Vespers is the principal evening worship of the Christian Church.  As celebrated in the Byzantine Rite, it serves as the beginning of the liturgical day, and has as its principal theme a commemoration of Christ, the never-setting Light of the world.

Depending on local tradition or circumstances, Vespers is normally celebrated between 4 pm and 8 pm; ideally it is celebrated so that the lamps in the church are lit as darkness falls and the Hymn of the Evening (“O Joyful Light”) is sung.

In the Byzantine Rite, there are three kinds of Vespers celebrations:

  • Great Vespers, celebrated on Saturday evening (as the start of Sunday) and on the eves of major feast days.
  • Daily Vespers, celebrated from Sunday evening through Friday evening when the next day is not a feast.
  • Small Vespers, which is celebrated before the All-Night Vigil. (In our church, this is generally served only in monasteries).

Combining Vespers with Other Services

Vespers may be combined with the Divine Liturgy on the eves of Nativity and Theophany, and on the Feast of the Annunciation, according to church tradition.  The Old Testament readings of Vespers are followed by a Small Litany, and the Divine Liturgy continues with the singing of “Holy God”.

During the Great Fast, Vespers is combined with a solemn service of Holy Communion to form the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.

Adapted from: Vespers by the Metropolitan Cantor Institute