Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord Christ.
Give rest to the weary.
Bless the dying,
Soothe the suffering,
Pity the afflicted,
Shield the joyous;
And all for your love’s sake.
In England, Sundays were beautiful days. I woke up and made breakfast before cycling down to the beautiful Church of St. Mary Magdalene in the center of Oxford, an Anglo-Catholic congregation. There, on Sunday mornings, we came together to remember the beauty of the truth of Christ, and we treated it as such. The air of both reverence and celebration seemed to me to be a taste of glory as the light shone in colorful shafts through the stained-glass windows, and the majestic choir sang the Sanctus. But as much as I loved Sunday mornings, I loved Sunday evenings even more.
Evensong. We welcomed the night, and we thanked God for what transpired throughout the day. We sang hymns and recited prayers and creeds, and hopefully, on the days that we could, we meant them, and we listened for God. We watched through the vaulted windows as dusk fell on the city of Oxford. When the liturgy began, it was sunset. When it ended, it was night.
Here in America, I have been attending the service of Evening Prayer when I can, and this particular prayer has captivated me. It is my favorite part of the liturgy, because it reminds me that I am not the only one here, I am not the only one who struggles and suffers and loves.
Tonight I am sitting in a wood-paneled room in Walton Hall, writing instead of studying for midterms. Later I will meet with a study partner and then drink tea in my room, and keep studying. Tonight some are working the overnight shift at the diner, gas station, firehouse, supermarket. Someone is staying late in the office tonight, convinced that she’ll be unprepared for a presentation tomorrow. Some are working the streets because they are broke tonight. Someone is putting the finishing touches on a piece of art, someone is practicing for a recital they have tomorrow, someone is at the lab mixing chemicals late tonight because there is so much to be done. Someone is weary of the work.
Tonight someone is watching her newborn baby sleep, hoping to God that the baby doesn’t wake up, so that this someone can finally rest her exhausted body for a few hours. Someone is watching his father die, someone is watching television. Someone is watching a movie that he will remember, some are watching pornography to dull the pain of loneliness, someone is watching the moon and the binary stars and the distant galaxies in the observatory tower at the top of McInnis. Someone is marveling as he watches.
Tonight, some are weeping because they think that nobody loves them. Someone is weeping because he is cold and feels like there is not a soul in the world who cares. Someone is weeping because she received yet a rejection letter and she thought that maybe, this time, this job. Someone is weeping because he got the call that his daughter was in a fatal crash. Someone is weeping because there is death here, and there is rape, and there are cold nights and no consolation. Some are weeping because others will not stop abusing them. Some are weeping because they are ashamed of what they have done. Some are weeping tonight because of things that they could never have predicted, things that they could never have prevented. Someone is curled up in a ball on his kitchen floor as he weeps.
Someone is spending another night in the hospital tonight. Her family has left for the night, and she is alone with the beeping machines and the tubes that tangle around her body. Someone hasn’t slept in days because there is so much that demands attention. Someone is taking his final breath tonight. Someone is in bed, wishing for a body that worked properly. Some are in bed, celebrating and exulting in the joy of love.
Tend. Give rest. Bless. Soothe. Pity. Shield. And all for your love’s sake. Amen.
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.