The Daily Offices are an important, but perhaps little-known, part of the Cathedral’s ministry. At Morning and Evening Prayer, each parish and organisation in the Diocese is remembered in the Mother Church, and prayer is offered for the wider Church and for the world.
Evening Prayer is one of the most balanced, logical and simple of our Anglican liturgies and is based on the monastic offices of Vespers and Compline. There is a penitential opening and a set of Responses to set the scene. The core of the Office lays out God’s Promise in the Psalms and Old Testament, the Wonder of God’s Coming to Earth in the Magnificat, Christ’s Life on Earth or the Holy Spirit working through the disciples in the New Testament, and the recognition and joyful acceptance of the Messiah in the Nunc Dimittis. This Faith is summed up in the Creed, and is followed by specific and general prayer.
Evening Prayer is a powerful devotion, even when read simply in private or quietly in the Cathedral alone or with a few people present. But one of the glories of Anglican worship is that, over nearly five centuries since it came into use, the Office has been sung in choral foundations in England and later throughout the world, clothed in some of the finest music ever inspired for worship. Roughly one Sunday a month in term-time, Choral Evensong is sung in the Cathedral, when there is an opportunity to experience this music-clothed service as a meditation on the mysteries of faith.
“Evensong is a very tiny fragment of something else: it is a fragment of the worship which is offered to God by Christian people every hour in every part of the world. When you come to Evensong it is as if you were dropping in on a conversation already in progress — a conversation between God and people which began long before we were born and will go on long after we are dead.”