Maybe it’s the Texas girl in me, but I’m finding peace in these long summer evenings. It’s just the right time of year to share with you one of my favorite evening prayers, a lingering companion from my Episcopal days. I remember so clearly the little chapel at Holy Nativity where we used to say this prayer together in the evenings.
The Phos Hilaron is an ancient Christian hymn – one of the oldest we have outside of the New Testament (several New Testament writers incorporate hymns or hymn fragments into their work, such as the familiar hymn of the self-emptying of Jesus included by Paul in his letter to the Philippians; see Phil. 2:6-11).
We don’t know who wrote this lovely prayer, but we do know it has been around since at least the 3rd century. St. Basil, writing in the 4th century, referred to the Phos Hilaron as an already cherished prayer of the Church.
The hymn, which refers to the “vesper” (or “evening”) light, was sung at the lighting of lamps in the evening, a joyful testimony to the light of the world.
O gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!
Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.
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A pdf of the prayer can be found here if you wish to print it: Phos Hilaron (pdf).