Thursday, September 30, 2010

What is Evensong?

A friend of mine from the local Ministerial Association gave me a little booklet he picked up years ago in Conventry Cathedral in England. The copyright date in 1963. There is a lovely introduction entitled, "What is Evensong?" in the front of it. Here is what text says with capitalization, punctuation, and spelling are exactly as printed in the original:

"Evensong in Coventry Cathedral is a very tiny fragment of something else: it is a fragment of the worship which is offered to God by christian people, every hour of the twenty-four, in every part of the world. When you come to Evensong here, it is as if you were dropping in on a conversation already in progress-a conversation between God and men which began long before you were born, and will go on long after you are dead. So do not be surprised, or disturbed, if there are some things in the conversation which you do not at once understand. 
"Evensong is drawn almost entirely from the Bible. Its primary purpose is to proclaim the wonderful works of God in history and in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Its secondary purpose is to evoke from the worshipper a response of praise, penitence, prayer, and obedience. 
"The English of the Bible is the language that was written and spoken by our ancestors four hundred years ago, when the Bible was first translated into English from the original Greek or Hebrew; it therefore sounds old-fashioned. But its meaning is not out of date. 
"The service is in three parts.
"The first part (which is quite brief) prepares the worshipper for the story which is to follow.
"The second part is the narrative of God's redeeming work, beginning in the Old Testament (the Psalms and the First Lesson), proceeding to the New Testament (Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis and the Second Lesson), and reaching its climax in the Affirmation of Faith (the Creed.)
"The third part is man's response to God who has revealed himself in history, in Jesus Christ, and in the Church. 
"Worship without music does not easily soar; and wherever the Church has been concerned to make worship really expressive of truth, music has been used: simple music for the untrained worshipper, more elaborate music for a trained choir. The music of a cathedral choir is the counterpart of the architecture and the stained glass of the building: it is a finely wrought music, in which the musicians offer on behalf of the people what the people would wish to do themselves, if they had the ability."

-From Evensong in Coventry Cathedral. Leicester: Alfred Tacey Ltd., 1963.

If only the Church today could be so concise with such depth of clarity.

1 comment:

The Archer of the Forest said...

Transcriber's note: I just realized the spell checker corrected the first sentence in the last paragraph. It should have read, "Worship without music does not easily soar"