Adult Education at Saint Alban'sSeason of Pentecost 2022
Pray Compline with Fr. Greg
What is Compline?
This ancient prayer hour is prayed at the conclusion of every day and ought to be embraced as a powerful tool and beautiful liturgy.
Compline was a late addition to the Anglican liturgical repertoire; the 1979 BCP is the first American edition of the prayer book to include this service, but it is in fact quite ancient. Dating back to the fourth century, and referenced by St. Benedict, St. Basil, and St. John Chrysostom, Compline has been prayed for century after century and forms part of the whole Daily Office (cf. Liturgy of the Hours). 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. Compline has always been a monastic, private office used in the comfort and seclusion of one’s habitation.
Compline was a service to close the day, an opportunity to give thanks for the joys and graces experienced, a chance to confess the (many) sins committed throughout the day, and the perfect moment to close the day the same way it started: in prayer. If Morning Prayer—or whatever service you use to begin your day—is designed to start the day off right then Compline is designed to end it well.
Compline doesn’t magically accomplish something different from the rest of the Daily Office. And that’s the point. Compline, along with Morning, Noonday, and Evening Prayer, teaches us how to pray and for what we should pray. We learn the language of liturgical prayer as used since the early church; we discover that in our prayers we are daily transformed through the confession of sin and the assurance that God loves us and lovingly calls us to a higher form of living.
Compline is perhaps the easiest office to add to your daily prayer life. The others require you to remember to pray before/after you do something or to pray at seemingly random times throughout your schedule. Compline, however, takes place right before bed and unless you are an insomniac: everyone sleeps. Keep your prayer book or a printed liturgy by your bed and pray it every night before you sleep.
What is Lectio Divina?
Divina is a contemplative way of reading the Bible. It dates back to the early centuries of the Christian Church and was established as a monastic practice by Benedict in the 6th century. It is a way of praying the scriptures that leads us deeper into God’s word. We slow down. We read a short passage more than once. We chew it over slowly and carefully. We savor it. Scripture begins to speak to us in a new way. It speaks to us personally, and aids that union we have with God through Christ who is himself the Living Word.
There are three key features of lectio: • The first is that “the text is seen as a gift to be received, not a problem to be dissected….. let the text come to you.” • The second is that the lectio tradition “teaches us that in order to receive what the text has to offer we must read slowly.” • The third is that lectio is “a way of prayer. Before reading, pray that God will speak to you through the text. During reading, allow the reading to evolve into meditation and then into prayer and finally contemplation. When the reading is concluded, keep some phrase in mind and repeat it throughout the day so that prayerful reading becomes prayerful living.”
So, lectio is not Bible study or even an alternative to Bible study but something radically different. The practice understands Scripture as a meeting place for a personal encounter with the Living God. It is a practice we come to with the desire to be changed on all sorts of levels. It operates very much on the emotional rather than the purely cerebral level. Through it, we allow ourselves to be formed in the likeness of Christ; it is about formation rather than instruction. When undertaken in a group setting lectio is about listening to the experience of others and how that might inform your experience. It is never about pushing a particular view and is certainly not competitive.
We often make the mistake of thinking prayer is about what we say to God. It is actually the other way round. God wants to speak to us. He will do this through the Scriptures. So don’t worry about what to say. Don’t worry if nothing jumps out at you at first. God is patient. He will wait for the opportunity to get in. He will give you a word and lead you to understand its meaning for you today. As you read the passage, listen for a word or phrase that attracts you. Allow it to arise from the passage as if it is God’s word for you today. What is it that you need to do or consider or relinquish or take on as a result of what God is saying to you in this word or phrase? In the silence that follows the reading, pray for the grace of the Spirit to plant this word in your heart.