Palmer: Origines Liturgicæ 15.
Vol. I: Antiq. of the English Rit. Ch. I, Pt. II, Sect. I-X.


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| Sect II |





WHAT has been already said with regard to the sentences of morning prayer is even more applicable to those of evening prayer; for if a verse or capitulum was read before the last evening service, or compline, in the time of Amalarius, A.D. 8201, there could be no impropriety in placing one before the earlier evening service of vespers or evensong.

The idea of placing an address to the people at the commencement of the office is derived from the primitive Gallican and Spanish liturgies, where an exhortation, called Præfatio, was recited at the beginning of the communion office2.

A confession and absolution formerly occurred at the end of the office of compline, according to the offices of the English churches3; but it also appears that they were sometimes repeated at the [253] beginning of that office, and immediately after the Sentence, or short Lesson4.

The forms of confession and benediction, which are inserted in this place, are not to be found in the more ancient offices of England, but they are much superior to those that occur there. The Lord’s Prayer was recited before the office of evensong, according to the English breviaries; and I have already remarked, that this prayer was first used at the beginning of the canonical hours about the thirteenth century. The office of evensong, or evening prayer, is (as I have before observed) a judicious abridgment of the offices of evensong and compline, as formerly used by the English church; and it appears that the revisers of our offices formed the introduction to evening prayer from those parts of both vespers and compline, which seemed best suited to this place, and which preserved uniformity with the introduction of morning prayer.

| Sect I | Sect III |



Of these versicles, the two former do not appear originally to have been used before the evening offices in England, but they have been used before the morning prayer since the time of Benedict, 5305. The two latter versicles were appointed to precede evening prayer, by the offices of Sarum, York, &c. and by the Anglo-Saxon offices6. In the same services we find the Gloria Patri appointed to succeed these latter versicles7.

| Sect II | Sect IV |



We here follow the order of evensong which was anciently used in the English churches. After the versicles and Gloria Patri which I have just been considering, the psalms of the evening were sung8. Very different rules prevailed in different places anciently with regard to the number of psalms sung at evening prayer. The Egyptian churches recited twelve psalms always at the evening service9. Benedict appointed four10. The church of Rome used five11. In the evening service of the eastern church, contained in the Apostolical Constitutions, we find only one psalm for vespers12: and in the Mosarabic breviary there is no psalm at vespers13. In the patriarchate of Constantinople they repeat six psalms, besides the cathisma, or twentieth portion of the psalter, which on an average makes more than seven in addition14. It appears therefore that the church of England was perfectly at liberty to make what [255] regulation she pleased relative to the number of psalms at evensong.

| Sect III | Sect V |



After the psalms of evening prayer, the English churches formerly appointed a short lesson of scripture; and this order is still continued. Amalarius, A.D. 820, speaks of the lesson of vespers as following the psalms, and he adds, that he had heard that responsories (or psalms) were formerly sung after this lesson, but that in his time the hymn of the Virgin (Magnificat) followed it15. Benedict also, A.D. 530, appointed a lesson after the psalms of vespers, which he directed to be taken from the Epistles16. This lesson is now always taken from the Old Testament, according to the custom of the Egyptian churches described by John Cassian in the beginning of the fifth century.,

| Sect IV | Sect VI |



The lesson of vespers was followed by the hymn of the holy Virgin in the offices of the churches of Salisbury, York, and Hereford17. In the last section we have seen this position of Magnificat recognised by Amalarius, A.D. 820. The same is found in the [256] offices of the English church before the Norman Conquest18. And Benedict, A.D. 530, probably refers to it, when he appoints a canticle from the Gospel, to be repeated after the lesson19.



