Compared to other liturgies and offices, Compline has changed more gradually, retaining its several features and ingredients with gentle rearrangements over the centuries. Its first inclusion in an official Prayer Book was in Ireland in 1926, with the proposed English 1928 Book and the Scottish 1929 Book quickly following suit. Canada, India, and the USA added Compline to their Prayer Books later in the 20th century. Apart from those, devotional manuals have abounded since the 16th century with English-language versions of the traditional monastic office of Compline.
The prayer of confession in Compline (as found in the 2019 Prayer Book) is based upon both the Confiteor (the traditional confession in the “Fore-Mass” of the Roman Rite) and a confession from the Sarum Rite.
Almighty God and Father, we confess to you,
to one another, and to the whole company of heaven,
that we have sinned, through our own fault,
in thought, and word, and deed, and in what we have left undone.
For the sake of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ,
have mercy upon us, forgive us our sins,
and by the power of your Holy Spirit,
raise us up to serve you in newness of life,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Just as the Daily Office and Communion services contain different prayers of confession, so does Compline provide another form. Some obvious similarities are found, particularly the beloved phrase “in thought, word, and deed,” but it is the unique features of each confession that makes them shine in their own right. This confession, drawing upon traditional predecessors, sets our admission of guilt into an ecclesial context: “we confess to you, to one another, and to the whole company of heaven.” Other ancient versions of this prayer even mention specific saints, or the priest with whom the confession is being made. This is not an invocation of the saints, “Almighty God and Father” is the addressee of this prayer. Rather, this confession sets the worshiper into a crowd; we must confess our sins to one another and we forgive those who have trespassed against us. This is pertinent to the devotional theme of Compline, as we are reminded to make amends and restitution with our neighbor, not just with God, before our earthly life is ended.