The Order for Compline is a wonderfully unique liturgy in our Book of Common Prayer (p.127). The service began in the Fourth Century as the closing office (daily worship hours) of monastic communities and has often been called “night prayers.”
In the Sixth Century, Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-547) gave directions in his Rule that Compline be limited to three Psalms without refrains, followed by an evening hymn, a lesson, a versicle, the Kyrie and a concluding blessing. Late in the Middle Ages, the Lord’s Prayer, the Nunc dimittis canticle, the Apostles' Creed, a confession and absolution, and other concluding prayers were added. The 1549 Book of Common Prayer moved numerous acts of worship into the Evening Prayer rite, leaving the very simple, streamlined Compline liturgy we have today in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
Some phrases from Compline have become beloved favorites:
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit
Keep us, O Lord, as the apple of your eye
Hide us under the shadow of your wings
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night
At Church of the Holy Communion, we close our Wednesday evening programming, Here@HolyC, with this brief service of Compline led by our youth, starting at 7:35 p.m. In the intimate space of Quilling Chapel and surrounded by candlelight, these beautiful, ancient prayers are prayed.
In a world “wearied by the changes and chances of this life” (BCP p. 133), Compline is a welcomed way to end the day.