As early as 60 AD, religious communities of monks and priests would stop their activity at marked times of the day to pray. That tradition evolved over the years into the Liturgy of the Hours. There are eight special times during the day to stop any work or study to come together as a group to pray, and one of those times is called ‘Vespers’, or Evening Song.
At the end of the work day, when the tasks and to-do lists were completed, it was finally time to return home. Going home is such a sweet thing for all of us – it’s a return to the familiar comfort of our dwelling, to rejoin with family and begin to unwind. The monks would take this time, in the waning light of the day, to lift up their praises for the gifts of the day.
In our family, we had a similar experience. I remember my mom calling us to the dinner table every night. We’d say grace together, and then being telling our stories. Things like what happened at school. What was new on the block. What were the plans for tomorrow. Chatter went on and on, making a joyful noise.
Both the communities of religious and the community of my family celebrated Vespers. The monks would sing in unison at a church, and my family would chat on, one by one at the dining room table, but the result was the same. We both celebrated the gifts of the Lord in the day that just unfolded itself in front of us.
Our Evening Prayer began with grace, and then continued to each child who had something to share. Test scores, hockey practice, swim meet results, who got sick and needed help – all offered to each other like little diamonds that sparkled and gleamed because they were precious events. Precious God-given gifts, presented with love in the hidden hours of our lives.
At the end of the day, when you share the days events with your journal, your pet or your family, what you are truly doing is recounting the blessings that you have. The ability to participate in physical activity, the joy of a special lunch packed by your mom, the chance to help a neighbor in need are all proofs that you have been gifted. As you tell your stories, you not only give thanks for the experiences, but you praise God as you “give thanks in the great assembly.” (Ps. 35:18)
There are so many reasons to be thankful in our days, from the wonder of being called forth from sleep in the morning, to the miracle of sleep overtaking us at night. Everything that we do, see and participate in has been designed specifically for us, so what better way to celebrate that than to share those stories and marvels?
Sharing prayer in a group setting shouldn’t be restricted to religious communities. After all, isn’t family our first religious community anyway? So why not make your dinnertime, or evening time a prayer by telling someone about the wonders of your day. You’ll be singing an Evening Song of praise and thanks to your community, and to your Lord.
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