I'm sure you've seen the "12 things" to know by Frederica. Vespers is very quiet. The church is usually darkened--minimal lights or just candlelight. I have some really cool commentaries on Vespers that I'll post for you. They were really eye-opening for me.
> Vespers recalls and represents events of the Old Testament: the creation
of the world, the fall into sin of the first human beings, their expulsion
from Paradise, their repentance and prayer for salvation, the hope of
mankind in accordance with the promise of God for a Saviour, and finally,
the fulfillment of that promise.
> The Vespers of an All Night Vigil begins with the opening of the Royal
Gates. The priest and deacon silently cense the Altar Table and the entire
sanctuary, so that clouds of incense fill the depths of the sanctuary. This
silent censing represents the beginning of the creation of the world. In the
beginning God created heaven and earth. And the earth was without form and
void, and the Spirit of God hovered over the original material earth,
breathing upon it a life-creating power, but the creating word of God had
not yet begun to resound.
> The priest then stands before the Altar and intones the first
exclamation to the glory of the Creator and Founder of the world, the Most
Holy Trinity: "Glory to the Holy, Consubstantial, Life-creating, and
Indivisible Trinity, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages."
> He then summons the faithful four times, "O come, let us worship God our
King. O come let us worship and fall down before Christ, our King and our
God. O come let us worship and fall down before Christ Himself, our King and
our God. O come let us worship and fall down before Him." "For All things
were made by Him; and without him was not anything made that was made (John
> In response to this summons, the choir solemnly chants the 103rd Psalm,
which describes the creation of the world and glorifies the wisdom of God:
"Bless the Lord, O my soul. Blessed art Thou, O Lord; O Lord my God, Thou
hast been magnified exceedingly...In wisdom hast Thou made them
all...Wondrous are Thy works, O Lord... Glory to Thee, O Lord, Who hast made
them all." During the chanting of this psalm the priest goes forth from the
sanctuary. He completes the censing of the entire church and the faithful
therein, while a deacon precedes him bearing a lit candle in his hand. This
sacred action calls to the mind of those praying the creation of the world;
but it is to remind them primarily of the blessed life in Paradise of the
first human beings, when the Lord God Himself walked among them. The open
Royal Gates signify that at that time the gates of Paradise were open for
> When man was deceived by the Devil and transgressed against the will of
God, he fell into sin. Because of this fall, man was deprived of his blessed
life in Paradise. He was driven out of Paradise and the gates were closed.
To symbolize this expulsion, after the censing of the church and the
chanting of the psalm, the Royal Gates are closed.
> The deacon then comes out from the sanctuary and stands before the
closed Royal Gates, as Adam stood before the sealed entrance of Paradise,
and intones the Great Litany: "In peace let us pray to the Lord." In other
words, let us pray to the Lord when we have been reconciled with all our
neighbors, so that we feel no anger or hostility towards them. "For the
peace from above, and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the
Lord." That is to say, let us pray that the Lord send down upon us "from on
high" the peace of Heaven, and that He save our souls.
> After the Great Litany and the exclamation of the priest, certain
selected verses are usually sung from the first three psalms of the Psalter:
"Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly."
Blessed is he who has not lived or acted on the advice of those who are
irreverent and impious. "For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, and
the way of the ungodly shall perish." For the Lord knows the life of the
righteous and the life of the impious leads to ruin. The deacon then intones
the Little Litany, "Again and again, in peace let us pray to the Lord..."
> After this litany, the choir chants the verses of certain psalms that
express the longing of man for salvation and Paradise: "Lord, I have cried
unto Thee, hearken unto me. Hearken unto me, O Lord...Attend to the voice of
my supplication, when I cry unto Thee...Let my prayer be set forth as
incense before Thee, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.
Hearken unto me, O Lord." During the chanting of these verses, the deacon
censes the church once more.
> Up to this point, the divine service, from the beginning of the closing
of the Royal Gates, through the petitions of the Great Ectenia and the
chanting of the psalms, represents the miserable state of mankind was
subject to by the fall of our forefathers into sin. With the fall, all the
deprivations, pains and sufferings we experience came into our lives. We cry
out to God, "Lord, have mercy," and request peace and salvation for our
souls. We feel contrition that we heeded the ungodly counsel of the Devil.
We ask God to forgive our sins and deliver us from troubles; we place all
our hope in His mercy. Thus, the censing by the deacon during the chanting
of the psalm signifies both the sacrifices of the Old Testament and the
prayers we are offering to God.
