Monday, July 9, 2012

Compline at the Abbey of Gethsemani

Photo by Sara Ferebee, one of my students
I had the opportunity last night to take a group of students to visit the Abbey of Gethsemani, pray Vespers and Compline with the monks, and speak with one of the monks about monastic spirituality.  Of all the offices, I love praying Compline with the monks.  Because they pray the same psalms each night, the monks have them memorized.  If you go to the monastery in the winter, the abbey church is thus absolutely dark, and all one can see are the silhouettes of the monks as they chant this beautiful office.  I am particularly moved by one of the hymns the monks sing at Compline, which reads as follows:
Before the ending of the day
creator of the world we pray
that with thy gracious favour thou
wouldst be our guard and keeper now.

From fears and terrors of the night
defend us Lord by thy great might
and when we close our eyes in sleep
let hearts with Christ their vigil keep.

O Father, this we ask be done
through Jesus Christ thine only Son
who with the Paraclete and thee
now lives and reigns eternally.
I am also struck by the beauty of the antiphon for the  Nunc Dimittis (Simeon's prayer), particularly as it is chanted by the monks:
Lord, save us, save us while we are awake,
protect us while we are asleep
that we may keep our watch with Christ
and when we sleep, rest in his peace.
The Abbey recently uploaded a video of the monks chanting Compline, and I encourage you to rest in it, to pray it with the monks before you go to bed this evening.  The text for the office can be found here.  Here's the video (the hymn can be heard from 0:54-2:21 and the antiphon from 8:41-9:17, as well as after the Nunc Dimittis):


  1. I was at the Abbey over the weekend and had a similar experience as you...I continue to be surprised at how moving I found compline to be. I hope to be back in the winter to experience the darkness. Thanks for your blog.

  2. Just finished a retreat at Gesthemani. The monks sing so quietly and with such sincerity not childish but childlike asking for protection. I looked forward to the hymn you shared above each night. I'm with Rachel on the suprising power of the compline. I was hoping to get the whole deal in written format which is why I came to the blog. Couldn't get the link to work. Thanks for the post and blog. Definately an incense-loving prophetic radical as well, I used to be director of Catholic worker house in Cincinnati, not thinking much about politics lately. Trying to refill my spiritual well. The retreat at Gesthemani was a great start.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Davy. I'm looking forward to getting out to Gethsemani again soon.

  4. Thank you for this site. However, the link "here" that you give to the text of the office appears not to lead to it. Can you correct please?