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What are Catholic vespers? | Liturgy of the hours

The Liturgy of the Hours is the collection of moments in which priests and deacons. And Religions are called to stop daily activities from gathering in prayer. The day is marked by many moments in which we can turn to the Lord, Mary, and all the saints. Catholic Vespers and Morning Lauds contain the main moments that, together with many others, allow us to identify the right occasion to speak with God during the day.

With the rhythms we are used to today and the hectic lifestyle, it can be complex to respect the Liturgy of the Hours perfectly. But it can help to feel compelled to stop and meditate, pray and confide your thoughts to God. A break from the frenzy opens your eyes to what matters in your life.

Today we want to talk to you about one of the crucial moments that make up the Liturgy of the Hours: Catholic Vespers. How do they identify them, and what do they represent for the Catholic? Keep reading!

What are the Catholic Vespers?

Catholic Vespers represents one of the significant canonical hours and collects sunset prayers. According to the liturgical traditions, Catholic vespers can be divided into many parts, except the psalmody or the singing of the psalms, which is the same in all churches.

Representation of Catholic Vespers

catholic vespers


Origin of the Catholic Vespers

The origin of vespers dates back to before the sixth century. Before the writing of the Rule of St. Benedict, considered a sort of codification of the office of Catholic vespers, there was an evening office that corresponded to vespers and compline. The name was not fixed but changed. San Benedetto began to call it Vespera, but there were also Vespertina solemnities or Vespertina synaxis.

At that time, the most common name was Lucernalis or Lucernaria hora. This name derives from the fact that candles were lit during prayers, partly for functional reasons and partly for reasons related to symbolism.

As evidence of what originally happened, we have a Latin text dating back to the fourth century called Peregrinatio, which recounts the liturgical uses of the Church of Jerusalem. In this text, we find that Catholic vespers took place at the tenth hour, or 1and was celebrated inside the church of the sepulcher. The sanctuary lights were turned on for the occasion, and the psalms were sung. At the end of the songs, prayers, litanies and blessings were recited.

The rite of Lucernarium

The rite of the Lucernarium is also present in other texts of the fourth century. They were written by Sant’Agostino, Sant’Ambrogio, San Basilio Magno, and many others. In the following years, in the various councils in Galia and Spain. As well as in the texts of the monasteries, the memory of this tradition continues. Even today, Catholic vespers in the Ambrosian rite begin with the lighting of the lights. During the responsorial chant called Lucernarium.

Before the 4th century, we can easily find allusions to evening prayer by the ancient Church Fathers. From Pope Clement I to Sant’Ignazio d’Antiochia, Clement of Alexandria to Tertullian, and many others.

In his famous letter written at the beginning of the second century, Pliny the Younger tells of liturgical meetings of Christians in the morning and the evening “ coetus antelucani et vespertine. “ We can undoubtedly consider Vespers and Vigils as the oldest known liturgical office of the Church. And after the sixth century?

Vespers after the sixth century

After the sixth century, the office of Catholic vespers already had a consolidated structure. And continued to maintain it throughout the Middle Ages up to the present day. Among the various testimonies, we can recall a document of the time, the Rule of Saint Benedict – XVII, which tells the Benedictine office of the evening hour and describes it in this order: four psalms, a capitulum, a responsory, a hymn. , a diverticulum. A hymn from the gospel, the litany, the Kyrie Eleison, the Pater, the ratio, or the final prayer and farewell.

The execution of the prayer varied between the tenth hour, 4 pm, and the twelfth hour, 6 pm. This prayer, therefore, coincided with the time of sunset and was celebrated before the light went down and without the need to use candles or torches. As he said, initially, before the introduction of the nocturnal office of compline, Catholic vespers were celebrated after sunset, and for this, light sources were necessary.

How are Catholic vespers recited?

It begins with the bishop, priest, or deacon greeting with a verse of invocation or a simple formula: “The Lord be with you. And with your spirit”.

At this point, the ” rite of light ” begins. The “Skylight” is sung; in the meantime, two candlesticks are lit, which are positioned on the altar and the other lights of the church. The altar is also incensed during solemn celebrations. After that, the hymn is sung, followed by a responsory in some circumstances. In the first vesper,s the feast or the memory of a saint is celebrated. Therefore a short biography of the saint of the day is read. This phase is called “News of the saint.”

The office of vespers follows with the psalmody, usually consisting of two psalms or two parts of a longer psalm. With their antiphons. On solemnities and feasts, a psalm is recited. There are added psalms 133 and 116 and the only final doxology, “the Glory to the Father.”

At the end of the psalmody, the first prayer is recited. Then the canticle of the Magnificat is solemnly sung with its antiphon and followed by the triple Kyrie Eleison and, finally, a second prayer. This part is omitted on Lent Fridays and Holy Week holidays of Lent and the holiday of Holy Week.

It then continues with the “Commemoration of Baptism,” except Holy Week. This commemoration consists, on Sundays, feasts and solemnities of the Lord, in the recitation of a canticle taken from the New Testament with its antiphon. On the other days, a responsory is recited.

On solemnities and feasts of the saints, a calendar in honor of the saint is sung in place of the commemoration of baptism. This is repeated twice with the Trinity doxology in between.


To conclude, we proceed with the intercessions, the Our Father. And the dismissal blessing if the celebration is presided over by an ordained minister.

The Liturgy of the Hours is an opportunity for contact with God that all the faithful should observe. You are looking for a prayer booklet to guide your dialogue with Jesus, Mary, and the Saints. On Amazon, you can find everything you need. Visit the page reserved for liturgical texts!