Now Cranmer found a system of prayers for different times of the day, called the Hours, observed most fully in the monasteries, but to a large extent outside them too, which, in spite of its beauty, was unsuitable for general use because (i) there were far more services than people could be expected to attend; (ii) not enough Scripture was read; (iii) the public services were in Latin-we have a relic of this in the titles of the psalms in our Prayer-Book; and (iv) they were too elaborate for simple people to follow.
EVENSONG is a popular service in the true sense of the term "popular." Especially when the psalms and lessons have a clear and appropriate message, it appeals to the people in a wonderful way, refreshing the soul and informing the mind.
Let us now see exactly how Evensong was made up from the old Latin services of Vespers and Compline.
Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury in Henry VIII,'s reign, was a great scholar, and produced magnificent translations of the old prayers.
The other two were Vespers at sunset, and Compline (so called because it completed the day) last thing at night.
Special importance was attached to the number seven, and to the midnight rising, because of the words of the psalms: "Seven times a day will I praise Thee," and " At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto Thee." Out of these seven or eight services Cranmer made our Matins and Evensong.
In respect of the psalms and lessons Cranmer made some important changes.