Evening Hymn: The day thou gavest

Evening Prayer used to be a a much more common feature of Anglican worship than it is today.  You can tell just by looking at old hymnals (such as the Episcopalian hymnal of 1940) and observing that there are far more Evening hymns than Morning hymns.  And several of the Evening hymns in the Anglican repertoire are absolute gems of English hymnody!  If you’re an American under the age of 50, or new to the Anglican tradition at any age, chances are you’ve hardly ever heard any of these beauties before.

There are two points in our Evening Prayer liturgy where inserting a hymn comes most naturally.  The first place is after the Invitatory: the Phos hilaron has a rubric above it saying “The following or some other suitable hymn or Psalm may be sung or said.”  Because the Phos hilaron itself is a new addition to the Prayer Book (only dating back to 1979) we are well within our traditional rights to sing something else in its place.  The second spot in the liturgy is after the three Collects: “Here may be sung a hymn or anthem”.  This is the most traditional placement for a hymn, and is a great way to break up the formal collects of the liturgy and the additional intercessions and thanksgivings that may follow.

Might I recommend, this evening, one of the best of the best?  The day thou gavest is a beautiful hymn, both musically and lyrically, reflecting upon the practical and theological meaning of the end of the daytime, awareness of the cycle of daily prayer across the globe, and the subsequent unity of Christ’s Church.

Check it out on YouTube if you want to hear it first, grab the lyrics online, or pick up any Anglican hymnal and sing or read it at Evening Prayer tonight!

A Special Pastoral-Liturgical Opportunity

A month from today is 11/11 – Veteran’s Day in the USA, Remembrance Day in several other countries; originally Armistice Day, commemorating the end of the Great War (WW1) in 1918.  This year is the centenary of the Armistice and the institution of this multi-national state holiday.  And it falls on a Sunday!

Normally state holidays like this do not take precedence over the regular Sunday Propers (Collect & Lessons), though in England, I believe Remembrance Day is big enough to observe on Sunday.  Given the special timing of this particular November 11th, however, it struck this small-church Vicar as an opportune moment to break the usual rules of precedence in our Calendar and plan to celebrate Armistice Day on Sunday 11/11.  And yes, I got my Bishop’s permission to do this!

If you have veterans in your congregation, as I do, this could be a very special opportunity to honor and minister to them.  That’s why this article is entitled a “special pastoral-liturgical opportunity.”  How can you implement this in your church?  Let us count the ways:

  1. Go all-out and use the Collect & Lessons for Remembrance/Veteran’s/Memorial Day (copied below).
  2. Reference poetry contemporary with the War such as Dulce et Decorum est or For the fallen.
  3. Reference the origin of Veteran’s Day in the USA.
  4. Include hymns such as the second stanza of I vow to thee my country, or Faith of our fathers! or God bless our native land or In Christ there is no East or West or O God of earth and altar or even Silent Night (referencing the Christmas Day Armistice of 1914, and providing a haunting double meaning to the phrase “sleep in heavenly peace”).
  5. Browse the Church of England’s vast collection of resources surrounding their observance of this day for other bits and bobs you might incorporate locally.

There are so many directions this observance can go: the noble call of patriotic service to one’s country, the devastating idolatry of nationalism run wild, commemorating the departed (not unlike All Soul’s Day back on November 2nd), praying for our current service-men and -women and veterans.  For sure, do what makes sense for your congregation!  But it strikes me as a very special opportunity to seize.

Collect and Lessons in Texts for Common Prayer

O King and Judge of the nations: We remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our armed forces, who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy; grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, now and forever.  Amen.

Wisdom 3:1-9, Psalm 121, Revelation 7:9-17, John 11:21-27 or 15:12-17

NOTE: the reading from Revelation is also an option for All Saints’ Day, so if you go for this commemoration be aware that you might end up with the same Epistle lesson twice in a row unless you plan carefully.