Singing Vespers: The Entrance and Readings

This article describes the singing of the central part of Vespers: the entrance of the clergy into the sanctuary, the evening prokeimenon, and the readings (if any). For liturgical background, see the article on The Entrance and Readings of Vespers.

The hymn of the evening: "O Joyful Light"

The dialog between the priest and deacon (the blessing of the entrance) takes place while the cantor and faithful sing the last of the Lamp-lighting stichera. The deacon holds the censer aloft and exclaims, "Wisdom!" Then the cantor and faithful sing:

listen - harmonized version

This hymn should be sung broadly, trying as much as possible to divide it clearly into four major sections: the address to Christ, the approach to evening, the announcement of a song of praise, and the conclusion.

Cantors should memorize and practice this hymn, since it comes at the end of a long set of propers, and most cantors will be tiring by this point. In order to sing this hymn with prayerful intensity, it should be known by heart.

The evening prokeimenon

Vespers uses a set of prokeimena that are separate from those at the Divine Liturgy; the ones for Saturday and Sunday night are rich in praise of God, while the prokeimena appointed for the other days of the week ask God to hear us andwatch over us. The deacon intones the prokeimenon first (either singing or chanting it), and then the cantor and faithful repeat it. The deacon (or the priest, if there is no deacon) always intones the prokeimenon verses at Vespers.

Saturday night

Unless a feast of the Lord falls on Sunday, the prokeimenon on Saturday evening will always be:


This is called a great prokeimemon, because it has more than one psalm verse, and it has a special Tone 6 melody of its oiwn. Like "O Joyful Light", it should be sung just a little slowly, and with great feeling and reverence.

Sunday night through Friday night

On other days of the week, the prokeimenon appointed for that day of the week is sung. These can be found on pages 114-115 of the MCI Sunday Vespers book, in the appendix containing material for feast-days.

You can listen to them here: Sunday - Monday - Tuesday - Wednesday - Thursday - Friday. These use the ordinary prokeimenon melodies.

Sunday evenings in the Great Fast

There are also special melodies for the two great prokeimena that are sung in alternation on the Sundays of the Great Fast:

The readings

If there are readings, each is done as follows:

Deacon: Wisdom!

Reader: (announces the reading)

Deacon: Let us be attentive!

Read: (chants the reading)

It is permissable to have different readers for the three readings, especially if they are long. If a homly is given, it will normally follow the readings.

After the readings and homily (or, if there are no readings, after the evening prokeimenon), Vespers continues with intercessory litanies and prayers.