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compline n : last of the seven canonical hours just before retiring [syn: complin]

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English

Noun

  1. the last of the canonical hours, sung just before retiring

Alternative spellings

Extensive Definition

Compline (; also Complin, Night Prayer, Prayers at the End of the Day) is the final church service (or Office) of the day in the Christian tradition of canonical hours. The English word Compline is derived from the Latin completorium, as Compline is the completion of the working day. The word was first used in this sense about the beginning of the 6th century by St. Benedict in his Rule (Regula Benedicti; hereafter, RB), in Chapters 16, 17, 18, and 42, and he even uses the verb complere to signify Compline: "Omnes ergo in unum positi compleant" ("All having assembled in one place, let them say Compline"); "et exuentes a completorio" ("and, after going out from Compline...") (RB, Chap. 42).
Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, and certain other Christian denominations with liturgical traditions prescribe Compline services. Compline tends to be a contemplative Office that emphasizes spiritual peace. In many monasteries it is the custom to begin the "Great Silence" after Compline, during which the whole community, including guests, observe silence throughout the night until the morning service the next day.

Historical development

This section incorporates information from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1917. References to psalms follow the numbering system of the Septuagint, as said in the Latin of the Vulgate.
The origin of Compline has given rise to considerable discussion among liturgists. In the past, general opinion (including Bäumer and Batiffol) ascribed the origin of this Hour to St. Benedict, in the beginning of the 6th century. But Jules Pargoire and, later still, A. Vandepitte oppose this opinion and seek a more ancient origin for this Hour.
A text in Callinicus (between 447 and 450), first introduced in Father Pargoire's argument, informs us that between Vespers and the Night Office there was celebrated in the East a canonical Hour called in this text prothypnia, because it preceded the first sleep, being nothing other than what the Greeks today call apodeipnon, on account of the meal it follows (see Compline in the East, below). However, in the thirty-seventh question of his Great Asketikon (Long Rules), St. Basil the Great, also, speaks of an intermediate Hour between Vespers and the nightly Office. Father Pargoire therefore disputes the assertion that St. Benedict was the originator of Compline, being rather disposed to trace its source to St. Basil.
In the article mentioned above, Father Vandepitte confirms these conclusions; nevertheless he states, in the clearest terms, that it was not in Cæsarea in 375, but in his retreat in Pontus (358-362), that Basil established Compline, which Hour did not exist prior to his time, that is, until shortly after the middle of the 4th century. Dom Plaine also traced the source of Compline back to the 4th century, finding mention of it in a passage in Eusebius and in another in St. Ambrose, and also in John Cassian. These passages have been critically examined, and Fathers Pargoire and Vandepitte have proved that before St. Basil's time the custom of reciting Compline was unknown.
At any rate, even if these texts do not express all that Dom Plaine says they do, at least they bear witness to the private custom of saying a prayer before retiring to rest. If this was not the canonical Hour of Compline, it was certainly a preliminary step towards it.
The same writers reject the opinion of Ladeuze and Dom Besse, both of whom believe that Compline had a place in the Rule of St. Pachomius, which would mean that it originated still earlier in the 4th century.
It is not necessary to enter into this discussion, but it might be possible to conciliate these different sentiments by stating that, if it be an established fact that St. Basil instituted and organized the Hour of Compline for the East, as St. Benedict did for the West, there existed as early as the days of St. Cyprian and Clement of Alexandria the custom of reciting a prayer before sleep, in which practice we find the most remote origin of our Compline.

