Compline at St George’s

Lent and Advent at St. George’s during the past two years have been marked by the addition of Evensong and Matins, events that although commonplace in themselves, have made a valuable contribution to our congregational worship, which for many of our members has been almost exclusively said or sung Mass.   During Lent this year, we are adding the ancient monastic service which since the 6th century has been known generally as “Compline.” (“Kom-plinn”)

Like so much of our Church’s early liturgy and music, the origins seem shrouded in supposition and deductions rather than clear evidence.  Most musicologists seem to agree that the original structure of our Compline was the work of St. Benedict in 6th century Italy, although there are several instances of similar services that existed earlier in neighboring regions.
Compline as we know it was the final service of the day in the monastic “Services of the Hours.”  which typically in the Anglican church began at dawn with Lauds, and after Terce, Sext and None throughout the day, the monastic communities attended Vespers,  and shortly after and  immediately before retiring for the night, the concluding service of  Compline.  The name is derived from the Latin “completorium,” as Compline did indeed “complete” the day.

It is a relatively simple service, traditionally chanted and intoned, but over the centuries several versions that can be said, sung, or a combination of both, emerged.   Although in some rites it had a set liturgy, generally it was molded in many different ways to meet the style and wishes of the community, so that at present there is no set liturgy for Compline, but many versions, each contain certain characteristics:  A summarized Litany, a Kyrie, Versicles and Responses, Confession and Absolution, two or three psalms (often Ps.4, Ps.31, Ps.90), an Office Hymn two or three collects and the Benediction.  A common feature of all Compline services is a series of antiphons stated by a “Reader” with a response by choir and congregation.   It is a short service usually requiring 15 or 20 minutes.

For the Anglican community, the Sarum Missal contains a perfect setting for Compline, with some 19 “Propers” available for varying ecclesiastical needs throughout the year.  Most of the Compline services used in Anglican churches have been developed from the Sarum Rite.

The first Compline to be held at St. George’s will begin at 6:45 PM on Wednesday, February 20. 2008.  Subsequent services will be announced in services and made known on our web site.


Father Hines+

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