> Alternating with the chanting of the Old Testament verses of the psalm
"Lord, I have cried" are New testament hymns composed in honor of the saint
or feast of the day. The last verse is called the Theotokion, or Dogmatikon,
since it is sung in honor of the Mother of God. In it is set forth the dogma
on the incarnation of the Son of God from the Virgin Mary. On the twelve
great feasts, a special verse in honor of the feast is chanted in place of
> During the chanting of the Theotokion the Royal Gates are opened, and
the Vespers Entry is made; a candle bearer comes through the north door of
the Sanctuary, followed by the deacon with the censer, and finally the
priest. The priest stops on the ambo facing the Royal Gates and blesses the
entry with the sign of the Cross; after the intoning of the words "Wisdom,
let us attend!" by the deacon, the priest and the deacon reenters the Altar
together through the Royal Gates. The priest goes to stand next to the High
Place behind the Holy Table.
> At this time the choir chants a hymn to the Son of God, our Lord Jesus
Christ: "O Gentle Light of the holy glory of the immortal, heavenly, holy
blessed Father, O Jesus Christ: having come to the setting of the sun,
having beheld the evening light, we praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit: God. Meet it is for Thee at all times to be hymned with reverent
voices, O Son of God, Giver of Life. Wherefore, the world doth glorify
> In this hymn, the Son of God is called the Gentle Light that comes from
the Heavenly Father, for He came to this earth not in the fullness of divine
glory but in the gentle radiance of this glory. This hymn also says that
only with reverent voices, and not our sinful mouths, can He be glorified
and exalted worthily.
> The entry during Vespers reminds the faithful how the Old Testament
righteous, in harmony with the promise of God that was manifest in
prototypes and prophecies, expected the coming of the Saviour, and how He
appeared in the world for the salvation of the human race.
> The censer with incense used at the entry signifies that our prayers, by
the intercession of our Lord the Saviour, are offered to God like incense.
It also signifies the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church.
> The blessing with the sign of the Cross shows that by means of the Cross
of the Lord the doors into Paradise are opened again for us.
> Following the chanting of the hymn "O Gentle Light..." we sing the
prokeimenon, short verses taken from the Holy Scriptures. On Saturday
evening, for the Vespers for Sunday, we chant, "The Lord is King; He is
clothed with majesty."
> After the chanting of the prokeimenon, on the more important feasts
there are readings. These are selections from the Scriptures in which there
is a prophecy or a prototype which relates to the event being celebrated, or
in which edifying teachings are set forth, which relate to the saint
commemorated that day.
> Following the prokeimenon and readings the deacon intones the Augmented
Litany, "Let us all say with our whole soul and with our whole mind, let us
say." The prayer, "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this evening without
sin..." follows, and at the conclusion of this prayer the deacon reads the
Supplicatory Litany, "Let us complete our evening prayer unto the Lord..."
> On great feasts after the Augmented and Supplicatory Litanies the Litia,
or Blessing of Bread and Wine, is celebrated.
> "Litia" is a Greek word meaning "common prayer." The Litia, a series of
verses chanted by the choir followed by an enumeration of many saints whose
prayers are besought, is celebrated in the western end of the church, near
the main entrance doors, or in the Narthex, if the church is so arranged.
This part of the service was intended for those who were standing in the
Narthex, the catechumens and penitents, so they might be able to take part
in the common service on the occasions of the major festivals.
> At the end of the Litia is the blessing and sanctification of five
loaves of bread, wheat, wine and oil to recall the ancient custom of
providing food for those assembled who had come some distance, in order to
give them strength during the long divine services. The five loaves are
blessed to recall the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves of
bread. Later, during the main part of Matins, the priest anoints the
faithful with the sanctified oil, after they have venerated the festal icon.
> After the Litia, or if it is not served, after the Supplicatory Litany,
the Aposticha (Verses with hymns) are chanted. These are a few verses which
are specially written in memory of the occasion.
> Vespers ends with the reading of the prayer of St. Simeon the
GodReceiver, "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, O Master,
according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou
hast prepared before the face of all peoples; a light of revelation for the
gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel." This prayer is followed by the
reading of the Trisagion and the Lord's Prayer, and the singing of the
salutation of the Theotokos, "O Theotokos and Virgin, Rejoice! or the
troparion of the feast, and finally the thricechanted prayer of the
Psalmist: "Blessed be the name of the Lord from henceforth and for
evermore." The 33rd Psalm is then read or chanted until the verse, "But they
that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good thing." Then follows
the priestly blessing, "The blessing of the Lord be upon you, through His
grace and love for mankind, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of
> The conclusion of Vespers with the prayer of St. Simeon and the angelic
salutation of the Theotokos indicates the fulfillment of the divine promise
of a Saviour.
and, another sourcehttp://www.stjohndc.org/russian/Liturgy/e_Vespers.htm