When I drive home from the city in the early evening at this time of the year, the sun is setting in my rear vision window; and the hills in front of me have a pink, purple and golden halo. It is the perfect setting for vespers, as the “remains of the day” are gathered up, before night sets in. I fell in love with vespers when I was in Rudesheim. When I was in Rudesheim it was summer and a full moon, so I had the benefit of a long period of vespers.
Mid-life and vespers were made for each other.
Vespers is this time of life. There is the promise of the day ending and rest setting in, the evening filled with stars and stories from the day and the potential of a new day dawning to recast the sails for the next voyage.
The prayer of this hour begins :
Deus, in adiutorium meum intende. Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen
Mid-life is definitely a time when assistance is called for and there is an urgency to get help when you need to … there are less days ahead than behind … time is running out so let’s get on with it! Although I don’t agree with the concept that as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be. Certainly my body isn’t as it was in the beginning and I hope that with some effort and a few treatments here and there will be improvement. And as for, world without end, I am comforted by this thought of the world carrying on without making any contribution, spinning around in space, doing very well, thank you very much without me.
This reminds me that this is a time where we are apprenticing our disappearance as David Whyte puts it; vespers is perhaps an apprenticeship to the evening?
The vision in my rear view mirror is equally the last act of the day and the first act of the night; the drive each time is both review and forecast.
The afternoon light is often so beautiful at this time of the year. It is easy to see what inspires painters to capture the vineyards, the coastline and the rolling hills of the Fleurieu peninsula that find the paint on canvas revealed in the various galleries and art shows that proliferate around the area.
I am captured by the light too; but it isn’t on a canvas where the image is too often two-dimensional. Instead for me, Hildegard, the light is all surrounding, glowing and flowing, and the in-between spaces offer a glimpse of liminal time and a deep invitation to rest, even wallow, in vespers. I like to travel with the setting sun and hurriedly get home before our Star meets the horizon so that I can receive all the rays of light available to me, before it disappears and the glory of the night sky is fully revealed. I think this is what vespers is all about and what mid-life might be all about too: to keep up with the rays of light and come to rest in peace to receive what the night has to offer.
While I was in Rudesheim I wrote a poem about vespers, so it is a few years old and I have dusted it off and done a few revisions. I have shared a version, with a few people at a local poetry gathering when the sun was setting over the southern ocean at the end of summer.
Now I share it here, Hildegard, to help me own this vesper season to bring together the rear vision mirror and the horizon.
It is twilight.
I am gathering up all the colours of the day;
And giving thanks for what has been.
Golden beams of light soaking into the horizon;
Inviting me to soak in that light.
All the warmth,
And the energy
From Her rays.
This is the gift of the twilight.
I cannot delay the setting of the Sun.
She will go down.
She will set.
In the morning peak out;
To begin her flight across the sky.
I cannot hold Her back.
I am at Her mercy.
I am indebted to Her light
And Her shadow.
Don’t banish me to darkness.
I don’t want to be free from You.
It is only in Your light that I can see.
It is only in Your warmth that I can feel.
It is only in Your energy that I am whole.
Twilight gives way to the night.
And I must accept this time of twilight,
And the dark that follows.
Gratitude for twilight.
The dark comes when twilight is over
And it is not over.
Twilight is here.
And the call is: to be here too.