Compline in the West

Prior to Vatican II

But let the result of this discussion be what it may, it cannot be denied that St. Benedict invested the Hour of Compline with the liturgical character and arrangement which were preserved in the Benedictine Order, and almost completely adopted by the Roman Church, It is hardly to be believed, as Dom Plaine maintains, that the Hour of Compline, at least such as it existed in the Roman Breviary at his time, antedated the Benedictine Office. In default of other proof, it may be noted that the Benedictine Office gives evidence of a less advanced liturgical condition, in that it consists of a few very simple elements.
Saint Benedict first gave the Office the basic structure by which it has come to be celebrated in the West: three psalms (4, 90, and 133) to be said without antiphons, the hymn, the lesson, the versicle Kyrie eleison, the benediction, and the dismissal (RB, Chaps. 17 and 18).
The Roman Office of Compline came to be richer and more complex. To the simple Benedictine psalmody—modified, however, by the insertion of a fourth psalm, "In te Domine speravi" (Psalm 30)—it added the solemn introduction of a benediction with a reading (based perhaps on the spiritual reading which, in the Rule of St. Benedict, precedes Compline; RB, Chap. 42), and the confession and absolution of faults.
But what endows the Roman Compline with a distinctive character and greater solemnity is, to say nothing of the ending, the addition of the beautiful response, In manus tuas, Domine ("Into Thy hands, O Lord ..."), with the evangelical canticle, Nunc Dimittis, and its anthem, which is particularly characteristic.
The Hour of Compline, such as it appeared in the Roman Breviary prior to the Second Vatican Council, may be divided into several parts, viz. the beginning or introduction, the psalmody, with its usual accompaniment of anthems, the hymn, the capitulum, the response, the evangelical canticle, the prayer, and the benediction.
By way of liturgical variety, the service of initium noctis may also be studied in the Celtic Liturgy, such as it is read in the Antiphonary of Bangor, its plan being set forth by Warren and by Bishop (see Bibliography, below).

Current Usage

In the current Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, Compline is divided as follows: introduction, brief examination of conscience and penitential rite, a hymn, psalmody with accompanying antiphons, scriptural reading, the responsory, the Canticle of Simeon, concluding prayer, and benediction. The final antiphon to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Salve Regina, etc.) is an essential part of the Office.

Compline in the East

Compline (Greek: Apodeipnon; Slavonic: Povecheriye; literally, "after-supper" prayer) in the Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches takes two distinct forms: Small Compline and Great Compline. The two versions are quite different in length.
At Compline (whether Small or Great), a Canon to the Theotokos in the Tone of the Week will normally be read (these Canons will be found in the Octoechos). Services to saints in the Menaion that, for one reason or another, cannot be celebrated on the day assigned to them, may be chanted on the nearest convenient day at Compline. In such cases, the Canon for the Saint would be read together with the Canon to the Theotokos, followed by the Stichera to the saint from Vespers. There are also particular days (such as certain Forefeasts, Afterfeasts, and days during the Pentecostarion) that have special Canons for Compline composed for them.
The Office always ends with a mutual asking of forgiveness. In some traditions, most notably among the Russians, Evening Prayers (i.e., Prayers Before Sleep) will be read near the end of Compline. It is an ancient custom, practiced to this day on the Holy Mountain and in other monasteries, for everyone present at the end of Compline to venerate the Relics and Icons in the church, and receive the priest's blessing.

Small Compline

Small Compline is served on most nights of the year (i.e., those nights on which Great Compline is not served). On the eves of Sundays and feasts with All-Night Vigil, Compline may be either read privately or suppressed altogether. Among the Greeks, who do not normally hold an All-Night Vigil on Saturday evenings, Compline is said as normal.
The service is composed of three Psalms (50, 69, 142), the Small Doxology, the Nicene Creed, the Canon followed by Axion Estin, the Trisagion, Troparia for the day, Kyrie eleison (40 times), the Prayer of the Hours, the Supplicatory Prayer of Paul the Monk, and the Prayer to Jesus Christ of Antiochus the Monk. Then the mutual forgiveness and final blessing by the Priest. After this, there is a Litany and the veneration of Icons and Relics.

