The versicles and responses are taken from Psalms 31:6 and 17:8, and have been part of the Compline tradition for centuries. They set the prayers’ tone with expressions of commendation and trust. Appealing to God’s completed work of redemption we entrust our spirit, and hide ourselves, in his protective arms “as a hen gathers her chicks” (Matt. 23:37 & Luke 13:34).
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit;
For you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth.
Keep me, O Lord, as the apple of your eye;
Hide me under the shadow of your wings.
The First Collect is a traditional collect for Compline in the Western liturgy. It is a quintessential Compline prayer in Western tradition, imploring the protection of God and his angels against “all snares of the enemy”, dovetailing neatly with the traditional reading from 1 Peter 5.
Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Second Collect is the Collect for Aid Against Perils in Evening Prayer. As its history has alternated its home between Vespers and Compline, it appropriately shows up in both in the present Prayer Book.
Lighten our darkness, we beseech you, O Lord; and by your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Third Collect is an ancient prayer that, throughout the 20th century, has made its way into the Compline services of several Anglican Prayer Books. As the pace of modern life continues to increase, the heart of this prayer grows ever more relevant to the typical worshiper: the “changes and chances of this life” are indeed quite wearying, it is only in the “eternal changeless” of God that we can find protection through both literal night and in the spiritual night of death.
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Fourth Collect is also an ancient prayer that has become a standard Compline collect in Anglican Prayer Books. The wording of the latter half of this prayer was re-written in the 1979 Prayer Book, and is here restored to its original meaning. Returning to the imagery of light and darkness, this prayer brings us to the themes of illumination and cleansing. The “celestial brightness” of God invokes God’s appearance throughout Ezekiel 1 and similar passages, and we implore our gloriously bright God to sanctify us – to cast out the works of darkness from among us. This is reflective of both the worshiper’s act of repentance at the end of the day and of the Christian’s final acts of reconciliation before death.
Look down, O Lord, from your heavenly throne, illumine this night with your celestial brightness, and from the children of light banish the deeds of darkness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Collect for Saturdays is from the Taizé community tradition, adapted in 1979 and retained here. It is very similar to the Collect for the Eve of Worship (in Evening Prayer). The resurrection of Jesus is likened to light, in continuity with typical Compline imagery, and we look forward to the morning’s time of worship. The “paschal mystery” is the heart of the weekly rhythm of worship, every Sunday an Easter of sorts, so Saturday night is rightly a time of joyful anticipation of that approaching celebration.
We give you thanks, O God, for revealing your Son Jesus Christ to us by the light of his resurrection: Grant that as we sing your glory at the close of this day, our joy may abound in the morning as we celebrate the Paschal mystery; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Evening Prayer’s Second Prayer for Mission, although relatively new to the Prayer Book tradition, has become a popular favorite, and thus is enjoyed both in Evening Prayer and in Compline. Its night-time appeals arguably befit Compline better, given its similarities to other historic Compline collects.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.
Functionally similar to the previous prayer, this last collect more directly points the worshiper to intercession for workers of the nightshift – a reality that has only become more pronounced since its authorship. The interconnectedness of society mirrors the unity of the Body of Christ, some praying while others sleep, and keeps the worshiper engaged with the larger realities of creation rather than being too focused on the personally immediate and present. Alternatively entitled “for Those Who Work While Others sleep,” this was written for the 1979 Prayer Book by its long-time custodian, the Rev. Dr. Charles M. Guilbert.
O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.