The Office of Vespers, or Evensong, consists firstly of the Five following Psalms and Antiphons. According to our custom, we preface each Psalm with a short explanation, in order to draw the attention to what is most in harmony with the spirit of this season.
After the Pater and Ave have been said in secret, the Church commences this Hour with her favourite supplication:
V. Deus, in adjutorium meum intende.
R. Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto:
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Laus tibi, Domine, Rex aeternae gloriae.
ANT. Dixit Dominus.
|V. Incline unto my aid, O God.
R. 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.
Praise be to thee, O Lord, King of eternal glory.
ANT. The Lord said.
The first psalm is a prophecy of the future glory of the Messias; but it also speaks of His humiliations. It tells of the triumphs of Christ; but, before His exaltation, His is to drink of the torrent of sufferings.
Dixit Dominus Domino meo: * Sede a dextris meis.
Donec ponam inimicos tuos: * scabellum pedum tuorum.
Virgam virtutis tuae emittet Dominus ex Sion: * dominare in medio inimicorum tuorum.
Tecum principium in die virtutis tuae in splendoribus sanctorum: * ex utero ante luciferum genui te.
Juravit Dominus, et non poenitebit eum: * Tu es Sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech.
Dominus a dextris tuis: * confregit in die irae suae reges.
Judicabit in nationibus, implebit ruinas: * conquassabit capita in terra multo rum.
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 thine 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 he lift up the head.
ANT. Dixit Dominus Domino meo, sede a dextris meis.
ANT. Magna opera Domini.
ANT. The Lord said to my Lord, sit thou at my right hand.
ANT. Great are the works of the Lord.
The following psalm commemorates the mercies of God to his people - of these, the greatest is His having given us a Redeemer. He has made an eternal Covenant with us: but this Covenant was signed with the Blood of His own Son.
Confitebor tibi, Domine, in toto corde meo: * in consilio justorum et congregatione.
Magna opera Domini: * exquisita in omnes voluntates ejus.
Confessio et magnificentia opus ejus: * et justitia ejus manet in saeculum saeculi.
Memoriam fecit mirabilium suorum, misericors et miserator Dominus: * escam dedit timentibus se.
Memor erit in seculum testamenti sui: * virtutem operum suorum annuntiabit populo suo.
Ut det illis hereditatem Gentium: * opera manuum ejus veritas et judicium.
Fidelia omnia mandata ejus, confirmata in saeculum saeculi: * facta in veritate et aequitate.
Redemptionem misit populo suo: * mandavit in aeternum testamentum suum
Sanctum et terribile nomen ejus; * initium sapientiae timor Domini.
Intellectus bonus omnibus facientibus eum: * laudatio ejus manet in saeculum saeculi.
I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: in the counsel 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.
ANT. Magna opera Domini: exquisita in omnes voluntates ejus.
ANT. Qui timet Dominum.
ANT. Great are the works of the Lord: sought out according to all his wills.
ANT. He that feareth the Lord.
The next Psalm sings the happiness of the just man, and his hopes on the day of his Lord's coming. It tells us, likewise, of the confusion and despair which will torment the sinner, who, during life, was insensible to his own interests, and deaf to the invitations made him by the Church.
Beatus vir, qui timet Dominum: * in mandatis ejus volet nimis.
Potens in terra erit semen ejus: * generatio rectorum benedicetur.
Gloria et divitiae in domo ejus: * et justitia ejus manet in saeculum saeculi.
Exortum est in tenebris lumen rectis: * misericors et miserator, et justus.
Jucundus homo, qui miseretur et commodat, disponet sermones suos in judicio: * quia in aeternum non commovebitur.
In memoria aeterna 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 pauperi bus, justitia ejus manet in saeculum saeculi: * 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.
ANT. Qui timet Dominum, in mandatis ejus volet nimis.
ANT. Sit nomen Domini.
ANT. He that feareth the Lord delighteth exceedingly in his commandments.
ANT. May the name of the Lord.
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 facilitated its return to its Maker.
|Laudate, pueri, Dominum:
* laudate nomen Domini.
Sit nomen Domini bene dictum: * ex hoc nunc et usque in saeculum.
A solis ortu usque ad occasum: * laudabile nomen Domini.
Excelsus super omnes gentes Dominus: * et super coelos gloria ejus.
Quis sicut Dominus Deus noster qui in altis habitat:* et humilia respicit in coelo 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 laetantem.
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 on earth?
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.
ANT. Sit nomen Domini benedictum in saecula.
ANT. Deus autem noster.
ANT. May the name of the Lord be for ever blessed.
ANT. But our God.
The fifth Psalm, In exitu, recounts the prodigies witnessed under the ancient Covenant: they were figures, whose realities begin their accomplishment in us, if we but return to the Lord our God. He will deliver Israel from Egypt, emancipate the Gentiles from their idolatry, and pour out a blessing on every man who will consent to fear and love the Lord.
