Lucernarium - ritual?
  • Hi folks,

    Other than “Light and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord … Thanks be to God.” then Phos Hilaron, what comprises the ritual action of a Lucernarium?

    Does the celebrant just light the candle, then say the line, then the Phos, then “Deus in adjutorium …”?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,796
    Is it even part of the Roman rite? It's done in the Byzantine rite and appears in the Anglican-use "Book of Divine Worship".
  • dhalkjdhalkj
    Posts: 46
    There is a chanted blessing of the candle, a sort of mini Exsultet, which puts the Easter vigil ceremonies into a context. And Phos Hilaron is the evening hymn that balances the morning hymn Gloria in excelsis. So there's something else that could benefit from more context.
  • igneusigneus
    Posts: 269
    @chonak As long as I know, it is not. (At least I don't know any Latin or Czech official liturgical book of the Roman rite that would contain it. For the English-speaking world I don't know ...) But it is quite often added to Roman rite Vespers if celebrated by some "progressive" or "creative" celebrant/group.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,796
    Maybe some document (the GILH, perhaps?) allows for adding a lucernarium rite.

    The version given in Worship III presents the lucernarium as an alternative to the usual beginning of Vespers ("O God, come to my assistance", etc., and "Glory to the Father...").
  • igneusigneus
    Posts: 269
    Concerning the GILH, I've read it several times and I am sure this rite isn't mentioned there.

  • RevAMG
    Posts: 130
    Lucernarium, the evening service of light, has an ancient and, at times, elusive history. Before the sixth century, the offices of Evening Prayer (Vespers) and Night Prayer (Compline) were combined into one evening service, Lucernarium. This was a service of light wherein the candles in the church were lit—both for practical and symbolic purposes. There exists a fourth century hymn entitled Ad Incensum Lucernæ, which was probably composed for the office of Lucernarium. It was at this evening hour that incense was burned, symbolizing prayers rising towards Heaven. In antiquity, the term was also applied, at times, to the act of bringing a light into the room where the family was gathered together, especially the bringing of a lamp to the table at which the family was seated for the evening meal. For Christians, this light was a symbol of Christ. Following the sixth century, elements from Lucernarium were taken to make Evening Prayer and Night Prayer as separate hours; however, a sort of Lucernarium still exists in the Mozarabic and Ambrosian Rites.

    In the sixth century Irish Antiphonary of Bangor, Vespers is called the hora duodecima, which corresponds to six o’clock in the evening, or the hora incensi, or again ad cereum benedicendum. The hora incensi recalls the custom of burning incense at this hour, while at the same time the candles were lighted. The term ad cereum benedicendum reminds us that the ceremony of lamp lighting at Vespers was symbolic and very solemn. Hence at some point after or around the sixth century, Lucernarium was split into the separate hours of Vespers and Compline.

    A form of Lucernarium was taken over into the liturgy of Easter Eve from earliest times, only to receive considerable embellishment in succeeding centuries. In the Diary of Egeria the Pilgrim, written around 385 A.D., Egeria mentions the custom of a liturgical ceremony of light on Easter Eve held in church as part of the vigil service as she saw it on her pilgrimage to Jerusalem. She remarks with surprise that the light is not brought into the chapel of the Resurrection from outdoors, as happened to be the case in her homeland of Spain, but from another chamber in the grotto. We learn, moreover, that in Spain the fire for the ceremonial light was struck from flint in front of the church edifice. This fourth century service in some way resembled the very solemn rite of Lucernarium that we have now at the Easter Vigil. Even today’s modern Roman Missal calls the solemn beginning of the Easter Vigil Lucernarium.

    Finally, St. Basil also speaks of a hymn being sung at the moment when the torches were lighted—doubtless the famous third century Greek hymn Phôs Hilaròn (or, in Latin, Lumen Hilare), rendered in English as O Gladsome Light or O Radiant Light, O Sun Divine. St. Basil characterized this hymn as being “old” in his own day and thus could be one of the oldest and earliest hymns in existence, notwithstanding some Scriptural “hymns” or canticles.

    On a personal note, I have a copy of an order of Lucernarium currently in use by the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) in the Province of St. Albert the Great (Central Province) in the United States of America. The service consists of: (1) An introductory verse; (2) an evening hymn; (3) a prayer of thanksgiving for light; (4) incensation with the singing of Psalm 141 with an antiphon (or "another suitable song"); and (5) a final prayer.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,498
    The Lucernarium is part of Vespers in the Ambrosian Rite (1939), the book below has the chants,
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,796
    I checked "Dictionary of the Liturgy" by Jovian Lang, OFM, 1989. Under "Lucernarium" it gives the example of the Easter Vigil, but does not indicate any other current use of the ceremony in the Roman rite. Fr. Lang says there is a "strong contingent" of liturgists working to revive its use in Evening Prayer.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,606
    This book, which actually is how I discovered that chant existed, contains Exsultet-ish chants for Saturday nights, Sunday nights, and Solemnities.

