crystals. Then there is the power of the words we sing and the haunting beauty of the accompanying chants. All this week we proclaim that ‘on that day there will be a great light’ (et die illa, erit lux magna). The contrast between the gathering darkness and the great burst of light that signifies the Incarnation, between the bleakness of early winter and the messianic promise of mountains running with sweetness (et stillabunt montes dulcedinem) is truly dramatic; but it is with the Advent hymn, Conditor alme siderum, ‘Loving Creator of the stars,’ that time and eternity meld and merge. The promise to Abraham realised in the flesh of Jesus is written across the sky in the little points of light we call stars.

The liturgy is a great teacher of prayer and theology but it is not divorced from the world around us. Singing Advent Vespers as light changes to darkness is a wonderful reminder of the dynamic of salvation, of the mystery of the Incarnation and of our own infinite need of God.

Advent Season
The Liturgy section of our main website has information about Advent, recordings of the ‘O’ antiphons and so on.

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6 thoughts on “Light and Darkness”

  1. I’m a ridiculously early riser, and I love to watch out of the window as the sky turns from black, to blue, to rosy pink. I find it to be a daily breathtaking reminder of the creativity of God. God bless you all in your Advent.

  2. What a lovely idea! I wish my day were that flexible. However, the office window looks out west over the rural countryside, so I will try to say micro-vespers as the sun goes down.

  3. A lovely idea very beautifully expressed. What a vivid example of how changing one small thing can make a great deal of difference. I am fortunate enough to have a flexible timetable and will be joining you in this experiment. Thank you.

  4. Thank you for your comments. Sometimes, when we can’t do great things, doing little things can help us to pray better. I like the idea of micro-Vespers prayed in the heart while still in the office.

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