Join Us For Compline

Compline (or Night Prayer) is the last prayer of the monastic day. From the Latin word completorium, Compline completes the day of praying the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours). Like Lauds (morning prayer) and Vespers (evening prayer), Compline begins with a call to prayer and praise as the hebdomadary intones the introductory verse "O God, come to my assistance" with the monks responding "O Lord, make haste to help me." This is immediately followed by the "Glory be to the Father" for which we bow. Next comes the hymn, psalmody, a reading and responsorial, and closing prayer. Compline concludes with the ringing of the Regina Coeli during the Easter season or the Angelus during the rest of the liturgical year. Finally, after a short pause for reflection, the abbot or prior gives a knock at which time the community and guests come forward for the blessing with holy water. After Compline until the following morning after Lauds/Mass is a period of the "great silence" when monks do not talk (unless an emergency).

Compline is a masterpiece of composition, the work of St. Benedict himself, and can be called the ideal night prayer. Its symbolism is beautiful. The hour begins straightway, without any introductory prayer, pauses awhile for an examination of conscience and an act of contrition. Both in Holy Scripture and in the liturgy, the sun and light are favorite comparisons and figures for the Godhead, for Christ, and the divine life. Christ is the divine Sun, the Christian is a child of this Sun. Such thoughts as these recur frequently in this hour.

The opposite of light, night with its darkness, is also a favorite image in the liturgy and the Bible for the sinister powers of hell. This thought of night and of darkness predominates in Compline. The darkness we recognize as the devil's trademark. Night is the mantle of the Prince of this world. The Christian, being a child of light, is afraid of this darkness, and like a little chick it scurries beneath the wings of the hen to escape Satan, the wheeling hawk.

In liturgical prayer we think not only of ourselves, but also of [humanity] for whom "night" is falling, whether the night of trial, of sin, or of death. And is it not true that the enemy lays his snares under cover of darkness? It is as though when night falls, hell disgorged all its inmates upon the earth, to prey upon [humanity]. How many sins indeed night enfolds in its darkness! And for this very reason the Christian prays at night for protection against the powers of hell, for himself and all [humanity].
Sleep too is a symbol, a figure of death. As man thinks of death almost spontaneously on going to sleep, Compline becomes also the night prayer of life, a prayer for a happy death. It contains many striking thoughts on this point. The blessing oat the very beginning is a crisp but thoughtful summary of these two ideas: "May Almighty God grant us a restful night and a happy death."
For a historical-redemptive background for our prayer, we have the agony of Jesus at Gethsemane, and consequently we can pray Compline for the Gethsemane in our own life and in that of [humanity]. It is, then, prayer of petition. Contrition, plea for protection, and deep confidence are the chief ideas involved.

-- Pius Parsch, The Breviary Explained (Herder, 1952), p. 40

Compline begins:
Download a recording of the HSM monks at Compline
1. Ringing of the bell. As the bell tolls, the monks stand and face the Blessed Tabernacle.

2. Signal to begin Compline. The abbot uses a clacker at his place in choir to sound the beginning of Compline. The monks step out from their choir stalls, still facing the sanctuary.

3. Hebdomadary intones the introductory verse (Psalm 70:2). Versicles are short verses whose first half is said (chanted) by an individual and whose other half is answered by the choir. We begin Compline with Psalm 70:2 as the opening verse. This verse can be found in the sayings of the Desert Fathers as an effective prayer against temptation and distractions. Saint Benedict prescribes it to begin every Office as a prayer -- a petition for grace.
It is customary to make the Sign of the Cross at the beginning of the versicle which begins the Divine Office.

Hebdomadary: O God, comes to my assistance.
Response: O Lord, make hast to help me.
Doxology (sung together by both sides while bowing)
Praise the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit
both now and forever,
The God who is, who was, and is to come
at the end of the ages.

4. Hymn
A. Saturday and Sunday, Solemnities, and during the Octave of Christmas and Easter

1. O Christ, thou art our Light and Day
Who drive night's terror far away
We know thee as the Light of Light
illuminating mortal sight.

2. And while our eyes their slumber take
Still be the heart to thee awake;
Be thy right hand upheld above
Thy servants resting in thy love.