Though Amalarius speaks of the Magnificat as following the lesson of vespers, yet he observes, that it was formerly customary in some places to sing a responsory or psalm after this lesson. The psalm Cantate Domino, when used here, is to be considered as a responsory psalm, since it immediately follows a lesson; and this is in accordance with the seventeenth canon of the council of Laodicea, which appointed lessons and psalms to be read alternately.

| Sect V | Sect VII |



The office of compline followed that of vespers in the ancient English offices, and after some psalms, contained a short lesson20, which may have contributed to the establishment of that which we now consider; and the same also occurs in the Anglo-Saxon offices21. But the use of a second lesson at the evening service is of a much more ancient date than can be assigned to the English offices referred to. The Egyptian church in the time of Cassian, or the beginning of the fifth century, had from time immemorial used two lessons at the evening office [257] of which the second was always taken from the New Testament22; and the church of England has adopted precisely the same rule.

| Sect VI | Sect VIII |



The song of Simeon followed the lesson of compline, which I have noticed in the last section23. However, though Nunc dimittis was contained in the office of compline at the period when our offices were to be revised, yet in the most ancient times this hymn had been sting at vespers. Thus in the Apostolical Constitutions we find Nunc dimittis appointed for the evening prayer, though this may probably have been designed for an office of private devotion24; but even at the present day this hymn is repeated at the end of evening prayer in the patriarchate of Constantinople25. Benedict does not speak of the Nunc dimittis as used at compline, but Amalarius, A.D. 820, mentions it26.



When this psalm is used in the place of Nunc dimittis, it is as a responsory psalm, according to the practice of many churches, and more especially to that of the churches of Asia and Phrygia, [258] regulated by the council of Laodicea, of which I have spoken already.

| Sect VII | Sect IX |



The creed occurred amongst the prayers of compline, according to the ancient English offices; and it appears to have occupied this position even in Anglo-Saxon times. It followed the song of Simeon, or Nunc dimittis, as it does at present27. This creed is now placed before the prayers and collects, in order to preserve uniformity with the office of morning prayer.

| Sect VIII | Sect X |



These prayers, including the lesser litany, the Lord’s Prayer, and the versicles and responses which follow, have long been used in the English and other western churches, at the end of the evening service. They occur not only in the offices of the churches of Salisbury, York, Hereford, &c. but in those of the Anglo-Saxon ages. Benedict, A.D. 530, speaks of the lesser litany and the Lord’s Prayer as used at the end of evening prayer28. The council of Girone, A.D. 517, appointed that every day after vespers the Lord’s Prayer should be said by the priest29. [259]

And after that, these prayers following, all devoutly kneeling; the Minister first pronouncing with a loud voice,

The Lord be with you.

Answer. And with thy spirit.

Minister. Let us pray.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be &c.

Then the priest standing lip shall say,

O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us.

Answer. And grant us thy salvation.

Priest. O Lord, save the king.

Answer. And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.

Priest. Endue thy ministers with righteousness.

Answer. And make thy chosen people joyful.

Priest. O Lord, save thy people.


Answer. And bless thine inheritance.

Priest. Give peace in our time, O Lord.

Answer. Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God.

Priest. O God, make clean our hearts within us.

Answer. And take not thy holy Spirit from us.

Tunc omnia fiant in prostatione ab inceptione I K Eleison30.


Dominus vobiscum.

Et cum spiritu tuo.


Kyrie eleison.

Christe eleison.

Kyrie eleison32.

Pater noster qui es in cœlis, sanctifiectur &c33.

Erigat se Sacerdos solus sic dicens34.

Ostende nobis Domine misericordiam tuam.

Et salutare tuum da nobis35.

Domine salvum fac regem.

Et exaudi nos in die qua invocaverimus te36.

Sacerdotes tui induant justitiam.

Et sancti tui exultent37.

Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine.

Et benedic hæreditati tuæ38.

Da pacem Domine in diebus nostris.

Quia non est alius qui pugnet pro nobis nisi tu Deus noster39.

Cor mundum crea in me Domine.

Et Spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me40.


| Sect IX | Chap. II |



The collects are placed in the same position relatively to the prayers as they have always occupied in the offices of the English churches. The collects of the day, for peace, and for aid against perils, are also in the same order, in relation to each other, as in the ancient English offices. Here the collect of the day followed Magnificat at vespers, the collect for peace was recited after vespers, and the collect for aid against perils succeeded the prayers at the end of compline. Collects were repeated at the end of evening prayer according to the Anglo-Saxon offices41; and Amalarius, A.D. 820, refers to the same custom42.

We find in the sacramentaries of Gregory, A.D. 590, and Gelasius, A.D. 494, collects appointed peculiarly to be said at evening prayer43; and the [261] council of Agde, A.D. 517, ordained that the people should be dismissed with a benediction in the evening, after the prayer had been collected; that is, after the collect had been said44. The office of vespers, according to the eastern church in the third or fourth century, also terminated with a collect, and a benediction by the bishop, as we may perceive in the Apostolical Constitutions45; and the same order is visible in the most ancient monuments of the office of vespers, according to the rites used in the patriarchate of Constantinople46.



