Holy Compline: Celtic Reflections: Book Of The Hours.

20170726 HOLY COMPLINEIt’s well after 10pm on a somewhat cloudy, windless, balmy night here in Capel Curig, and the air, and everything else is still. I like evenings like this. Alone with the Alone. No interruptions. Even nocturnal animals seem to be still, or it could be that my rambling around the garden at this hour has scared them off.

And then it happens. My ‘tricorder’ (and that’s exactly what it looks like (for Star Trek fans)) bleeps twice, whirrs for about twenty seconds and the ‘arm band’ contracts, and then after half a minute it ‘relaxes’. Yes, my overly-cautious doctor (but I’m not complaining) has fitted me with some kind of electronic sphygmomanometer that measures my blood pressure every half hour (for a day). Immediately I’m pulled out of that liminal space, sacred space and time, into ‘physical’ time.

But, after a short period. I’m back. Ofcourse experiencing the event is a constant series of ‘nows’, and even stopping to think and analyse the experience can have that ‘pulling out’ effect, and so I revel in the experience. Accepting it. Enjoying it. Learning from it.

At this time of the evening my inclination is to move into ‘compline’ mode. Compline is an ancient Church practice and consists of night prayer, sometimes called Prayers at the End of the Day, as it would have been the final church service (or office) of the day in the tradition of canonical hours. Many today call it Night-shielding, and I quite like that title.

As so, in an attitude of Compline or Night-shielding, I sit in the garden, at 10.08pm, in almost total darkness, and think and give thanks, and it is wonderful. Absolutely quiet. Absolutely still. It is blissful.

Compline is a time to review the day. My day has been busy, and only partially fruitful. As is the case, I have had to fit into the diary of others, who have had to fit into their office hours and computerised diaries. Yes, even here in Capel Curig ‘machine time’ can intrude, sometimes.

And then I remember, I was fitted with that electronic sphygmomanometer earlier in the day.

My day has also been somewhat upset by distant news of a squabble between two friends. Ofcourse it’s not for me to take sides, and invariably it is never easy to see who is at fault (and I try never to apportion blame, anyway), but I have to admit in this case it seems their is one clear perpetrator, and one clear victim. Not that it helps. I’m too far away to be involved, even to provide a ‘listening ear’ to both. The most I can do is send both of them prayer, light, energy and love, and ask the Great Reconciler to put them in the path of someone who can assist. Right now it is all I can do. Right now, I believe it is sufficient.

Lots of good things happened, too, for which, as I sit here in the garden, in the dark, I’m grateful to the Giver of Time and Opportunities.

But it’s Compline, a time of review. And so, encouraging you to have you own time of Compline I’d ask you what has happened in you day, today? A five minute review is good.

Compline is also about being thankful. Is there something (or more than one) that you are thankful for, that happened today?

Compline is also night-shielding, a time of looking forward to winding-down and seeking protection. And as I review the day, and it has been a day of contrasts, a day that has at times been quite unnerving, the night-shielding words of Tess Ward come to mind:

Oh Spirit of Presence,
toll your bell in me, and in each one of us
who shares this lonesome night.
Cover with your wings the little ones, in illness and ill times
who stare into the dark with sleepless eye.
Send them your angels and carry their prayers
in the downy mystery of your hope.
Break our soul’s weariness with sleep’s refreshment
before the first-light comes and feather on the breeze
reminds us of your company through long nights past.

The thoughts and words above may not suit all, but they are wonderful words, and are an encouragement to me and to you, perhaps, to formulate our own night-shielding liturgy, prayer or power words – whatever word(s) we’re comfortable with to describe this ritual. There is power in words. There is power in intentionality

And then…

There’s a couple of bleep sounds coming from my waist – yes, this ‘tricorder’ device is currently sitting on my belt. It bleeps, the band around my bicep whirrs and contracts, and once again I’m pulled out of liminal space and into ‘physical’ time. The band ‘relaxes’ shortly after.

Strangely, now I’m aware of,  and can hear animals moving about. A rustle here, a scamper there. I can hear the movement and creak of tree branches swaying in a ever-so gentle breeze, and I look down at the digital sphygmomanometer to view its read-out, that it also ‘memorises’ for the doctor to study, tomorrow.

The digital display reads 22:31, and for one moment my heart races – which is just as well that’s happening now, after the 30 minute recording – as I ponder if that’s my blood pressure of 22 over 31 (in which case I’m in deep trouble), or if that’s the time. I laugh to myself knowing, and hoping, that that’s the time. Ofcourse it is. Compline, however, is a heart affair, a movement of the soul, love of life and gratitude for what takes place in ‘machine’ time, too.

It is a time to look forward, to seek protection for the night for yourself and/or others.

Be encouraged to try your own Compline ritual occasionally, at sunset or maybe an hour after, and revel in the flow of ‘nature’s time’ and be thankful.

Blessings, Tadhg


4 thoughts on “Holy Compline: Celtic Reflections: Book Of The Hours.

  1. Pingback: Sleeplessness & The Ancestors: Celtic Thought | Tadhg Talks…

  2. A local Episcopal cathedral (Seattle is the locale in question) hosts a compline service on Sunday evenings. The richness of the liturgy and quality of the song reach into my soul. Fortunately, the service is broadcast so I was able to listen last night. So I wrote a blog post, which led me to you. A blessing, indeed.


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