Our final Evensong of the 2017/18 season isn’t really Evensong at all: the St. Peter’s Singers will lead Great Paschal Vespers on Sunday, April 8 at 5:00 p.m. You are warmly invited to worship the risen Christ at this unique Easter service.
“But ‘Great Paschal Vespers,’“ you might ask, “what on earth is that?”
The Episcopal Church loves to use the word “Great” when something is the biggest of its kind. You may recall the “Great Litany” in the Prayer Book, which is the longest of many different litanies in that book (it was previously just called “The Litany”).
The word “Paschal” has to do with Easter, and our service of Great Paschal Vespers will be sung on the Second Sunday of Easter. The whole first week of Easter has pride of place in our church calendar, and this service helps us celebrate this festive season. The Paschal Candle is lit near the baptismal font for services in the Easter season. For this service, it will be placed prominently in front of the altar, and the acolyte will light other candles in the church from its flame.
Vespers is one of a number of services that comprise the daily office. In the Anglican tradition, we are familiar with the elements of Vespers that Thomas Cranmer retained in the service of Choral Evensong (chief among them being the Magnificat, the Song of Mary).
Our service of Great Paschal Vespers will include customary chants, psalms, and hymns. Toward the end of the service, we will all sing the Magnificat together.
Great Paschal Vespers is based on the ancient “stational” liturgies of Rome. In these services, the congregation would travel from place to place. The service was compiled and edited by Howard E. Galley for The Prayer Book Office, a volume that appeared a year after the current Book of Common Prayer.
In the version of the service presented at St. Peter’s, we will forgo the actual movement of the gathered body of the faithful but will still nod to the professional element in two ways. First, the officiant will travel to the angel baptismal font in the front of the church for the section celebrating Baptism. Later, the acolyte will come forward with the processional cross for the portion of the service celebrating the Cross.
Many of the chants in this service were originally transcribed and edited from several plainsong sources by Larry Reynolds in 1981 for use at Calvary Church, Rochester, Minnesota.