Evening Prayer – 16 May 2022
Group of adults is gathered in a work room at the end of a day. They have stopped to say evening prayer together. They stand facing a crucifix hanging on the wall by the door. The men to the right stand and look at the cross, those nearer, men and women, stare in front of themselves, no doubt listening to the spoken prayers. A woman in the centre turns to one side: what from her day is in her mind? Similarly, an older man with his back to the viewer looks to the side. Is he troubled or is there something he is particularly concentrating on in the prayers?
There are two sources of light in the picture. One is an electric light hanging from the ceiling above the table. This casts a yellow glow towards the back of the room and picture adding a sense of warmth and safety. The second light source cannot be seen, but is at the top of the flight of stairs in the hallway. This light is brighter. These are the stairs that will be taken to go to bed and rest. The prayers at the end of each day resonate with the rest that will come at the end of life. Here then is a heavenly staircase. The placing of the crucifix next to the open door and this staircase offers a visual reflection on the means by which peace at the end of day and the end of life is achieved.
The painting is ‘Abendandacht’ (Evening Prayer) c 1890, by the German impressionist painter Franz Skarbina.
O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen
John Henry Newman
Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see.
O thou who changest not, abide with me.
I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like thyself my guide and strength can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.
I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless,
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.
Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes.
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Henry F Lyte