Diocesan News

Seminary planning seventh annual event: Advent Vespers and Carols

Story by Dominic Winter

SEWARD (SNR) – St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward will hold its seventh annual Advent choral concert Sunday, Dec. 6.

Beginning at 7 p.m., the concert will combine with Vespers (Evening Prayer) for about an hour of prayer and song, followed by a reception with Advent cookies and cider. 

Since early November, seminary rector Father Jeffrey Eickhoff has directed the seminary schola for this event, assisted by Jared Samson, a College 4 seminarian from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The seminary schola typically includes about 20 volunteer seminarians, who sing at every Sunday Mass.

The chapel will be appropriately decorated for the Advent themes of the coming of the Light into the darkness, announced by the voice in the wilderness.  Evergreen branches, symbols of undying hope, and violet, a color of penance, will deck the chapel.

In previous years, the concert followed the European “lessons and carols” format, where the lector would read a passage of Scripture, followed by a carol by the choir.  Now, Father Eickhoff, at Bishop James Conley’s suggestion, will incorporate Vespers into the seminary’s new “Vespers and Carols.”  The carols will come both before and after solemn sung Vespers. 

“The bishop and I wanted to make more people aware of the liturgy of the Church, not just the Mass and the sacraments, but also the Liturgy of the Hours,” Father Eickhoff said. “Praying the liturgy is truly Catholic and also unites us with the larger Church, which is also praying the liturgy.” 

The Liturgy of the Hours - also called the “Divine Office” - is the required prayer of every Roman Catholic cleric.  Around the world, priests and religious unite in praying this Prayer of the Church.  The Liturgy of the Hours is divided into seven “hours” of prayer, each involving an assortment of psalms, responsories, canticles, and readings.  Vespers includes two psalms, a canticle from the New Testament, a short reading, a responsory, and the Magnificat canticle.  The Liturgy of the Hours expresses the continuum from the Old Covenant to the New by incorporating the Jewish psalms with the Christian canticles in the official prayer of the Catholic Church.

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