An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


The early evening office of prayer in the church. The term is from the Latin word for “evening.” Lucernarium (lamp or lamp-lighting time) was an early name for vespers. Early Christians continued the Jewish custom of prayer at the time when daylight faded and the lamps were lit. The practice of Christian evening prayer dates from the third century. It is mentioned by Tertullian and in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. During the fourth to sixth centuries the evening service came to take the form of vespers. Lauds and vespers, the two most important of the canonical day hours of prayer, were said at dawn and sunset. Vespers has also been called the “evening sacrifice” of prayer. Ps 141:2, “Let my prayer be set forth in your sight as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice,” has been traditionally associated with vespers.

Archbishop Cranmer combined vespers with other offices for the BCP office of Evening Prayer. In addition to Evening Prayer, the 1979 BCP provides a form of evening service or vespers for use in the late afternoon or evening (p. 109). This vespers service, An Order of Worship for the Evening, may be used in place of Evening Prayer or it may serve as the introduction to Evening Prayer (BCP, p. 108). It may include a candle-lighting (BCP, p. 112). The BOS provides anthems (Lucernaria) for optional use at the candle-lighting of this service.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.