Lesson Six: Vespers -- The Second "Twin"
Vespers is identical to Lauds in structure, except that Vespers ends with the final Our Father and does not include a Marian Antiphon:
The Structure of Vespers
- [Prayer Before the Office (A Section), if Vespers is the first office said that day];
- The Dual Prayer (Our Father and Hail Mary) (A Section);
- The Opening Versicles (A Section);
- Five Psalms, with their antiphons (usually taken from the weekly Psalter, but may come from the Proper or Common);
- The Chapter;
- The Hymn;
- The Magnificat (A Section) with its antiphon;
- [The Preces, said only on penitential days (A Section);]
- The Salutation, Bidding, and Collect of the Day;
- Commemorations, including the Common Commemoration;
- The Closing Versicles (A Section);
- The final Our Father, without any versicle and response.
A Closer Look at the Elements of Vespers
The rules governing where to find the above in the Breviary are the same as at Lauds.
Therefore, the five Psalms with their antiphons will come from the weekly Psalter unless the Proper provides specific Psalms or direction (i.e., "Psalms of Common 5," "All from Common 5," or "Psalms of Sunday."
If the Proper refers to "Vesper 1," or "Vesper 2," etc., this simply means to use the Psalms for Sunday Vespers, paying attention to which fifth Psalm should be said. The weekly Psalter's entry for Sunday has six forms of Vesper Psalms, each with a different fifth Psalm.
The Chapter, followed always by the response, "Thanks be to God" unless the Breviary specifically directs that this not be said, may be found as follows:
If the Proper of the day sets forth a Chapter, or directs the reader to a particular Common, use the Chapter found there.
If the Proper is silent, use the Chapter from the appropriate Common if the Office is of a saint, or the Chapter from the weekly Psalter on a feria. On feriae in Advent, Lent, Passiontide and Eastertide, the Chapter is found in the Ordinary.
The Hymn, with its versicle and response, follows the Chapter, and is to be found in the same location.
After the Hymn is said the canticle Magnificat, found in the Ordinary of Vespers. This canticle's antiphon is said by half or in full depending on the rite of the Office.
Remember to recite (or chant) the canticle as follows: the antiphon, followed by the canticle, then the Gloria Patri, and then the antiphon again.
The antiphon is found using the same method above. Check the Proper for an antiphon or direction to a Common; if this fails, use the antiphon from the appropriate Common on a saint's day, or from the weekly Psalter on a feria.
The Preces are a set of suffrages said only on penitential days, in accordance with the rubric on page A43. As such, they are usually omitted. [NOTE: Remember that one not in Holy Orders never says, "The Lord be with you, etc." Instead, wherever that Salutation appears in the Office, he or she replaces it with, V. O Lord, hear my prayer. R. And let my cry come unto thee.]
The Salutation, Bidding, and Collect of the Day
After the Preces, or the antiphon on the Magnificat if the Preces have been omitted, is said the Salutation, followed by the Bidding ("Let us pray"), and then the Collect of the Day. The Collect is found in the Proper of the day. On feriae, if no specific Collect is given in the Proper, the Collect is that of the preceding Sunday.
Following the Collect of the Day are said the commemorations of any occurring lesser feasts or observances. Commemoration will be treated in the next lesson, and should be omitted for now.
However, in Offices of simple or semidouble rite, the appropriate Common Commemoration is said after the Collect of the Day. The Common Commemorations are found on pages A6-A7.
The Closing Versicles and Final Prayers
The Office concludes with the Closing Versicles and the final Our Father, found on pages A7-A8.
A Note Regarding the Possibility of Two Vespers
Because the Christian Church has inherited the Jewish practice of reckoning days from sunset to sunset, many feasts have two Vespers. The feast begins with I Vespers on the evening of the first day, and continues through Compline of that night, and Matins and all the Hours of the next day until II Vespers.
All Offices of semidouble and double rite have both I and II Vespers (i.e., their Vespers are "doubled"). As a result, when reciting Vespers, it is important to look at the relevant Proper or Common to ensure that one is using elements for the correct Vespers. At the first Vespers of a feast, simply look for the material titled "I Vespers." For the closing Vespers celebration, use the material under "II Vespers."
Lesson Three, "Rites and Ranks," discussed concurrence -- the phenomenon whereby outgoing II Vespers of a feast conflicts with incoming I Vespers of a new feast. In such a case, one feast will be celebrated and the other commemorated according to its rank.
Very often, the Proper of both feasts will make clear what to do, so the reader need not scramble to find the ranks and have resort to the Tables in the General Rubrics. Usually, the Proper of one feast will state something like "Vespers of following, with commem. of preceding." Thus rubric means that the I Vespers office of the incoming feast is to be celebrated, and the outgoing feast merely commemorated in it. Sometimes the note will be given, "Vespers of preceding, with commem. of following," in which case II Vespers of the outgoing feast is to be celebrated, with commemoration of I Vespers of the next feast.
On occasion, a blend of this will be employed, and the rubric, "Vespers from Chapter of following with commem. of preceding," is seen. This simply means that Vespers is said using the Psalms and antiphons of the outgoing feast, and the Chapter and everything following from the incoming feast. Since most feasts use the weekly Psalter for the Vespers Psalms, this rubric usually effectively means Vespers is said using the elements of the incoming feast. Perhaps this rubric has more effect in churches where the Office is said by clergy in choir, who would be required to change their vestments (if any) from one color to another at the Chapter.
The mechanics of commemoration should be ignored for now, and the Office recited simply according to the feast of the day. How to make commemorations will be treated in the next lesson.