Lord Jesus, Stay with Us
This prayer was new to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. I find it especially beautiful and recommend memorizing it, not only for its beauty, but for its rich meditation on Scripture. It’s one of the collects that may be said at the end of daily Evening Prayer (see BCP page 70 or 124):
Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know thee as thou art revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of thy love. Amen.
This prayer puts us in the place of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on the afternoon of the day of Jesus’ resurrection (see Luke 24:13-35, last Sunday’s Gospel). They are filled with sadness, disappointment, perplexity. Jesus comes up beside them, but they do not recognize him. As they go on walking for what might have been more than two hours (the journey was seven miles), Jesus explains to them the Scriptures about himself. When they get to Emmaus, they invite Jesus to come in and stay with them. He does so, and at supper he breaks bread, blesses it, gives it to them. At this moment they recognize him.
Those two disciples are Christians like you and me, continuing our lives after Jesus’ resurrection and sometimes filled with confusion and sadness. At the end of the day—at the end of any day whatsoever—we can ask Jesus to stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past. We can ask him to be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope. We can ask that he give us knowledge of himself, knowledge that is revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. And we can have confidence that Jesus will answer this prayer for the sake of his love for us.
This prayer, new to the 1979 Book, came from the Roman Catholic Church’s Liturgy of the Hours, as revised following Vatican II. As far as I know, it was new to that revision (first in English in 1974), where it is said at Vespers (evening prayer) on Monday of Week 4. So the Episcopal Church’s picking it up was quick work—and a blessed gift of ecumenical appreciation!
This year the prayer was said on Monday, January 30. There are, I gather, various official English translations; for my Roman Catholic readers, I offer this one that I was able to find online:
Stay with us, Lord Jesus, for evening draws near, and be our companion on our way to set our hearts on fire with new hope. Help us to recognize your presence among us in the Scriptures we read, and in the breaking of bread, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
In whatever version, I commend it to memorization and frequent meditation.
Out & About. The next Good Books & Good Talk seminar will be on Sunday, May 21, at 5pm, on War in Heaven by Charles Williams. Williams was an Inkling—part of that group that included C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. His novels are literally out of this world.