A Compline Reflection

Last night The Episcopal Church at Cornell hosted our first weekly Thursday night Choral Compline and Cookies. It was a truly ecumenical effort, with help from our Roman Catholic and Lutheran friends among others, and the Anabel Taylor Chapel choir’s anthem last night, Edward Elgar’s “How Calmly the Evening” was simply glorious. Here is the brief reflection that introduced what we might think of as a somewhat ‘monastic’ form of evangelism:

‘I was asleep, but my heart waked: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me… my love.. for my head is filled with dew, my locks with the drops of the night.’ (Song of Songs 5:2)

Compline is an ancient liturgy, sung and celebrated by people of faith for over sixteen hundred years. Monastic in origin, it has become, in our time, a liturgy of deep resonance to both lay and ordained, young and old, to the seeker and to the devout. Coming at the end of the day, just before we turn in, it reminds us of our essential need for honest reflection, attentive listening, and life-sustaining rest. After days filled with great joy, we sing, Lord protect us. On evenings of heart-breaking sorrow, we pray our troubled spirits into God’s redeeming hands. When the day’s distractions keep us on the surface of life, the steady rhythms of psalm, hymnody and prayer draw us down into the heartbeat of holy love. When politics and worldly ambition threaten to unmoor us, we call on God to return us to sanity: guide us waking O Lord, and guard us sleeping. When our own troubles and nagging obsessions blind us to those in deeper need than ourselves, we thank God for the privilege of keeping vigil with those who work or watch or weep this night. When we have had the blessing of a good day: when we have loved wondrously, worked diligently, and laughed extravagantly, we join our brothers and sisters in confession and praise, and we willingly take our rest. Compline reminds us and our nation that freedom is only God’s to give, and that it always leads to peace. Amen.

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