Compline is the last Hour of the Divine Office. We recite it in the evening, before retiring to bed. It is associated with the Paschal Mystery as it evokes death and the passage to eternal life. Prayers and hymns of abandonment fill this Hour. When reciting Compline before going to bed, you ask God to protect your body and soul until morning. 

Night Prayer

Compline is a Minor Hour of the Divine Office (comparatively, Vespers and Lauds are Major Hours): however, this name does not mean that this time of prayer is any less important than the others. When praying it, you are placing your entire day before God, with all your good deeds and misdeeds (for which you ask for forgiveness during an examination of conscience). 

You enter this moment of prayer like Christ entered the Garden of Gethsemane to suffer His agony: during the Night Prayer you ask God for His help and His protection in the nights of your lives. You entrust yourself fully to God the Father, using versicles and responses taken from the words of Jesus Christ on the Cross. 

Compline, Explained

The Structure of the Hour

Compline follows several steps:

  • The opening versicle:

“V. O God, come to our aid.

R/ O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.
Amen. (Alleluia)”

  • A Hymn

  • The Psalmody: the psalms and antiphons vary according to the psalter

  • A Short Reading of Scriptures

  • The Responsory: “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”

  • A Canticle: the Song of Simeon (Nunc Dimittis)

  • Concluding Prayer

  • Final Blessing

The Psalter organizes the hymns, psalms, readings, That prayers of the day. 

Examination of Conscience

The Night Prayer can begin with an examination of conscience, during which you review your day and ask God for forgiveness for your sins and your wrongdoings. If you are praying with a community, you can recite the Confiteor.

The Psalms of Compline

The psalms of Compline vary from day to day during the week, for example:

  • On Monday: Psalm 85, with the antiphon “You, Lord God, are slow to anger, abounding in love.”

  • On Tuesday: Psalm 142, with the antiphon “Do not hide your face from me, for in you have I put my trust.”

  • On Wednesday: Psalms 30-31, with the antiphon “O God, be my protector and my refuge”

  • On Thursday: Psalm 15, with the antiphon “My body shall rest in safety.”

  • On Friday: Psalm 87, with the antiphon “Lord, my God, I call for help by day; I cry at night before you.”

  • On Saturday: Psalm 4, with the antiphon “Lord, have mercy and hear me.”

  • On Sunday: Psalm 90, with the antiphon “He will conceal you with his wings; you will not fear the terror of the night.”

The Canticle of Simeon

The canticle recited during Compline is The Nunc Dimittis, also known as the Song of Simeon. It is prayed with the antiphon: “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, That awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace”.

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