3. O Father, this we ask be done
Through Jesus Christ, thine only Son
Who, with the Paraclete and Thee,
Now lives and reigns eternally. Amen.
B. Memorials and Weekdays

1. Before the ending of the day
Creator of the world, we pray
That with they gracious favor thou
Wouldst be our Guard and Keeper now.

2. From fears and terrors of the night
Defend us, Lord, by thy great might;
And when we close our eyes in sleep
Let hearts, with Christ, their vigil keep.

3. O Father, this we ask be done
Through Jesus Christ, thine only Son
Whom, with the Paraclete and thee
Now lives and reigns eternally.

5. Psalmody

- PSALM 4 -
This is an evening song of consolation in affliction, composed by David in his flight from Absalom. It was a favorite prayer of Saint Augustine at the time of his conversion
(Confessions IX, 4) [Parsch, p. 222].
When I call, answer me, O God of justice;
from anguish you released me, have mercy and hear me
You rebels, how long will your hearts be closed,
will you love what is futile and seek what is false?
It is the Lord who grants favors to those whom he loves;
the Lord hears me whenever I call him.
Fear him; do not sin; ponder on your bed and be still.
Make justice your sacrifice and trust the Lord.
"What can bring us happiness?" many say.
Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord.
You have put into my heart a greater joy
than they have from abundance of corn and new wine.
I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once
for you alone Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Doxology (bow)
Praise the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit
both now and forever,
The God who is, who was, and is to come
at the end of the ages.

- PSALM 91 -
Blessed are those who stand under God's protection. This psalm is a description of the devil's snares, and it speaks, too, of the angels who guard us in all our ways.
We are safe in God's hands.
You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High
and abide in the shade of the Almighty
Say to the Lord: "My refuge,
my stronghold, my God in whom I trust!"
It is he who will free you from the snare
of the fowler who seeks to destroy you;
He will conceal you with His pinions
and under his wings you will find refuge.
You will not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
Nor the plague that prowls in the darkness
nor the scourge that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand fall at your right,
You, it will never approach;
his faithfulness is buckler and shield.
Your eyes have only to look
to see how the wicked are repaid.
You who have said: "Lord, my refuge!"
and have made the Most High your dwelling.
Upon you no evil shall fall,
no plague approach where you dwell.
For you has he commanded his angels,
to keep you in all your ways.
They shall bear you upon their hands
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
On the lion and the viper you will tread
and trample the young lion and the dragon.
Since you cling to me in love, I will free you;
protect you for you know my name.
When you call I shall answer: "I am with you."
I will save you in distress and give you glory.
With length of life I will content you;
I shall let you see my saving power.
Doxology (bow)
Praise the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit
both now and forever,
The God who is, who was, and is to come
at the end of the ages.

6. Readings
Sundays and Solemnities after Vespers (I Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall meditate upon them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Sundays and Solemnities after Vespers II (Revelation 22:4-5)
They shall see the face of the Lord, and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.

Mondays (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)
God has destined us to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him.

Tuesdays (1 Peter 5:8-9)
Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.

Wednesday (Ephesians 4:26-27)
Do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

Thursday (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday (Jeremiah 14:9)
You, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; leave us not, O Lord Our God.

7. Versicle and Response. In Psalm 17:8, we pray for God's protection.
Verse: Guard us, O Lord, as the apple of your eye. (Alleluia)
Response: Hide us in the shadow of your wings. (Alleluia)
Lord, save us! Save us while we are awake.
protect us while we are asleep,
that we may keep our watch with Christ,
and when asleep, rest in his peace. (Alleluia)

8. The Song of Simeon. At the Presentation of Jesus in the temple (Lk 2:22-40), we see Simeon, an old man, holding the infant Jesus in his hands. Simeon's long yearning has been fulfilled; he has seen the Redeemer. He now asks for release from God's service.
We are in a similar situation. In our hands and hearts we bear the sacramental Savior, the graces given for the past day. Today our eyes too have seen again our "salvation." The divine Light has risen in us, and Christ is our glory. Now we ask for a respite from our service, a "night-off" after the day's work, possibly even after our life's work. For in very fact we are God's servants, and each day we must be ready to be "dismissed." (Parsch, p. 227)
Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled;
My own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people;
A light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.
Doxology (bow)
Praise the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit
both now and forever,
The God who is, who was, and is to come
at the end of the ages.

