At Mt. Saviour Monastery, the monks pray the Liturgy of the Hours. As visitors, John and I were welcome to pray with them: Vigils at 4:45am, Lauds at 7:00am, Mass at 9:00am, Sext at noon, None at 3:00pm, Vespers at 6:30pm, and Compline at 8:15pm. We made it to all the prayers except Vigils. Even after only two days, the rhythm of the prayer cycle began to become part of me. I really enjoyed making the trek to the chapel several times each day to hear the monks chanting.
My very favorite prayer was Compline. At this time of year, Compline begins while it is still light. During the prayer, the light fades and the prayer ends in the dark. Very appropriate for an end if day prayer. The first evening, we arrived to find the chapel lit only by candlelight. We walked into the hush of the chapel and took our seats. At 8:15, Compline began with this opening prayer:
It was so beautiful that I wanted to cry. Sitting in that chapel with the gorgeous music pouring over me, I felt so completely at peace. The day’s stresses and worries melted away and I could feel myself relaxing. There were many songs and prayers. The reading, that first night was from the First Letter of Peter. I remember hearing these words
- But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
- Once you were “no people” but now you are God’s people; you “had not received mercy” but now you have received mercy.
It is hard to describe what was happened inside me when I heard this reading. I felt like these words went right into my heart. Once I had not received mercy, but now I have received mercy. I had a sense of being so cherished and loved at that moment. Between the harp and the chanting and the dim glow of candlelight and John sitting by my side and these beautiful words, I felt God working in me, breaking my stony heart and turning it into a heart of love. I could feel myself being transformed. As the light outside grew more and more dim, it seemed as if a light inside me was burning brighter and brighter.
Compline ended with another beautiful song, Psalm 91, which has always been one of my favorite psalms:
This psalm is full of words of comfort and peace. As the monks chanted it, the words washed over me. The closing prayers, so quiet and heartfelt
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. And lead us no into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Come down, we beseech you, O Lord on this house and drive far from it all snares of the enemy. Let your holy angels dwell in it and keep us in peace. And may your blessing be with us always. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
At the end of the prayer, the monks at Mt. Saviour process down into a crypt below the chapel where they have a statue of Our Lady, Queen of Peace. It is very dark in the crypt, but there are hundreds of candles lit, each one representing a prayer. The monks sing a song and then process up into the chapel and back into their residence, while we left to go back to the guest house in silence. With the end of Compline came a sense of completeness, of being finished. It was such a perfect way to end the day, a very powerful experience of prayer.
After having this powerful experience on Friday, I looked forward all day Saturday to Compline. Again, the sense of peace and calm enveloped me throughout the prayer. When we returned home on Sunday, I knew that the aspect of our visit that I would miss most was Compline. Last night, I searched the internet for a video of a Compline prayer. I found some, but they were not what I was looking for. Finally, I found the videos that I have posted, above, Compline at Mt. Saviour Monastery itself. I felt so grateful. Watching the short videos and listening to the music, I was taken back to Mt. Saviour for just a moment. I am thankful that the monks allowed someone to tape part of Compline and that someone posted it for me to find. It was a little unexpected grace just when I needed it most. A little return to a much-loved prayer. A little taste of monastic Compline at home.