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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Office of Vespers, or Evensong, consists firstly of the five following Psalms. According to our custom, we preface each Psalm with a short explanation, in order to draw attention to what is most in harmony with the spirit of the Easter mysteries.

After the Pater and Ave have been said in secret, the Church commences this Hour with her favourite supplication:

 

℣. Deus in adjutorium meum intende.
℟. Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto:
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen. Alleluia.

ANT. Dixit Dominus.
℣. Incline unto my aid, O God.
℟. O Lord, make haste to help me.

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. Alleluia.

ANT. The Lord said.

 

ANT. Alleluia.
ANT. Alleluia.

Under this single Antiphon all the Psalms are sung, if the Vespers are of the Sunday; but on feasts the Antiphons are proper, and will be given on their respective days.

The first Psalm is a prophecy of the future glory of the Messias. It celebrates his Eternal Generation, his being equal with the Father, his Kingship and Priesthood. He was humbled for a while, even so as to drink of the torrent: but now he has triumphed over his enemies, and will come in glory at the end of the world to judge them.

.

psalm 109

 

Dixit Dominus Domino meo: * Sede a dextris meis.
Donec ponam inimicos tuos: * scabellum pedum tuorum.
Virgam virtutis tuæ emittet Dominus ex Sion: * dominare in medio inimicorum tuorum.
Tecum principium in die virtutis tuæ in splendoribus sanctorum: * ex utero ante luciferum genui te.
Juravit Dominus, et non poenitebit eum: * Tu es Sacerdos in æternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech.
Dominus a dextris tuis: * confregit in die iræ suæ reges.
Judicabit in nationibus, implebit ruinas: * conquassabit capita in terra multorum.
De torrente in via bibet: * propterea exaltabit caput.


The Lord said to my Lord, his Son: Sit thou at my right hand, and reign with me.
Until, on the day of thy last coming, I make thy enemies thy footstool.
O Christ! the Lord thy Father will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: from thence rule thou in the midst of thy enemies.
With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength, in the brightness of the saints: For the Father hath said to thee: From the womb before the day-star I begot thee.
The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: he hath said, speaking of thee, the God-Man: Thou art a Priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.
Therefore, O Father, the Lord, thy Son, is at thy right hand: he hath broken kings in the day of his wrath.
He shall also judge among nations: in that terrible coming he shall fill the ruins of the world: he shall crush the heads in the land of many.
He cometh now in humility; he shall drink in the way of the torrent of sufferings: therefore shall be lift up the head on the day of his triumph over death.


The following Psalm commemorates the mercies of God to his people, the promised Covenant, the Redemption, his fidelity to his word. The Resurrection of Christ (of which our own is a consequence) was one of God’s promises; and we are now celebrating its accomplishment.

psalm 110

 

Confitebor tibi, Domine, in toto corde meo: * in concilio justorum et congregatione.
Magna opera Domini: * exquisita in omnes voluntates ejus.
Confessio et magnificentia opus ejus: * et justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.
Memoriam fecit mirabilium suorum, misericors et miserator Dominus: * escam dedit timentibus se.
Memor erit in sæculum testamenti sui: * virtutem operum suorum annuntiabit populo suo.
Ut det illis haereditatem Gentium: * opera manuum ejus veritas et judicium.
Fidelia omnia mandata ejus, confirmata in sæculum sæculi: * facta in veritate et æquitate.
Redemptionem misit populo suo: * mandavit in æternum testamentum suum.
Sanctum et terribile nomen ejus: * initium sapientiæ timor Domini.
Intellectus bonus omnibus facientibus eum: * laudatio ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.


I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: in the council of the just, and in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord: sought out according to all his wills.
His work is praise and magnificence: and his justice continueth for ever and ever.
He hath made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord: he hath given food to them that fear him.
He will be mindful for ever of his covenant with men: he will show forth to his people the power of his works.
That he may give them, his Church, the inheritance of the Gentiles: the works of his hands are truth and judgement.
All his commandments are faithful, confirmed for ever and ever: made in truth and equity.
He hath sent redemption to his people; he hath thereby commanded his covenant for ever.
Holy and terrible is his name: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
A good understanding to all that do it: his praise continueth for ever and ever.