9. Short litany. "Lord, have mercy." The triple invocation below is in recognition of our need for God's forgiveness. King David voiced something quite similar: "Once I prayed, 'Lord, have mercy on me; heal me, I have sinned against you'" (Psalm 41:5, New American Bible). Saint John the apostle writes: "If we say, 'We are without sin,' we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing" (1 John 1:8-9, NAB).
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

10. Closing prayer
Saturday Evening and Vespers I of Solemnities which fall on Sundays
Be with us. Lord, throughout the coming night, so that when, through your power, we rise from sleep, we may rejoice In Him who rose from death -- Christ, your Anointed, who lives and reigns with you forever and ever. Amen.
Vespers I of Solemnities which fall on days other than Sunday
Stay with us, Lord, and drive far off the Enemy and all his snares; may your holy angels dwell with us to keep us in your peace, and may your blessing rest upon us always. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday Evening and Solemnities which fall on Sunday.
Humbly we entreat you, Lord. We have celebrated today the mystery of your Son's resurrection; secure against all evil, may we take our rest now in your peace, and rise again to praise you with joy. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Give us rest from toil, O Lord; and grant that the seed we have sown this day may yield a rich harvest for eternity. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Make the night bright with your presence, Lord; and grant us, your servants, so to slumber in your peace, that, in your name, we may rise from sleep to greet the coming day with Joy; We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, meek and humble of heart, for those who truly follow you, your yoke is easy, your burden light. Accept, we ask, our offering of this day's work and prayer and grant us the repose we need to serve you better on the morrow: for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

O Lord our God, we come to the end of a day of work and prayer. Refresh our weary limbs with sleep, and so renew us with your saving help, that, body and soul, we may remain for ever consecrated to your service. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

All-powerful God, grant us so to remain united to your only Son in the mystery of his death and burial, that we may rise with him to newness of life: for he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

11. Blessing by the abbot. The abbot petitions for protection in the spiritual night, to which is added a prayer for a peaceful death.
Abbot: May the all powerful and merciful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.
Response: Amen

12. Antiphons in honor of the Blessed Virgin. The Salve Window high above the Blessed Sacrament is illuminated as the monks step out from their choir stalls and turn to face the Blessed Tabernacle. "Hail, Holy Queen" is sung in English from Sunday through Friday. On Saturday evening, we sing the Latin version called the "Salve Regina."

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy,
hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To you we cry, the children of Eve;
to you we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this land of exile.
Turn, then, most gracious advocate,
your eyes of mercy toward us;
lead us home at last
and show us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus:
O clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.

Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae;
vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve.
Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Hevae.
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia ergo, advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.

13. The Angelus or Regina Coeli. The monastery tower bell tolls the Angelus or Regina Coeli which is prayed silently still facing the Blessed Sacrament.
The Angelus (prayed silently)
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, etc.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done unto me according to thy word.
Hail Mary, etc.
And the Word was made Flesh.
And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Prayer: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Regina Coeli (prayed silently)
Queen of Heaven rejoice, alleluia: For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia, Has risen as He said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
Because the Lord is truly risen, alleluia.
Prayer: O God, who by the Resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, granted joy to the whole world: grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may lay hold of the joys of eternal life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

14. Reflection. We pause for a few seconds of reflection.

15. End of Compline. The abbot sounds the clacker to end Compline, and the monks bow. The abbot walks to the transept where he will sprinkle the monks, retreatants, and guests with holy water.

16. Blessing with holy water. Monks and guests come forward for the blessing by the abbot with holy water. Each bows to receive the blessing. Holy water is water blessed by the priest with a solemn prayer, to beg God's blessing on those who use it. The blessing with the holy water at Compline especially takes on the meaning of protection from the powers of darkness.
This begins the monastic silence until Lauds the next morning. "After Compline," wrote St. Benedict, "no one may speak" (Chapter 42, Rule of Saint Benedict).