Lord, it is night.
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
What has not been done has not been done;
Let it be.
The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world
and of our own lives rest in you.
The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us, and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
new joys, new possibilities.
In your name we pray.
from A New Zealand Prayer Book
He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa
(San Francisco: Harper, 1997)
Please know the invitation to join the people of Trinity in Lenten Midweek Worship, the service of Compline, Prayer at the Close of the Day. You can access the recording of this Wednesday’s service here:
The service is a recording available on Trinity’s YouTube channel and can be accessed at your convenience for a midweek worship experience during Lent of 2021. Larry Biser offers meditative piano music to open and close the liturgy and Pastor Dan offers brief homilies in different community settings over the course of this five-week worship series. I have the privilege of serving as liturgist for our offerings of Compline in 2021.
Come, O people of God, come and let us worship.
✠ ✠ ✠
The service of Compline has its origin in the daily prayer offices of the church since the time of St. Benedict and his Rule in the 6th century. Also known as ‘Night Prayer’ or ‘Prayer at the Close of the Day,’ the service of Compline is the final prayer office in the tradition of the canonical hours. Since the publication of the Lutheran Book of Worship in 1978, Lutherans in our denomination have had more access to this beautiful chanted liturgy. A simple, contemplative service, it is meant to close the day with a sense of spiritual peace. In monastic traditions, the “great silence” began after praying Compline, and the whole community observed silence throughout the night until the first morning prayer office the next day.
I have wonderful memories of chanting Compline for the first time in the Holden Village mountain retreat center in the Cascades of Washington as a young adult. Generally, a small group of villagers would gather by candlelight in the Koinonia lodge Fireside Room, around the central fireplace. When the quiet service of prayer was concluded, we would walk back to our lodges in a peaceful silence under the magnificent night sky of that remote valley. Compline served as a closing benediction after an active day in the mountains, and a wonderful part of the rhythm of life in that place of retreat.
Trinity has prayed Compline as its Midweek Lenten worship service for much of the last decade. Two unique aspects of Trinity’s Compline service are added prayers which have become beloved in our offering of that liturgy at the close of the day; I offer them today as Lenten devotional prayers for the people of Trinity. I began to use the prayer printed at the outset of this email with Compline after it was included in the Anglican collection A New Zealand Prayer Book, first published in 1989. The ‘night prayer’ speaks to both our deep knowledge of the night that enfolds us and the hope-filled promise of the light of the new day that overcomes darkness. Offered at the close of Compline, it commends us to the “great silence” that follows the liturgy, and a peaceful rest.
The other is a prayer of Martin Luther that evokes a particular Lenten posture. Confessing our dependence on a gracious God, we enter into humble submission to the Creator’s love:
Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled.
My Lord, fill it.
I am weak in the faith; strengthen me.
I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent,
that my love may go out to my neighbor.
I do not have a strong and firm faith;
at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether.
O Lord, help me.
Strengthen my faith and trust in you.
In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have.
I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor.
I am a sinner; you are upright.
With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness.
Therefore I will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give.
Blessings to you, O people of Trinity. I hope that our offerings of Compline on the Wednesdays of Lent in 2021 provide a measure of meaningful devotion on your Lenten journey. May you be safe, may you be well, and may you be held in love.
It remains a privilege to serve as one of your pastors.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Robert Linstrom