An evangelical Solemn Evensong for Sundays and red-letter days, based on and altered from Herbert George Morse’s Notes on Ceremonial from the Antient English Office Books.
§1. Preparations at the Lord’s Table and in the Vestry.
Around the Lord’s Table the number of candles to be lighted will vary according to the Sunday or festival. The same candles and candlesticks should be used as at Solemn Eucharist, and it is not desirable to light a number of other small candles on the Lord’s Table or retable. If more light is required, the extra candles should be placed on brackets or elsewhere. The candle-bearers, vested in cassock and surplice, will light the candles.
If there is to be a procession after Evensong, the sacristan or cross-bearer will see that the processional cross is in the sanctuary set against the wall near the credence table or other convenient place. The banners also will be in church.
In the vestry, a cope for the officiating priest; surplices for deacon and clerk; sleeveless rochets for candle-bearers and thurifer; two portable candlesticks; and the censer with incense and charcoal (perhaps a perfuming pan) should be prepared before the commencement of the service.
§2. From the commencement of Evensong to the Magnificat.
Having said an introductory prayer in the vestry, the choir has no need to kneel for private prayer in the chancel. As soon as all are in their places the officiant, vested in surplice and hood, should at once commence the opening Sentences.
After pronouncing the Absolution, the priest will face east for all the preces.
It is fitting before the psalms to include the lucernarium, an ancient part of the service. Light is a practical need for a service that takes place when day turns into night, and it is natural that the Lord should be praised for giving us light, yea even being our true Light. The deacon will carry in the lighted candle and bring it before the priest.
Deacon. In the name of Jesus Christ, light with peace.
Answer. Thanks be to God.
Priest. The Lord be with you always.
Answer. And with thy spirit.
Hail! gladdening Light, of his pure glory poured
Who is th’immortal Father, heavenly, blest,
Holiest of Holies: Jesus Christ our Lord!
Now we are come to the Sun’s hour of rest;
The lights of evening round us shine;
We hymn the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit divine!
Worthiest art thou at all times to be sung
With undefiled tongue,
Son of our God, giver of life, alone:
Therefore in all the world thy glories, Lord, they own. Amen.
§3. The Magnificat
The psalms being ended, the officiant will go out of quire to the vestry. In the vestry he will put on a silken cope of the colour of the day over his surplice, and a Canterbury cap or college cap.
At the conclusion of the first Lesson, a little procession, consisting of the two candle-bearers carrying portable candlesticks with lighted candles as at Solemn Eucharist, followed by the thurifer, and behind him the priest in cope and Canterbury cap, will come from the vestry by the directest way to the step of the upper quire, where the candle-bearers and thurifer halt and arrange themselves for the priest (with deacon and clerk) to pass between them, with the candle-bearers at the ends of the line. The priest will have taken off his cap as he entered the quire, and on passing between the candle-bearers he gives it to the deacon as being on his right hand, and the thurifer takes it to the sedilia before returning behind the priest, deacon, and clerk.
[Hymns may be found in the hymner edited by George Herbert Palmer, apart from those which promote unædifying practices.]
The candle-bearers ascend immediately after the priest and put down their candles at once in the places where they would be at Solemn Eucharist, i.e. on the lowest step and as far apart as the length of the Lord’s Table, and themselves remain standing by their candles. Meanwhile the priest, the deacon, and the clerk stand in plano with their hands joined, the thurifer standing behind them, all facing east.
[That it is lawful to make a ceremony of burning incense before the Lord’s Table is questionable at best; nor is it reasonable to ape the usage of Rome. Therefore the censing of the Lord’s Table, which did not come into the Church’s general usage until the 11th or 12th century, should rather be omitted than copied from the unreformed churches. See also my post on moving incense in Holy Communion.]
Before beginning the Magnificat, the priest, with deacon and clerk, bows before the Lord’s Table and makes the sign of the Cross. Once the deacon has put incense into the censer, the thurifer then carries the censer through the quire and the nave, which done he will put away the censer in the sacristy and return to his place at the eastern end of the quire or near the sedilia. Meanwhile the candle-bearers stand by their candles, facing east.
Having bowed at the Gloria Patri, the priest then goes to the sedilia accompanied by the candle-bearers without their candles, which are left where they were first set down. He will stand at the sedilia facing north until the Antiphon after the Magnificat is ended, the candle-bearers standing on either side and somewhat in front of him facing each other.
§4. From the Second Lesson to the end of Evensong.
At the conclusion of the Antiphon, the priest will sit down for the second lesson, and with him the deacon and the clerk. The candle-bearers will arrange his cope, and give him his cap, which he will wear while seated. It is desirable to have placed near the sedilia a movable seat for the priest such that his cope can hang down behind without being sat upon. (The candle-bearers will remain standing.)
At the conclusion of the second Lesson the priest will remove his cap and stand up, the deacon and the clerk rising with him. They will stand during the Nunc dimittis, Creed, and V. and R. following. They will all kneel facing north, in the places where they are, at the words ‘Let us pray.’
At the last clause of the Lord’s Prayer the priest, deacon, clerk, and candle-bearers rise and return to the front of the Lord’s Table. Standing in plano they will all bow slightly towards the Lord’s Table, and the candlebearers will go off right and left to fetch their candles. While this move is being made by priest and candle-bearers, the thurifer will come from his place, with a book of the Office, to the left hand of the priest as he stands in the midst of the planum.
The thurifer standing at the left of the priest will hold the open book with his right hand, the upper part of the book resting on his left arm, in such manner that the priest may read from it.
Meanwhile the candle-bearers having taken up their candles and come near to the priest will stand on either side of him with their candles in their hands, facing each other, as at the Gospel in Holy Communion, the thurifer holding the book being between them.
[Contrary to the picture, the servers ought to wear surplices or sleeveless rochets.]
The priest at once begins: ‘O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us,’ &c., and continues to the end of the Collect ‘Lighten our darkness,’ &c.
At the conclusion of the Collects the thurifer passing behind the priest will carry the book to the credence table or sedilia and fetch the priest’s cap. As soon as the priest has received his cap he bows towards the Lord’s Table, the thurifer and candle-bearers bowing with him, and then at once returns to the vestry by the shortest way preceded by the candle-bearers and the thurifer in the same manner as they came in; the choir meanwhile singing the Anthem or hymn to be sung after the third Collect.
While the Anthem is being sung, the churchwardens may collect alms from the people.
The priest having taken off his cope will return to his stall in quire. He will not now wear his cap, though he may carry it in his hand.
The thurifer and candle-bearers, leaving the censer and candlesticks in the vestry, go into quire to the eastern ends of the lower stalls or other convenient places until they are required for the procession.
The Prayers after the third Collect will be said as at the commencement of the service, and ought not to be treated as ‘memorials’ to be said solemnly by the priest in cope. They may be said by the deacon or the clerk.
In blessing at the end of the prayers, the priest, turning to the people, will raise his right hand and say, ‘God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost bless, preserve, and keep you, this night and for evermore.’