    I wouldn't encourage its use as the actual Liturgy of the Hours. Some of the chant tones found in the book are quite nice though.
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  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    The 'Phos Hilaron' appears in the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 652
    IIRC, Tertullian talks about home celebration of the Lucernarium, and how it was great to sing the psalms for it back and forth with his wife.

    Prudentius' hymn "Inventor rutili" is a lamplighting/Easter vigil hymn, and it talks about making fire with flint. He was from Spain too.

    Oh, and if you ever read Harry Turtledove's alternate-Byzantine fantasies (Videssos), he uses "Phos" as his name for alternate-universe-God, and "Phos Hilaron" is referenced a lot. (He does this partly because he's Jewish, partially to avoid technical theological history problems, and partly because it lets him do a more Manichaean than Muslim bunch of enemy military guys, for plot reasons.) A lot of libraries carry the reissued ebook version of the Videssos novels right now, and there's a lot of fun with his plot of sending an early Roman legionary through time into this alternate Byzantine Empire. Byzantine historians are also main characters.
  • Thank you to everyone who has commented on this thread!

    @RevAMG: Fascinating! Of course I know that Evensong is an amalgamation of Vespers and Compline, but I did not know that those two offices originated as a single service!

    There is no Lucernarium in Vespers of the modern Roman Rite, which IMO is a shame if for nothing other than the absence of Phos Hilaron from Vespers. I have seen it included in Vespers services nonetheless.

    That said, strictly speaking, just as there is nothing that prohibits a recessional hymn at the end of Mass, there would seem to be nothing wrong with “prefixing” a Vespers service with a Lucernarium?
  • PetePete
    Posts: 1
    RevAMG is right, there are no Lucernare existing in the Western rites that are in any way historically authentic. Egeria's accounts from antiquity are not exact, and the Ambrosian Rite is probably the only one with any historic connection (I've never found the Mozarabic in English). Good luck in finding any extensive English translation of the Ambrosian offices! Taft is probably the best authority, drawing from a Lutheran rite, and suggesting as people do here to commence Vespers with a concocted approximation. I'd hazard a guess that early cathedral office liturgies also bore little relation to the present Orthodox/Byzantine Services of Light.

    However, the Anglican Franciscans in the early 90s produced a daily office which I suspect draws on the Ambrosian material (as that publication also includes Ambrosian intercessions) and provide texts for all church seasons in their "Celebrating Common Prayer" which is available online. They're very well written, and used I believe by a Catholic monastery in France. The original texts from the first editions are the best, not the revised versions that found their way into official Anglican/Episcopalian office books after 2000.

    As for the Liturgy of the Hours, there is a Lucernarium in-built at Evening Prayer 1 of Week 1, and the American edition has the psalm prayer for Ps. 141 which is useful as a kind of collect to conclude it. The GILH allows for office hymns to be substituted, so using Phos Hilaron is perfectly within the rules. To my knowledge there are no ancient examples of the order in which the opening, the psalm, Phos Hilaron, the incensation and the conclusion should be celebrated. Some hymn books in the UK, "Laudate" for example, have suggestions for services of light.

    In the dioceses of England and Wales in Britain (, the bishops authorised a volume entitled "Celebrating Sunday Evening Prayer" in 2005 which officially allows a Service of Light to precede (or I think be included) in Vespers. Published by Canterbury Press, copies now presumably hidden in the second hand vaults of Amazon ☺
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  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,422
    The England&Wales book seems to be still available the structure is attached.
  • aldine
    Posts: 27
    RevAMG's comment above is spot on. Thanks for the history and context.

    And Felipe Gasper's comment about nothing prohibiting the inclusion of a Lucernarium is also on the mark, especially since it is very much part of the patrimony. Lucernarium is a laudable practice that adds much to the public celebration of Vespers.

    Many years ago, I functioned as a cantor in a parish that did this regularly. The description for the Dominican order of it is basically the order we used, although we were not in a Dominican context.

    This book contains the mini-Exsultets for each season, and many other helpful notated office portions:

    It is also available from GIA.

    Bill Storey, its editor, was a scholar in this arena who gave us the familiar metrical translation of Phos hilaron: "O radiant light, O sun divine ..."

    I believe it was Fr. Robert Taft who wrote that the lucernarium of the Easter Vigil came from Vespers, and not the other way around. People would have been used to it from Cathedral Vespers in the earliest centuries. Psalm 141 would have been one of the "fixed" daily psalms due to its reference to prayers rising like incense.

    It is wonderful that we live in a time where the full text of the office can be accessed for free online. However, getting everyone together to pray the text from their electronic resource (or even from a booklet produced from such a resource), although it can serve a purpose, misses the big symbolism and thoughtful options that the public rite can contain (the light, incense, icons, different forms of psalmody, etc.). In earlier days, unchanging portions of the rite would have become memorized for this reason - they had a verbal, aural, and visual impact. This is also, in a different context, the appeal of Tenebrae.

    I look forward to (hopefully) reintroducing some of these things periodically at my current parish - it is a shame that, in many places, the Office is still such a private matter. I am not regular in saying it, but when I do, I remember what it was like to do it with a congregation, and that is a wonderful experience whenever it happens!

    One could go on and on about this topic - but in short, go towards the light! :)