Compline (Night Prayer)
Compline, or night prayer, is a Christian service of worship dating back to monastic life in the Middle Ages. It is the last of the daily offices of worship held every three hours which include Matins (midnight), Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext (noon), None, Vespers, and Compline (9:00 p.m.). The Office of Compline is sung by candlelight by the Christ Church Anglican Compline Choir at 9:00 p.m. every Sunday of the year. The weekly service is held at Christ Church Anglican (located at 2020 Bull Street - on the corner of Bull and 37th Streets - in Savannah). All are welcome.
Compline, from the word 'completion', is sung in its entirety by the members of the Compline Choir as their offering to the Lord to commemorate the day's end. "In keeping with the earliest practices of the monastic communities, Compline is offered when the work of the day is completed, and the quietness of evening settles over the hearts and minds of those who have come together in thankfulness for the blessings of the day which has passed and in anticipation of God's gift of a new day." *
As it has for centuries, Compline invokes a sense of protection and peace for the night that is to come and thanks for safe passage through the day that has past. Fear of the night and concern for our mortality are integral parts of the texts--"your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
"Characteristic of Monastic offices, Compline consists of psalms, short passages from scripture (chapters), an office hymn, a canticle (Nunc Dimittis), a litany, collects, and additional prayers. The Office of Compline originated and developed in Southern Europe and the Middle East during the first six hundred years of Christianity. At first, Compline was offered primarily by the monastic communities, but as Christian influence spread throughout Europe and the Mediterranean area, the Office found a place in local liturgical settings. By the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, a large number of breviaries-books which contained the texts and music of the offices-were available for recitation."*
Silence and time for interior reflection are often identified as the most powerful and moving characteristics of the Compline service."* In this light, your participation as a congregation is not outward, but inward. It is not vocal, but spiritual. In the words of our rector, "The Office of Compline is not a performance for people to come and hear, it is a transformance of the individual worshipper." Admittedly, "the Compline service exists within the context of a society in general and the Christian Church in particular that have become increasingly secularized. The singing of Compline, however, has attempted to speak to other values. With its ministry directed toward spiritual values that nurture the soul, the choir is engaged in a radical (from the Latin "radix", meaning root; getting to the root of things) activity. In a real sense, we are called to act contrary to the icons of contemporary society--money, power, material comfort. These values cannot sustain or nourish the soul. The Rev. Ralph Carskadden has said it eloquently:
If we are to grasp the message of the gospels;
if we are to understand the teachings of Jesus;
if we are to be faithful disciples,
then we must realize what we are called to be:
called to act counter to the prevailing
culture which surrounds us.
To express musically our concern for the nurture and care of the soul is what we of the Compline Choir are about. We recognize and respond to the hunger for the transcendent presence of God in our lives. It is to this end that the members of the choir commit to the weekly discipline of prayer by singing Compline and that we ask you to engage with us spiritually to the presence of God."*
To hear the service of Compline, please see the media player below. Additionally, the choir has released both a CD and a DVD of the service, which can be found here. We also invite you to "like" the group on Facebook.
Check out the Savannah Morning News article on the Compline Choir here.
For more information about the service of Compline and other choirs who offer it, click here.
* From the liner notes to Feathers of Green Gold: The Office of Compline and Ten Psalms, The Compline Choir (Seattle), conducted by Peter R. Hallock, Ionian Arts, Inc. C-703, 1994, compact disc.
The Compline Choir, Seattle, Washington http://www.complinechoir.org/