This collect is found in all the ancient monuments of the English church, where it has been used for above twelve hundred years. It is, without any reasonable doubt, as old as the fifth century, since it occurs in the sacramentary of Gelasius, A.D. 494.

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed; Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee we being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Deus, a quo sancta desideria, recta consilia, et justa sunt opera; da servis tuis illam, quam mundus dare non potest, pacem; ut et corda nostra mandatis tuis dedita, et hostium sublata formidine, tempora sint tua protectione tranquilla. Per &c.47




This collect is also found in the most ancient monuments of the English church, and likewise occurs in the sacramentaries of Gregory the Great and Gelasius. In this last it is expressly appointed to be used at evening service; so that this collect has been appropriated to evening prayer for nearly fourteen hundred years.

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord, and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Illumina, quaesumus Domine Deus, tenebras nostras; et totius hujus noctis insdias tu a nobis repelle propitius. Per Dominum &c.48



With regard to the collects for the king, royal family, clergy and people, and the prayer of S. Chrysostom, I have nothing to say, which has not already been said at the end of the remarks on morning prayer. It may, however, be observed, that there is nothing whatsoever inconsistent with the ancient practice of the English churches in placing these collects in the place they occupy; since they are to be regarded in the light of memoriæ, or commemorations, which were very common after the collects of the canonical hours.

I have also spoken of the benediction at the close [263] of morning prayer; and have now only to add, that the evening office terminated with a benediction in the eastern church, about the fourth century49; and also in the patriarchate of Constantinople, then, or not long after50. The council of Agde, Benedict, and Amalarius speak of the same in the west51; and it appears in the offices of the church of England during the period antecedent to the Norman Conquest52.

1 "Solent religiosi viri ante præsens officium (completorii) lectionem legere." Amalar. de Eccl. Off. lib. iv. c. 8.

2 It was repeated after the catechumens were dismissed, and before the oblations of the people were received. See Dissertation on primitive Liturgies, p. 160. and 174.

3 Brev. Sarisb. Psalt. fol. 57. Brev. Ebor. fol. 3.

4 Martene, de Antiq. Eccl. in celebr. Off. C. viii. p. 54.

5 Benedict Regula, c. 9.

6 Brev. Sarisb. fol. 2. Off. Anglo-Sax. ad Vesperas, Appendix to Hickes’s Letters.

7 Offic. Anglo-Sax.ut supra. Brev. Sar. fol. 2.

8 Breviar. Sarisb. fol. 47, 48. Psalt.

9 Cassian. lib. ii. Inst. Coenob. c. 4. "Igitur per universam, ut diximus, Ægyptum et Thebaidem duodenarius psalmorum numerus.tam in vespertinis, quam in nocturnis solemnitatibus custoditur, ita dumtaxat ut post hunc duæ lectiones, Veteris scilicet ac Novi Testamenti singulae, subsequantur." It is singular, that after the lapse of fourteen centuries the same number of psalms should still be used in the Egyptian churches. See Bona, Divina Psalmodia, c. xviii. §. 18. p. 660.

10 "Vespertina autem synaxis quatuor psalmis cum antiphonis terminetur, post quos psalmos Apostoli lectio recitanda est." Benediet. Regula; c. 17.

11 Bona, Divina Psalmodia, c. 18. §. 2. p. 608.

12 Apost. Const. lib. viii. c. 35.

13 Bona, Divina Psalmodia, c. 18. §. 11. p. 637. "Ad vesperas nullos concinunt psalmos."

14 Bona, Divina Psalmodii, c. 1 8. §. 1 3. p. 643.

15 "Post hoc sequitur lectio a pastore prolata ... Audivi olim responsorios cantari apud quosdam post lectionem vespertinalem ... occurrit mihi ut sicut hymnus Zachariae excludit responsorium Post matutinalem lectionem, ita excludat responsorium hymnus Sanctæ Mariæ post vespertinalem lectionem." Amalar. de Eccl. Off. lib. iv. c. 7.