The next Psalm sings the happiness and hopes of the just man. The light that rises up in darkness is our risen Jesus, who appears to us in his mercy. The wicked one, who is angry at the triumph of him who is par excellence the just, is the Jew, to whom the Resurrection was a source of the most bitter regret and confusion.

psalm 111

 

Beatus vir qui timet Dominum: * in mandatis ejus volet nimis.
Potens in terra erit semen ejus: * generatio rectorum benedicetur.
Gloria et divitiæ in domo ejus: * et justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.
Exortum est in tenebris lumen rectis: * misericors, et miserator, et justus.
Jucundus homo qui miseretur et commodat, disponet sermones suos in judicio: * quia in æternum non commovebitur.
In memoria æterna erit justus: * ab auditione mala non timebit.
Paratum cor ejus sperare in Domino, confirmatum est cor ejus: * non commovebitur donec despiciat inimicos suos.
Dispersit, dedit pauperibus, justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi: * cornu ejus exaltabitur in gloria.
Peccator videbit et irascetur, dentibus suis fremet et tabescet: * desiderium peccatorum peribit.


Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: he shall delight exceedingly in his commandments.
His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the righteous shall be blessed.
Glory and wealth shall be in his house: and his justice remaineth for ever and ever.
To the righteous a light is risen up in darkness: he is merciful, and compassionate, and just.
Acceptable is the man that showeth mercy and lendeth; he shall order his words with judgement: because he shall not be moved for ever.
The just shall be in everlasting remembrance: he shall not fear the evil hearing.
His heart is ready to hope in the Lord; his heart is strengthened: he shall not be moved until he look over his enemies.
He hath distributed, he hath given to the poor; his justice remaineth for ever and ever: his horn shall be exalted in glory.
The wicked shall see, and shall be angry; he shall gnash with his teeth, and pine away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

The Psalm Laudate pueri is a Canticle of praise to the Lord, who from his high heaven has taken pity on the fallen human race, and humbled himself by taking our nature, which he afterwards raised up by his Resurrection.

psalm 112

 

Laudate, pueri, Dominum: * laudate nomen Domini.
Sit nomen Domini benedictum: * ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum.
A solis ortu usque ad occasum: * laudabile nomen Domini.
Excelsus super omnes Gentes Dominus: * et super cœlos gloria ejus.
Quis sicut Dominus Deus noster qui in altis habitat: * et humilia respicit in cœlo et in terra?
Suscitans a terra inopem: * et de stercore erigens pauperem.
Ut collocet eum cum principibus: * cum principibus populi sui.
Qui habitare facit sterilem in domo: * matrem filiorum lætantem.


Praise the Lord, ye children: praise ye the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord: from henceforth now and for ever.
From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise.
The Lord is high above all nations: and his glory above the heavens.
Who is as the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high: and looketh down on the low things in heaven and in earth, nay, who cometh down amidst us?
Raising up the needy from the earth: and lifting up the poor out of the dunghill.
That he may place him with princes: with the princes of his people.
Who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children.

The fifth PsalmIn exitu, speaks of the ancient Pasch (the exodus from Egypt) and the prodigies that accompanied and followed it; of the Red Sea, the figure of Baptism; of the water which issued from the rock in the desert; and of the abolition of idol-worship. Our Christian Pasch and Pentecost are the fulfilment of all these figures; they bring a blessing upon all, Jews or Gentiles, who love or fear Christ. In consequence of our sins, we were condemned to go down into hell, where we should never have heard the glad hymns of praise sung to our God in the heavenly Jerusalem: but the Resurrection of Christ has restored us to life, and we sing, to his and his Father’s praise, the joyous Alleluia.

