Christ Church Cathedral is one of only a small number of churches in North America that offers Choral Evensong on a weekly basis throughout the year, in recognition of the fundamental place of the Daily Office in our Anglican identity and heritage. While Anglicanism has changed enormously in its now almost 500-year history, and many today find the language of the Book of Common Prayer both outdated and inaccessible, the simple yet effective service structured around psalms, readings and the opportunity to reflect on these ancient texts that have tied Christians together for thousands of years still resonates with many Anglicans, and increasingly non-believers and those exploring their faith, today.
In this extended period of self-isolation and social distancing, it has become increasingly difficult for us to maintain a strict service of Choral Evensong while our Cathedral building is closed and our choir is unable to meet. We continue to explore ways of engaging our musicians to enrich not only our worship, but the wider devotional and cultural life of our community, but we also recognise the importance of people being able to interact with live worship, even if they do so from afar. Working within this framework, our Music & Liturgy team have devised a service of Organ Vespers that we will offer today, and for future Sundays until such time as we feel able to re-evaluate how the Cathedral continues to respond to the pandemic and the effects that it has on our worship life.
Evensong itself is derived from the combination of Vespers and Compline that Thomas Cranmer first devised when working on the Book of Common Prayer in the Sixteenth Century. The term ‘vespers’ has its origins in both Ancient Greek and Latin where it just meant ‘evening’, and services that recognise the images of day and night and their allegories within the wider Christian narrative can be found in almost all denominations. Although we might typically think of Vespers as being a Catholic office, the term Organ Vespers has its origins in Lutheranism, which itself has had a pre-established evening service for centuries. Indeed, many of Bach’s cantatas would originally have been heard within this context.
Our service this evening, while not new of itself, has drawn on a number of different influences in its construction. Those of you familiar with Evensong will, we hope, still recognise the overall shape of psalms and readings, interspersed with musical items and prayers which give time and space for reflection. Yet, there are also hints of the more traditional Catholic Vespers with the Magnificat taking centre-stage in what is an elaborate duet between voice and organ. For many centuries, there existed an ‘alternatim’ practice, where the ‘choir’ (often priests and monks) would chant the appointed texts, with organ improvisations interpreting the intermediate verses. This is a practice that, in practical terms, has all but fallen into abeyance, but which still exists in more academic circles. Thus, while you will not hear the entire Magnificat text verbally enunciated, each organ interlude, nevertheless, is inspired by the spirit and essence of the verse it replaces.
While the eventual format of this service is, at least in part, unconventional, we live in unconventional times where the challenge presented to us is to maintain our regular prayer life, to see and to seek familiarity, yet also to rejoice in the diversity and possibilities that what are difficult times for us all still present. Throughout the Bible, there are instances where the faithful had to adapt, to change, and be ready to accept that they couldn’t always do things the way they had done so, or in the ways in which they felt they should be done. Yet they still remained true to themselves and to their faith, and we at Christ Church continue to do all that we can to do likewise.
Below you will find the order for our service today. You can hear the service broadcast live on Radio Ville Marie at 4pm (ET) as normal with our Evensong services, or you can watch the service at the link below.
Organ Vespers for the Fourth Sunday of Easter
Officiant: Rev Dr Deborah Meister, Associate Priest
Organist: Dr Jonathan White, Director of Religious Music
- Prelude: Pastorale (i), BWV 590, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
- Welcome from the Rev Dr Deborah Meister
- Responses (Plainsong)
V: O Lord open thou our lips
R: And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise
V: O God make speed to save us
R: O Lord make haste to help us
V: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost
R: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
V: Praise ye the Lord
R: The Lord’s name be praised
- Psalm 29
- Bring unto the Lord, O ye mighty, bring young rams unto the Lord : ascribe unto the Lord worship and strength.
- Give the Lord the honour due unto his Name : worship the Lord with holy worship.
- It is the Lord, that commandeth the waters : it is the glorious God, that maketh the thunder.
- It is the Lord, that ruleth the sea; the voice of the Lord is mighty in operation : the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice
- The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedar-trees : yea, the Lord breaketh the cedars of Libanus.
- He maketh them also to skip like a calf : Libanus also, and Sirion, like a young unicorn.
- The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire; the voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness : yea, the Lord shaketh the wilderness of Cades.
- The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to bring forth young, and discovereth the thick bushes : in his temple doth every man speak of his honour.
- The Lord sitteth above the water-flood : and the Lord remaineth a King for ever.
- The Lord shall give strength unto his people : the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.
- Organ Reflection: Prelude VI from Six Short Preludes and Postludes, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)
- First Lesson: Ezra 3:1-13
And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening. They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required; And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the Lord that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia. Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the Lord. Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites. And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.
- Magnificat: Magnificat Suite, Jean-François Dandrieu (c.1682-1739)
- My soul doth Magnify the Lord
- And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour
- Duo (for He hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden : for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed)
- For He that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is His name
- Trio (and his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations)
- He hath shewn strength with his arm : He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts
- Basse de Trompette (He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek)
- He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich He hath sent empty away
- Flûtes (He remembering his mercy : hath holpen His servant Israel)
- As He promised to our forefather : Abraham and his seed for ever)
- Dialogue (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost)
- As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.
- Second Lesson: Ephesians 2:11-22
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
- Organ Reflection: Pastorale, Percy Whitlock (1903-1946)
- Postlude: Psalm Prelude Set 1, No 3 (Ps. 23), Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
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