Great Compline

Great Compline is a penitential office which is served on the following occasions:
Unlike Small Compline, Great Compline has portions of the service which are chanted by the Choir and during Lent the Prayer of St. Ephraim is said with prostrations. During the First Week of Great Lent, the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete is divided into four portions and read on Monday through Thursday nights.
Due to the penitential nature of Great Compline, it is not uncommon for the priest to hear Confession during the service.
Great Compline is composed of three sections, each beginning with the call to prayer, "O come, let us worship...":
First Part
Psalms 4, 6, and 12; Glory..., etc.; Psalms 24, 30, 90; then the hymn "God is With Us" and troparia, the Creed, the hymn "O Most holy Lady Theotokos", the Trisagion and Troparia of the Day, Kyrie eleison (40 times), "More honorable than the cherubim..." and the Prayer of St. Basil the Great.
Second Part
Psalms 50, 101, and the Prayer of Manasses; the Trisagion, and Troparia of Repentance, Kyrie eleison (40 times), "More honorable than the cherubim..." and the Prayer of St. Mardarius.
Third Part
Psalms 69, 142, and the Small Doxology; then the Canon followed by Axion Estin, the Trisagion, the hymn "O Lord of Hosts, be with us...", Kyrie eleison (40 times), the Prayer of the Hours, "More honorable than the cherubim....", the Prayer of St. Ephraim, Trisagion, the Supplicatory Prayer of Paul the Monk, and the Prayer to Jesus Christ of Antiochus the Monk. Then the mutual forgiveness. Instead of the normal final blessing by the Priest, all prostrate themseles while the priest reads a special prayer intercessory prayer. Then the Litany and the veneration of Icons and Relics.

Anglican Usage

In the Anglican tradition, Compline was originally merged with Vespers to form Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. ECUSA's Book of Offices of 1914, the Church of England's proposed Prayer Book of 1928, and the Anglican Church of Canada's Prayer Books of 1918 and 1959 restored a form of Compline to Anglican worship. Several contemporary liturgical texts, including the American 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the Anglican Church of Canada's Book of Alternative Services, and the Church of England's Common Worship, provide modern forms of the service. The Common Worship service consists of the opening sentences, the confession of sins, the psalms and other Bible lessons, and prayers, including a benediction. There are authorised alternatives for the days of the week and the seasons of the Christian year. Like Mattins and Evensong, Compline can be led by a layperson.

Lutheran Usage

Among Lutherans, Compline has re-emerged as an alternative to Vespers. The Office of Compline is included in the various Lutheran books of worship and prayer books [along with Matins/Morning Prayer and Vespers/Evening Prayer]. Quite similar to Anglican use, Compline may be conducted by a layperson in Lutheran Churches.

Notes

Bibliography

  • Bäumer, Histoire du Bréviaire, tr. Biron, I, 135, 147-149 et passim
  • Batiffol, Histoire du bréviaire romain, 35
  • Besse, Les Moines d'Orient antérieurs au concile de Chalcédoine (Paris, 1900), 333
  • Bishop, "A Service Book of the Seventh Century" in The Church Quarterly Review (January, 1894), XXXVII, 347
  • Butler, "The Text of St. Benedict's Rule", in Downside Review, XVII, 223
  • Bresard, Luc. Monastic Spirituality. Three vols. (Stanbrook Abbey, Worcester: A.I.M., 1996)
  • Cabrol, Le Livre de la Prière antique, 224.
  • Ladeuze, Etude sur le cénobitisme pakhomien pendant le IVe siècle et la première moitié du Ve (Louvain, 1898), 288
  • Pargoire, "Prime et complies" in Rev. d'hist. et de littér. relig. (1898), III, 281-288, 456-467
  • Pargoire and Pétridès in Dict. d'arch. et de liturgie, s. v. Apodeipnon, I, 2579-2589
  • Plaine, "La Génèse historique des Heures" in Rev. Anglo-romaine, I, 593
  • —Idem, "De officii seu cursus Romani origine" in Studien u. Mittheilungen (1899), X, 364-397
  • Vandepitte, "Saint Basile et l'origine de complies" in Rev. Augustinienne (1903), II, 258-264
  • Warren, The Antiphonary of Bangor: an Early Irish MS. (a complete facsimile in collotype, with a transcription, London, 1893)
  • —Idem, Liturgy and Ritual of the Keltic Church (Oxford, 1881)
, s.v. Complin
compline in German: Komplet
compline in Modern Greek (1453-): Μέγα Απόδειπνον
compline in Esperanto: Kompletorio
compline in French: complies
compline in Italian: Compieta
compline in Dutch: Completen
compline in Polish: Kompleta
compline in Portuguese: Completas
compline in Russian: Повечерие
compline in Finnish: Kompletorio
compline in Swedish: Completorium
compline in Walloon: Priyires di l' après-rciner
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