.

psalm 113

 

In exitu Israel de Ægypto: * domus Jacob de populo barbaro.
Facta est Judæa sanctificatio ejus: * Israel potestas ejus.
Mare vidit, et fugit: * Jordanis conversus est retrorsum.
Montes exsultaverunt ut arietes: * et colles sicut agni ovium.
Quid est tibi, mare, quod fugisti: * et tu, Jordanis, quia conversus es retrorsum?
Montes exsultastis sicut arietes: * et colles sicut agni ovium?
A facie Domini mota est terra: a facie Dei Jacob.
Qui convertit petram in stagna aquarum: * et rupem in fontes aquarum.
Non nobis, Domine, non nobis: * sed nomini tuo da gloriam.
Super misericordia tua, et veritate tua: * nequando dicant Gentes: Ubi est Deus eorum?
Deus autem noster in cœlo: * omnia quæcumque voluit, fecit.
Simulacra Gentium argentum et aurum: * opera manuum hominum.
Os habent, et non loquentur: * oculos habent, et non videbunt.
Aures habent, et non audient: * nares habent, et non odorabunt.
Manus habent, et non palpabunt, pedes habent, et non ambulabunt: * non clamabunt in gutture suo.
Similes illis fiant qui faciunt ea: * et omnes qui confidunt in eis.
Domus Israel speravit in Domino: * adjutor eorum et protector eorum est.
Domus Aaron speravit in Domino: * adjutor eorum et protector eorum est.
Qui timent Dominum, speraverunt in Domino: * adjutor eorum et protector eorum est.
Dominus memor fuit nostri: * et benedixit nobis.
Benedixit domui Israel: * benedixit domui Aaron.
Benedixit omnibus qui timent Dominum: * pusillis cum majoribus.
Adjiciat Dominus super vos: * super vos, et super filios vestros.
Benedicti vos a Domino: * qui fecit cœlum et terrain.
Cœlum cœli Domino: * terram autem dedit filiis hominum.
Non mortui laudabunt te, Domine: * neque omnes qui descendunt in infernum.
Sed nos qui vivimus, benedicimus Domino: * ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum.

ANT. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous people.
Judea was made his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
The sea saw and fled; Jordan was turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams: and the hills like the lambs of the flock.
What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou didst flee: and thou, O Jordan, that thou wast turned back?
Ye mountains that ye skipped like rams: and ye hills like lambs of the flock?
At the presence of the Lord the earth was moved, at the presence of the God of Jacob.
Who turned the rock into pools of water, and the stony hills into fountains of water.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us: but to thy name give glory.
For thy mercy and for thy truth's sake: lest the Gentiles should say: Where is their God?
But our God is in heaven: he hath done all things whatsoever he would.
The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold: the works of the hands of men.
They have mouths, and speak not: they have eyes, and see not.
They have ears, and hear not: they have noses, and smell not.
They have hands, and feel not: they have feet, and walk not: neither shall they cry out through their throat.
Let them that make them become like unto them: and all such as trust in them.
The house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
The house of Aaron hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
They that feared the Lord have hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
The Lord hath been mindful of us, and hath blessed us.
He hath blessed the house of Israel: he hath blessed the house of Aaron.
He hath blessed all that fear the Lord, both little and great.
May the Lord add blessings upon you: upon you, and upon your children.
Blessed be you of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The heaven of heaven is the Lord’s: but the earth he has given to the children of men.
The dead shall not praise thee, O Lord, nor any of them that go down to hell.
But we that live bless the Lord: from this time now and for ever.
ANT. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

After these five Psalms, a short Lesson from the holy Scriptures is read. It is called Capitulum, because it is always very short. Those for the Sundays of Eastertide are given in the Proper.

After the Capitulum, follows the Hymn, Ad regias, which was written by St Ambrose, though somewhat changed in the seventeenth century.

Hymn[1]

 

Ad regias Agni dapes,
Stolis amicti candidis,
Post transitum maris Rubri,
Christo canamus principi.

Divina cujus charitas
Sacrum propinat sanguinem,
Almique membra corporis
Amor sacerdos immolat.

Sparsum cruorem postibus
Vastator horret Angelus;
Fugitque divisum mare,
Merguntur hostes fluctibus.

Jam Pascha nostrum Christus est,
Paschalis idem victima,
Et pura puris mentibus
Sinceritatis azyma.

O vera cœli victima,
Subjecta cui sunt tartara,
Soluta mortis vincula,
Recepta vitae præmia.

Victor subactis inferis
Trophæa Christus explicat,
Cœloque aperto, subditum
Regem tenebrarum trahit.

Ut sis perenne mentibus
Paschale, Jesu, gaudium,
A morte dira criminum
Vitæ renatos libera.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
Et Filio, qui a mortuis
Surrexit, ac Paraclito,
In sempiterna sæcula. Amen.
℣. Mane nobiscum, Domine, alleluia.  ℟. Quoniam advesperascit, alleluia.
Having passed the Red Sea,
and now seated at the royal banquet of the Lamb,
clad in our white robes,
let us sing a hymn to Christ our King.

He, in his divine love for us,
gives us to drink of his precious Blood.
Love is the priest
that immolates his sacred Body.

The destroying angel looks with awe upon the Blood
that is sprinkled on the thresholds.
The sea divides its waters,
and buries our enemies in its waves.

Christ is now our Pasch;
he is our Paschal Lamb;
he is the unleavened Bread of sincerity,
pure food for pure souls.

O truly heavenly Victim!
by whom hell was vanquished,
the fetters of death were broken,
and life was awarded to mankind.

Christ, our Conqueror, unfolds his banner,
for he has subdued the powers of hell.
He opens heaven to man,
and leads captive the prince of darkness.

That thou, O Jesus, mayst be
an endless Paschal joy to our hearts, free us,
who have been regenerated unto life,
from the dread death of sin.

Glory be to God the Father,
and to the Son who rose from the dead,
and to the Paraclete,
for everlasting ages. Amen.
℣. Stay with us, O Lord, alleluia. ℟. For it is now evening, alleluia.

Then is said the Magnificat Antiphon, which is to be found in the Proper for the several days. After this the Church sings the Canticle of Mary, the Magnificat. This exquisite Canticle is an essential part of the Vespers throughout the year. It gives us the words of our blessed Lady, wherein she expresses to St Elizabeth the transports of her joy and gratitude at bearing God within her womb. Let us join her in celebrating the ineffable honour bestowed upon her, the merits of that profound humility which rendered her worthy of such an honour, the overthrow of the proud spirits who were driven from heaven, and the exaltation of human nature, of itself so poor and miserable, to that high place from which the angels fell.

Our Lady's Canticle
(St Luke i)

Magnificat: * anima mea Dominum.
Et exsultavit spiritus meus: * in Deo salutari meo.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillæ suæ: * ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est: * et sanctum nomen ejus.
Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies: * timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo: * dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede: * et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis: * et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum: * recordatus misericordiæ suæ.
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros: * Abraham et semini ejus in sæcula.
My soul doth magnify the Lord;
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid: for, behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto generation, to them that fear him.
He hath showed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy.
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

The Magnificat Antiphon is then repeated. The Prayer, or Collect, will be found in the Proper of each Sunday.

The Vespers end with the following Versicles:

℣. Benedicamus Domino.
. Deo gratias.

℣. Fidelium animæ per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace.
. Amen.
℣. Let us bless the Lord.
. Thanks be to God.

℣. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
℟. Amen.

 

[1] According to the Monastic Rite, it is as originally composed. It is preceded by the following Responsory:

℟. breve.—Surrexit Dominus vere. * Alleluia, Alleluia. Surrexit. ℣. Et apparuit Simoni. Alleluia. Gloria Patri, etc. Surrexit.

Ad cœnam Agni providi,

Et stolis albis candidi,

Post transitum maris Rubri

Christo canamus Principi.

Cujus corpus sanctissimum

In ara Crucis torridum,

Cruore ejus roseo

Gustando vivimus Deo.

Protecti Paschæ vespere 

A devastante Angelo,

Erepti de durissimo

Pharaonis imperio.

Jam Pascha nostrum Christus est,

Qui immolatus Agnus est,

Sinceritatis azyma 

Caro ejus oblata est.

O vere digna hostia,

Per quam fracta sunt tartara,

Redempta plebs captivata,

Reddita vitæ præmia.

Consurgit Christus tumulo,

Victor redit de barathro,

Tyrannum tradens vinculo

Et paradisum reserans.

Quæsumus, Auctor omnium,

In hoc Paschali gaudio,

Ab omni mortis impetu 

Tuum defende populum.

Gloria tibi Domine,

Qui surrexisti a mortuis,

Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu,

In sempiterna sæcula. Amen.