Vespers in Lutheranism

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Vespers is the evening prayer service in the liturgies of the canonical hours. The word comes from the Greek εσπερινός and its Latin equivalent vesper, meaning "evening." In Lutheranism the traditional form has varied widely with time and place. Martin Luther, in his German Mass and Order of Divine Service (1526') recommended reading the gospel in Latin in schools: "Then let another boy read the same chapter in German for practice, and in case any layman were there to hear...In the same way at Vespers, let them sing the Vesper Psalms as sung hitherto, in Latin, with an antiphon; then a hymn, as there is opportunity." While Latin vespers continued to be said in large churches, many experiments with simplified liturgies were made, including combining the hours of vespers and compline, as in Thomas Cranmer's Anglican evensong. Under the influence of the 20th century Liturgical movement the Alpirsbach circle reintroduced Gregorian chant and spawned the Evangelisch-Lutherische Gebetsbruderschaft, established in 1954, which publishes the Breviarium Lipsiensae or Leipzig Breviary.

Many of Bach's cantatas were first heard in the context of vespers, which are still celebrated Friday evenings in Leipzig's Thomaskirche.

Order of Vespers[edit]

The following is the Order of Vespers as listed in the 1941 The Lutheran Hymnal of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

The same denomination's 1982 hymnal Lutheran Worship prefaces Evening Prayer with a Service of Light in which a lighted candle is carried in procession while the hymn Joyous light of glory is sung. The Hymn is moved between the Psalm(s) and Reading, the Magnificat is the only canticle offered, the offertory and sermon follow the litany and Our Father, unless they are both replaced by a concluding Blessing.

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