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Out of the question: An irritant at evensong

by
12 June 2012

Write, if you have any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or would like to add to the answers below.

Your answers

At one cathedral, one of the clergy no longer says at evensong “Here endeth the lesson” (as the BCP prescribes), but: “In silence, let us reflect upon the first/second lesson.” Am I wrong to be irritated?

Any twinges of irritation are un­neces­sary, and should be outweighed by grateful satisfaction that the cathedral, in common with most others, maintains the pattern of evensong according to the Book of Common Prayer.

The intention of that “godly order” has always been that the scriptures shall not only be read, but that all may hear them and “mark, learn, and inwardly digest them”. This ideal will be best accomplished in moments of reflective silence after each lection, as requested by the cathedral cleric in the adapted words of his conclusion.

This very small diversion from the strict letter of the rubrical pre­scription “Here endeth the lesson” accords well with the principles and spirit of the Prayer Book tradition of the daily offices, and should be readily welcomed.

(Canon) Terry Palmer
Magor, Monmouthshire

The source of the irritation is, besides the departure from the authorised liturgy (which is a shared text in order that everyone can own it), perhaps the implication that the lay people will not reflect on the scriptures that they hear unless a member of the clergy tells them to.

Yet any meaningful reflection on the reading would probably take place at length, and not in the short period of silence so announced.

There is a parallel in the short silence that some of the clergy expect after their sermons, which looks dangerously like admiration time. It is too brief to be useful, although it may allow a prayer that the preacher’s next effort will have been better prepared.

Silence is often denied after music, however, which is illogical, since music is an art that exists in time and works with it in a way that speech does not; and after the consecration at the eucharist.

Wherever it appears during a service, silence is better if it arises naturally from the spirit of prayer, and is not announced, and when the worshippers are not intrusively told what to “do” with it. But it is helpful if silence before the service has been encouraged by the clergy, who have set an example, perhaps by kneeling quietly for some time in a front pew or at the altar rail.

Marjorie Grove
London SW11

Your questions

On occasion (as recently at Pente­cost), the events described in the lectionary’s Gospel reading chron­ologically precede what is described in other readings of the day. Is there any liturgical authority for the Gospel to be read first? G. B. B

Address for answers and more ques­tions: Out of the Question, Church Times, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.

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