In exitu Israel de Aegypto:
* domus Jacob de populo barbaro.
Facta est Judaea 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, Domino, non nobis: * sed nomini tuo da gloriam.
Super misericordia tua, et veritate tua: * nequando dicant gentes: Ubi est Deus eorum?
Deus autem noster in coelo: * omnia quaecumque 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 odorabun t.
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
Adjiciat Dominus super vos: * super vos, et super filios vestros.
Benedicti vos a Domino: * qui fecit coelum et terram.
Coelum coeli Domino: * terram autem dedit filiis homi num.
Non mortui laudabunt te, Domine: * neque omnes qui descendunt in infernum.
Sed nos qui vivimus, benedicimus Domino: * ex hoc nunc et usque in saeculum.
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 hill into fountains of waters.
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 fear 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. Deus autem noster in coelo: omnia quaecumque voluit fecit.||ANT. But our God is in heaven: he hath done all things whatsoever he would.|
After these five psalms, a short lesson from the holy Scriptures is then read. It is called the Capitulum, because it is always very short. Those for the two Sundays are given in the Proper.
After the Capitulum, follows the Hymn, Vexilla Regis. It is the humn of the cross composed by St. Venantius Fortunatus, at the request of St. Radegund.
|Vexilla Regis prodeunt;
Fulget crucis mysterium,
Qua Vita mortem pertulit,
Et morte vitam protulit.
Quae vulnerata lanceae,
Impleta sunt quae concinit
Arbor decora et fulgida,
Beata, cujus brachiis
O crux, ave, spes unica,
Te, fons salutis. Trinitas,
The standard of our King comes forth; the mystery of the cross shines upon us, that cross on which Life suffered death, and by his death gave life.
He was pierced with the cruel spear, that, by the Water and the Blood which flowed from the wound, he might cleanse us from sin.
Here on the cross was fulfilled the prophecy foretold in David’s truthful words: ‘God hath reigned from the tree.’
O fair and shining tree! beautified by the scarlet of the King, and chosen as the noble trunk that was to touch such sacred limbs.
O blessed tree! on whose arms hung the ransom of the world! It was the balance, wherein was placed the Body of Jesus, and thereby hell lost its prey.
Hail, O cross! our only hope! During these days of the Passion, increase to the good their grace, and cleanse sinners from their guilt.
May every spirit praise thee, O holy Trinity, thou fount of salvation! and by the cross, whereby thou gayest us victory, give us, too, our recompense. Amen.
|V. Eripe me, Domine, ab homine malo.
R. Ab homine iniquo eripe me.
|V. Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man.
R. Rescue me from the unjust man.
Then is said the Magnificat Antiphon, which is to be found in the proper. After this, the Church sings the Canticle of Mary, the Magnificat, in which are celebrated the Divine Maternity and all its consequent blessings. This exquisite Canticle is an essential part of the Vespers throughout the year. Let us unite with all generations, and call her blessed; but let us, also, enter into those sentiments of humility, which she recommends to us both by her words and her example. Her inspired lips speak to us this promise: If the Great God, whose triumph is to gladden us on the glorious Day of Easter, find us humble and submissive, - he will exalt us, yea, raise us up even to himself; if we confess our misery and poverty to him, he will enrich us, even to the full, with every blessing.
(St. Luke i.)
Magnificat: * anima mea Dominum.
Et exsultavit spiritus me us: * in Deo salutari meo.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae: * 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 iniplevit bonis: * et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum: * recordatus misericordiae suae.
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros: * Abraham et semini ejus in saecula.
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:
V. Benedicamus Domino.
R. Deo gratias.
V. Fidelium animae per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace.
V. Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
According to the Monastic Rite, it is as follows :-
R. breve. De ore leonis, * Libera me Domine.
De ore leonis, * Libera me Domine.
V. Et a cornibus unicornium humilitatem meam. * Libera me Domine.
De ore leonis, * Libera me Domine.
Quo vulneratus insuper
Mucrone diro lanceae,
Ut nos lavaret crimine,
Manavit unda et sanguine.
Impleta sunt quae concinit
David fideli carmine,
Dicens: In nationibus
Regnavit a ligno Deus.
Arbor decora et fulgida,
Ornata Regis purpura,
Electa digno stipite
Tam sancta membra tangere.
Beata, cujus brachiis
Saecli pependit pretium,
Statera facta corporis,
Praedamque tulit tartari.
O crux, ave, spes unica,
Hoc Passionis tempore
Auge piis ad justitiam,
Reisque dona veniam.
Te summa, Deus, Trinitas,
Collaudet omnis spiritus:
Quos per crucis mysterium
Salvas, rege per saecula.