A Peaceful Night and a Perfect End
|May the Lord grant you a peaceful night|
Compline reminds us to face our fears, give thanks for protection from harm, and pray for a restful sleep and good dreams, releasing our trust to the Almighty. Kenneth V. Peterson, Prayer as Night Falls.
My first experience of Compline was with a small group of clergy in a series of four retreat gatherings over two years. That experience over 25 years ago created an appreciation for evening prayer that been renewed and deepened in the reading of Kenneth V. Peterson's excellent volume on experiencing compline entitled, Prayer as Night Falls (2013)
This book is a well written weaving of Peterson's experience of singing in the St. Mark's Cathedral Compline Choir in Seattle since 1964. It includes the origins and development of the Office of Compline, from pre- St. Benedict to the present. The book is well referenced with notes and Appendices 1 and 2 provide the order of musical example for Compline.
If you go to Peterson's website, you can find the churches that offer the service in the U.S. and Canada. In fact, I wrongly assumed that, as hard as it was to find a Vespers service in Houston, no Compline offering existed.
Beyond providing everything you would want to know about Compline's prayers and music, I find Peterson's themes of Compline to be nicely unfolded throughout the book: practicing vigilance, accepting mortality, the mystic path, beauty and seeking good, community and compassion, and finding lasting peace. Too, there is lovely poetry that Peterson uses to illustrate the spirituality of Compline, as well as the beautiful words to the hymns the St. Mark's choir uses.
I loved exploring the Compline Psalms, and the book does provide a complete listing of all the Psalms that have been apart of Compline through the ages.
The central virtue of Compline, Peterson, maintains, is faith and trust. In Compline, whether we experience it privately, in a small group such as a monastery, or in a church, we choose trust over fear and anxiety. No, the idea is not to get a measurable of "better sleep" over taking pills, etc. But think of this: when Compline is used in monastic communities, it is the last word spoken or heard until daybreak. For most of us, we would have to replace our usual evening ritual with Compline and silence.