No, that isn’t a typo in the title of this blog post. During my short break from blogging (less than a month) since I published my last blog post on this blog, I’ve learned something new, and it’s known as “Compline.” In short, Compline is an “end of day” prayer (a longer explanation is below).
Since my last blog post, I’ve been spreading my wings this past month and trying some new things. One of those “new things” has been becoming involved in a two-hour class that meets once a week at a local church, and it is a class for women who are new to living in this area where I moved to last fall that helps to acclimated us to our new surroundings in the community. It is held at a very large church in a beautiful facility, and it has been quite enjoyable getting to meet some women in this area.
This past week after we met (we also stay and have lunch after the meeting is over), as I was leaving the building, there were a number of publications and other materials about the church and it’s various offerings on a table, and I picked up the latest copy (September/October 2021) of a publication titled, “Good News: Leading United Methodists to a Faithful Future.” As I was looking through it, I came across an article titled, “Prayers When Things Are Dark,” by Tish Harrison Warren, a priest in the Anglican Church of North America, and the author of several books. She opens her article, which can be read in its entirety at this link, with the following description:
It was a dark year in every sense. It began with the move from my sunny hometown, Austin, Texas, to Pittsburgh in early January. One week later, my dad, back in Texas, died in the middle of the night. Always towering and certain as a mountain on the horizon, he was suddenly gone.
A month later, I miscarried and hemorrhaged. We made it to the hospital. I was going to be okay, but I needed surgery. They put in a line for a blood transfusion, and told me to lie still. Then, I yelled to Jonathan, lost amidst the nurses, “Compline! I want to pray Compline.” It isn’t normal–even for me–to loudly demand liturgical prayers in a crowded room in the midst of crisis. But in that moment, I needed it, as much as I needed the IV… (Quote source and continue reading at this link.)
I never heard of “Compline” before I read this article. I was raised in a non-denominational church that had a tendency to hire pastors with Baptist backgrounds, and later on in my life I attended a very large non-denominational church where the senior pastor came from a Methodist background, but the church itself was not a part of any denomination. I also worked for several years at a small private Catholic university, and later I worked at another small private university that was affiliated with the Assemblies of God; however, in both cases, I was not required to be a Catholic or a member of the Assemblies of God; however, the latter required that staff members held to a Christian worldview.
In all this time of being affiliated in some way with various Christian institutions, I never came across the term “Compline,” so I was fascinated to learn more about it after reading Tish Harrison Warren’s impassioned article linked above. As I researched the subject online, I came across an article in the “Anglican Compass” titled, “What is Compline?” by Porter C. Taylor, the Rector of St. David’s by the Sea Episcopal Church in Central Florida. He states:
…Maybe you’re familiar with Compline and maybe you’re not. It doesn’t really matter…yet. In either case, this ancient prayer hour is prayed at the conclusion of every day and ought to be embraced as a powerful tool and beautiful liturgy. My goal in this post is to inform, equip, and empower you that you might add Compline to your daily routine and continue telling time liturgically rather than chronologically.
…Compline was the last service of the day, to be said by the monks in their dormitories before bed. It was a simple service without flourishes or flashes. St. Benedict had this to say about the simplicity of Compline:
“Let Compline be limited to the saying of three psalms, which are to be said straightforwardly without antiphons, after which let there be the hymn of that hour, a lesson, a versicle, the Kyrie, and a blessing to conclude.” (Source: “Commentary on the American Prayer Book” by Marion J. Hatchett, HarperCollins Publisher, 1995, p. 144.)
To this day, Psalms 4, 31, and 91 form the backbone of the service. Psalm 134 is often included as an additional, optional reading. Whereas Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer were designed as Cathedral offices, to be prayed corporately, Compline has always been a monastic, private office used in the comfort and seclusion of one’s habitation. (Quote source here.)
While there are different formalities in varying denominations, I am not familiar with Anglican, Methodist, Episcopal, or Catholic forms of worship as in the past I have not been a part of any of them, so this is new to me. What I discovered as I read the articles on Compline that are linked above is that I wanted to find something I could do in the privacy of my own apartment, informally, along the lines of what is done in a Compline service at church (which is an evening service).
As stated in the second article above, the backbone of a Compline service includes reading Psalm 4, 31, 91, and 134. And also stated in the article and quoted above by Rev. Taylor, he states that “Compline was the last service of the day, to be said by the monks in their dormitories before bed. It was a simple service without flourishes or flashes.” Therefore, it could be as simple as offering these psalms as a prayer at the end of the day.
My interest in “Compline” comes from the experiences I have gone through over the past dozen years when my life took a distinct turn in a direction I never expected it to go in, especially given my age at the time, and it never did go back to the way my life had been before that event happened that changed my life so dramatically.
This past year has been a big change for me as I moved into an apartment almost one year ago that brought to an end a rather fruitless search for income-based senior housing over a six-year period of time that, due to circumstances beyond my control, left me living in hotel rooms as my only housing option during those years I was searching for income-based senior housing. And once I gave up looking for it, that is when I found this apartment I am currently living in which is not income-based but I can afford the rent for a while, and it is in an “all ages” apartment complex. I haven’t given up my search for income-based senior housing, but this apartment is a very nice reprieve from hotel room living, and I feel like I got a big part of my life back again. Yes!
I moved into a completely empty apartment almost one year ago, and I had no furniture or other household items to put in it as I lost all of mine a dozen years ago; so I had to go looking for new furniture, and the last time I bought furniture was back in 1997! I was in “sticker shock” to say the least, but during the first few months in my apartment I purchased was I needed, and I love feeling like I have a real home again instead of a small hotel room to live in.
I was surprised to find that during my first few months living in this apartment that I had to adjust to having my own place again as opposed to the very transient nature of hotel room living. Unless you’ve “been there and done that,” you won’t understand but there really is an adjustment period. Of course, since we are still in the middle of a pandemic that has changed life as we knew it ever since it started back in March 2020, most social settings were “cancelled” and most activities went “online.” When I moved into this apartment last fall, it was located in a community 20 miles north of the hotel room I had been living in, so I was not that familiar with this area. Churches, colleges, bars, restaurants, shopping centers, and many businesses were still operating mostly online at that time, so the usual places to go to meet new people were closed down, and they only started to open up again this past spring and summer.
As the summer progressed, I visited a local community college to find out if they had any classes for seniors that I could take as a way to meet people in my age range, and to start getting connected within the community. I did end up finding two online classes (discussion groups) that meet on a weekly basis, and I joined them in July (they are still ongoing). And I also found out about the in-person class I’m currently taking at the church that I mentioned above when I stopped there to find information on senior activities that they offered. They were finally starting to offer some “in-person” classes for the fall term starting in late August.
So what does all of this have to do with discovering “Compline”? Actually, it has a lot to do with it. Since Compline is something that is done at the end of the day right before bedtime, it give us time to reflect on the things going on in our lives and the lives of others, too, and in particular what has gone on during that specific day. And it brings our focus back to God and being grateful for all He does for us, even in the challenging times we face.
It is a great way to end the day with a time for reading those four psalms that are often read/prayed as a part of a Compline service found in Psalm 4, 31, 91, and 134. And it’s a great reminder, too, of where our true strength comes from as found in Psalm 46:1 which states, “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.” Indeed, He is, and that’s a great reflection to consider as we go to sleep for the night no matter what we might be going through at any given point in time.
I’ll end this post with these words which are so appropriate to use for Compline right before bedtime that are found in Psalm 4:8 (NIV)-In peace I will lie down and sleep…
For you alone, Lord. . .
Make me dwell. . .
In safety. . . .
YouTube Video: “Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells: