Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vespers Making a Comeback in Mangalore

Milagres Church, Mangalore
After Vespers
The tradition of Solemn Vespers seems to be making a comeback in the city of Mangalore. 

Parishes in more rural areas of the South Indian diocese of Mangalore have faithfully preserved their tradition of celebrating their annual Parish Feast. The Parish Feast is celebrated on a Wednesday and is preceeded by a Solemn Vespers the previous (i.e., Tuesday) evening, and a Confraternity Sunday celebration, the immediate Sunday before. 

Vespers at
Milagres Church
The format of the Vespers however, was not always fully identifiable with the Vespers of the Church. Nevertheless it was a liturgical service, resembling more or less a Liturgy of the Word with its hymns, scripture reading, homily, in some places also an offertory, and finally a benediction.  

Mother Teresa Band
at Milagres Church on the
Eve of the Parish Feast
More recently efforts have been made to remedy these liturgies by modelling them more closely on the Evening Prayer of the Church, chiefly by the introduction of the Psalmody, the Magnificat and the Lord's Prayer. The homily, not always brief as the Church's public celebration of the Vespers requires it to be, is an important part of these services.

Following the Vespers, it is the fair, the brass band, the various stalls and the display of fireworks that captures one attention. Families inviting relatives to their homes for the parish feast love to discuss them on their way home.

Fireworks after
the Vespers
at Milagres Church 
This tradition of celebrating the annual Vespers and Parish Feast was long lost in our city parishes. However, at the 75 year celebration in May this year, of the St Vincent Ferrer Church at Valencia (not in Spain but) in Mangalore, the idea was re-introduced in the city. Now, this week, the beautiful Church of our Lady of Milagres (Portuguese: 'Miracles') went ahead and celebrated it's Vespers after a lapse of 40 years!

Recovering a lost tradition is far harder than preserving an existing one. It is certainly laudable that churches in the city are aiming hard at bringing back the tradition of the Vespers, which I would say, should also extend slowly to the Church's other principal feasts. But with this enterprise comes also the all important task of liturgical catechesis. A lot will depend on it if faith and worship are to survive the festivities which sometimes drown them.

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