16 "Post quos psalmos Apostoli lectio recitanda est." Benedict. Regula, c. 17.

17 Brev. Sarisb. fol. 2. et Psalt. 54. Brev. Ebor. fol. 2.

18 Offic. Anglo-Sax. Appendix to Hickes’s Letters, ad Vesperas.

19 Benedict. Regula, c. 17.

20 Brev. Sarisb. fol. 2. et Psalt. fol. 54. Brev. Eborac. fol. 3.

21 Appendix to Hicke’s Letters, in nocte.

22 Cassian. lib. ii. Inst. Cœnobit. c. 4. quoted in note 9, p. 254. . Schultingius objects to the English office of evensong thus: "Apud veteres scriptures divinorum officiorum et in praxi ecclesiæ inauditum, assignari vesperis duas lectiones." tom. iv. pars 2. p. 130.

23 Brev. Sar. fol. 2. et Psalt. fol. 55.

24 Apost. Const. lib. vii. c. 48.

25 Goar, Rituale Græc. p. 43. Bona, Div. Psalmod. c. 18. §. 13. p. 648.

26 Amalar. lib. iv. c. 8.

27 Brev. Sar. Psalt. fol. 57. Brev. Eborac. fol. 3.

28 "Canticum de evangelio, litania, et oratio Dominica, et fiant missæ." Benedict. Regula, c. 17.

29 Concil. Gerundense, canon x. "Placuit observari, ut omnibus diebus post matutinas et vesperas oratio Dominica a sacerdote proferatur.

30 Breviar. Sarisb. fol. 57. Psalt. ad completorium.

31 Breviar. Sar. fol. 57. Psalt. These. three forms are not placed before the lesser litany in any of the ancient offices, as far as I am aware. Their former position was immediately before the collect, and in that place their antiquity is very great; however, they are well placed at present at the very commencement of the prayers.

32 Brev. Sar. fol. 57. ad compltor. Offic. Anglo-Sax. ad Vesper. et in nocte. Appendix to Hickes’s Letters. Brev. Ebor. fol. 3.

33 Breviar. Sar. fol. 57. Offic. Anglo-Sax. ad Vesper. et in nocte. Brey. Ebor. fol. 3.

34 Breviar. Sar. fol. 57. ad completorium.

35 Brev. Sar. fol. 57. ad completorium.

36 Brev. Sar. fol. 22. Psalt. ad Vesperas.

37 Brev. Sar. fol. 22. Psalt. ad Vesperas.

38 Brev. Sar. fol. 22. ad Vesperas.

39 Brev. Ebor. fol. 264. p. ii. Suffragia ad Vesperas.

40 Brev. Sar. fol. 13.

41 Offic. Anglo-Sax. ad Vesperas et in Nocte. Appendix to Hickes’s Letters.

42 Amalar. de. Eccl. Officiis, lib. iv. c. 7.

43 Gregorii Sacramentar. a Menard. p. 209, 210. Gelasii. Sacr. Muratori, tom. i. p. 745.

44 Concil. Agathense, can. 30. "Plebs collecta oratione ad vesperam ab episcopo cum benedictione dimittatur." Concilia, Labbe, tom. iv. p. 1388,

45 Apost. Const. lib. viii. c. 36.

46 Goar, Rituale Græcum, p. 46.

47 Brev. Sarisb. fol. 83. Brev. Ebor. fol. 264. Miss. Sar. Commune, fol. 19. MS. Leofric. fol. 27. Gregorii Sacramentar. a Menard. p. 216. Gelasii Sacr. Muratori Lit. Rom. Vet. tom.i. p. 690.

48 Breviar. Sarisb. fol. 57. Brev. Ebor. fol. 3. Gregorii Sacr. a Menard. p. 210. Gelasii Sacram. Muratori, tom. i. p. 745. MS. Leofric. fol. 329.

49 Apost. Const. lib. viii. c. 36.

50 Goar, Rituale Græc. p. 46.

51 Concil. Agath. can. 30. ut supra. S. Bennedict. Regula, c. 17. Amalarius de Eccl. Off. lib. iv. c. 45. " Oratio et benedictio semper in fine fiunt."

52 Officium Anglo-Sax. in nocte, ad finem completorii; see Appendix to Hickes’s Letters, &c.


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