My Dear Parishioners,
Beginning today at Evensong and Bible Study, we embark on the study of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. As always we encourage our parishioners to attend and to participate. Even-song is an important Office in the worship experience of the Church. The structure of the service contains a number of themes - the very human interaction between God and his people as presented in the Psalms, the world-changing effect of Mary responding to an encounter with God as described in the Magnificat, and the implications of a God who always keeps promises instanced by Simeon in the Nunc Dimittis. In spite of all this, three words seem to me to keep us focused during Evensong. Evening Prayer.
Light is central to Evening Prayer, especially as the service starts when light is fading and the day is drawing to a close. Usually the Office Hymn invokes the presence of light, or in other hymns of light. This service therefore calls to mind a time before electricity, when candles or even oil lamps were expensive and beyond the reach of many. We live in an age where physical darkness is unknown but where spiritual darkness is ever present. We are a people who in many ways continue to walk in darkness, though we have been given the great Light of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, as the Light of the World, is the only ultimately reliable illumination for our lives.
Oh yes, attending Evensong or Evening Prayer is like dropping in on a conversation that has been in progress for centuries and will continue for hundreds of years more - you can join in, or you can simply listen. So it is important to be present, in order to hear and to share.
Time: Sunday evenings seem to be a time when even the busiest of us may pause, take a breath, and collect our thoughts for the coming week. In this brief interlude of mental rest, Evening Prayer offers us an opportunity to step outside time briefly, by joining in worship which is part of a stream of prayer. Time to think, to listen, to repent and to pray are the gifts offered to us in Evensong. So as the pace of life in our world increases, here is a place where one can regain energy for other work which awaits us.
As we talk about light as the focus of Evensong, we call to mind the fact that as Christians we are indeed children of light and we are commanded to live a life which reflects this. In fact to be a disciple of Christ, to be a Christian, suggests that we live in the light. St. John, the Fourth Gospel writer, uses the image of ‘walking in the light’ and he lays down certain expectations for those who desire to walk in the light.
We can summarize these expectations briefly: the imitation of God’s character, dependence upon cleansing from sin provided by Jesus’ death, obedience to the commands of God,
especially the command to love, and thirdly, steadfast resistance to the lure of the ways of the world and to false teachings. You may be wondering, if I do all these things, am I then doing what God wants? Am I walking in the light? One cannot simply mark off on a check-list,, for there is a unifying thread woven through the notion of ’walking in the light”. These “expectations” are unified by an understanding of God’s character and of God’s activity in Christ.
Support comes to us from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians Chapter 5:8 which states: “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light.” The works of darkness are sin, disobedience to God , his word , his law, and his commandments.
So this is how we are to live as children of the light: “we are to fear the Lord your God, walk in all his ways, love and serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Keep the commandments of the Lord and his statutes which the Lord your God commands you for good. Then the Lord will make your way prosperous. You will prosper wherever you go, and he will give you success, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Let us then pray for a safe and pleasant journey through life.
With all good wishes and prayers Archdeacon Emeritus