The Sunday morning routine is often busy and full of doing: we pray, sing, celebrate Christ in the Eucharist, go to a class, and perhaps serve in some capacity. We spend a few minutes catching up with friends and welcoming newcomers between all the other things. As we leave, we are challenged to go out into the world and do something. These are all good and right things, and this is the call of Christ, to be light, salt, the city on a hill, to spread the good news of the Gospel throughout the world.
Evensong, in contrast, offers an hour of quiet meditation on the beauty of Christ through the cessation of action. Outside of the hymns, the choir offers the service to the Lord on behalf of the congregation; the congregation is only asked to enter in. Martha was admonished by Jesus for her incessant doing while Mary was praised for listening. Jesus was saying, “Yes, serve, but take long moments to sit at my feet, gaze in wonder, and listen.” Evensong is one way to put yourself in the posture of Martha’s sister Mary.
This centuries-old Anglican service has the potential to help us pause our busy lives at that “even point” between the activities of the day and sleep. It can serve as a shield against the world’s desperate attempt to inundate us with a continual barrage of noise and stuff to do. The long, continual and continued offering of Evensong in surprisingly unchanging ways over the past five centuries allows us to tap into something greater than ourselves: the worship and witness of the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. Evensong is an hour of reflection, beauty, and worship in quiet wonder.
Finally, there is the subtle drama of the service: a young, pregnant woman unexpectedly burst out in praise of the Lord (Magnificat); sins are confessed and forgiven; an old man holds in his arms the God of the universe (Nunc Dimittis); Old Testament is followed by New Testament; the rich and mighty are cast down and the poor exalted. All is made right in the world and in our hearts before sleep and the start of a busy work week.
I particularly invite you to the first Evensong of the season this Sunday, Sept 10th, at 5:30pm. Musical offerings include Responses from 17th century, Canticles from the early 20th century, and an anthem from the 21st century. Scripture readings will compare the ordered and professional life of temple musicians with the call of each believer in the New Testament to sing and make music. The voluntaries will contemplate the mystical wonders of heaven. Come see, listen, and contemplate our great Savior this and each Evensong!
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