“Father, into your Hands,” we hear Jesus pray from the Cross, “I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
We pray these words every night as part of our compline prayer. How appropriate as we prepare for the ‘little death’ that comes in our night’s rest to commend our very breath – our spirit – back to God until morning comes.
Over the weekend, we prayed compline with 70 of our Lay Canossian Associates during their annual retreat. And I ask you the same questions I asked them:
– what is it that the Lord is asking of you on this retreat (or, for your life)?
– what does He want you to let go of?
– what does He want from your relationships (with God; family; friends; Church)?
– what does He want to Heal in you?
– what does He want to forgive in you?
The Church in her wisdom invites us to enter into the sacred silence of the night, by first putting our hearts before God, and giving an account of our day. While the prayer is penitential in nature, like all prayer, it is also a prayer of praise. It allows us to relive our day with the Lord, first by glorifying Him where we can see His loving hand caring for us, helping us in our successes.
It also helps us to see where in our day we misread God’s voice, and learn from the experience, so to be better prepared next time. It is penitential in the fact it also leads us to understand where we chose not to follow God’s voice, and opens us to ‘turn to God with our whole heart” (RSV, Joel 2:12), for “…a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (RSV, Psalm 51:17) It is just because of this penitential tone, we find the opportunity to strengthen our resolve for the next time we feel tempted to stray from His voice.
Compline, then, is a discipline not only for opening up that dialog with God; but just as much it is a way of understanding oneself through examining the why we do what we do. In the examine, God speaks to the heart, and thus teaches us how to live more fully for Him and, to strengthen us in the face of temptation. A regular review of our conscience will increase our awareness of where we need to grow. With practice, we become more sensitive to God’s voice, and we find in us a greater desire to please Him and to love Him with our whole heart, placing our lives into His loving hands.
Compline tools on-line: