This Friday, November 22, from 5-8 p.m., we will be having an Open House in conjunction with the Tree Lighting in Campus Martius Park. This effort by our Outreach Committee is a great opportunity to open our doors to the community in hospitality, welcoming our neighbors into our church and spreading some holiday cheer.
However, the holiday season of Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas is often not cheery for many. It can bring to the surface feelings of grief for those who have lost or are estranged from loved ones. It can also be just plain stressful, due to what we have allowed retailers to turn this season into: a consumerism-fueled frenzy to buy an enormous number of things, and decorate our homes to Pinterest-worthy perfection.
This is why we’re following our open house on Friday with a service of Choral Compline at 8:15. This is a short service of prayer, before the close of day, that provides a moment to pause in peaceful contemplation of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, something that benefits us at any time, but especially at the beginning of a season that has become marked by a frenzied busyness.
What is Compline?
Traditionally, Christians, like the Jewish people before them, have paused at various intervals throughout the day for prayer. This is attested to in the book of Acts, as well as an early Christian writing called The Didache (Teaching), which instructs Christians to pray the Lord’s Prayer three times throughout the course of each day. Eventually, the regular daily prayers of the Church expanded into eight “offices” of prayer, prayed by monks and nuns in monasteries. The final of these daily offices, Compline, is a short office prayed before bedtime.
Compline, like the other offices, includes the singing of Psalms. It also includes the beloved office hymn Te Lucis Ante Terminum (“To thee before the close of day”), which is hymn 164 in the 1940 Hymnal and the canticle Nunc Dimittis, which commends our lives to God and recalls the glory of seeing his Salvation. (A canticle is a hymn taken from a part of Scripture other than the Psalms. There are three great canticles in the first two chapters of St. Luke’s Gospel that have made their way into the Church’s daily prayer. In addition to the Nunc Dimittis (the song of Simeon, Luke 2:29-32), the Benedictus (the song of Zechariah, Luke 1:68-79) is sung at Morning Prayer, and the Magnificat (the song of Mary, Luke 1:46-55) is sung at Evening Prayer.)
In ancient times, even more so than today, night was seen as a very perilous time, and both actually and metaphorically was associated with death. Compline, therefore, includes prayers invoking God’s protection and presence, both through the coming night and at the hour of our death, and that he would guard us against sin, which leads to death. Compline, today, provides an opportunity to pause, to remember our mortality, and yet still feel the peace of God because Christ has defeated death, and in him we receive salvation. These themes of the office, of welcoming God to be with us through the night, and asking him to be our peace and protection, are summed up in the beautiful and beloved Collect that concludes the office:
Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, this habitation, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy. Let thy Holy Angels dwell herein, to preserve us in peace, and let thy blessing be always upon us. Through Jesus Christ thy only Son our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
We invite you to be with us at 8:15 on Friday to partake of the peace that God so graciously offers to us every day and through each night.