One of my regular prayer practices is to say Compline, or Night Prayer. I am not really a morning person and, of course, with the girls my mornings have become more chaotic than peaceful. So Morning Prayer is not as easy for me to be consistent with. But Night Prayer – sometimes with the girls, sometimes after they’ve gone to bed – is a ritual that I can manage.
Our Anglican tradition of Night Prayer (also known as Compline) comes from monastic communities and “invokes the presence of God whose word and love accompany and sustain us through the darkness of night.” The prayer is more than “a kind of spiritual lullaby that sends us off to a peaceful sleep.” The language of the prayers reminds us that in the dangers of night, in the vulnerability of night, we often meet God. At it’s best these prayers help us “learn how to walk through the darkness and allow God’s love to transform the deepest darkness of our own souls, our most secret faults, and bring us to the light of eternal day.” And you can do it in less than 10 minutes a day!
Often, by the time Advent rolls around in the calendar, my evening routines have become a mess. School and our after school programming has thrown off our dinner routines which has thrown off bedtime routines and I’m often anxious to get back to the tasks I didn’t complete at the office but that still must be done. By December, I might be skipping Compline more nights than I should. So Advent is a season when I try to reset my routine. And Compline is always a part of that.
Eight years ago, we began a tradition about Compline that I look forward to every year. On Sundays in Advent, we light our Advent wreath candles at dinner and then, once the girls are in bed, we turn down the lights, pour ourselves a cocktail and say Compline together in the quiet. We refer to this as our Cocktails and Compline tradition. In truth, some Sundays our cocktail has been a glass of wine or just some Bailey’s. But some years we are more adventurous. On the first Sunday of Advent this year, we’re having gin & tonics with Okanagan Springs Evolve Legacy Gin (it changes colour!).
This Advent, I want to encourage you to test out Compline – with or without cocktails (Compline and Cocoa, instead?). It is an amazing way to put some quiet, reflective, prayerful space into a season of hectic, busy, stress. Pick up a Compline booklet at church. You can find a version of it online. Or download the Church of England’s Daily Prayer app for your phone (that’ll also give you Morning and Evening Prayer). Even if you only try it once a week, you may find it helps you face the long nights of December, calms the chaos of the holidays, gives you an awareness of divine love, and enables you to grow in faith “even while we sleep.”
-Quotes are from the notes on Night Prayer in the Supplemental to the Book of Alternative Services. The photo is of The Victor Cafe and is courtesy of TripAdvisor.