If we let it, our faith can do more for us than we suppose. One of the great joys of my life at the moment is being able to pray the Compline service before I go to sleep. I find the words of the general confession such a comfort, as they express what I could never express so well myself, and they lead me through, after the absolution, to the Psalms, which I always approach like one scrubbed fresh clean – with the sins of the day absolved and the words of the Psalmist pulling me into line with the countless numbers of people who have found in them comfort and healing. Psalm 31:-16 (in our numbering) allows me to cast myself onto the infinite and tender mercy of God. The words of Hebrews 13:20-21 further help my soul to go to that calm place whence a quiet and peaceful night might be found. The Nunc Dimittis takes me further down that road, and then we come to my favourite Collect:
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord/and by thy great mercy defend us/from all perils and dangers of this night/ for the love of they only Son, Our Saviour Jesus Christ
Could anything make a more perfect ending to the day? As the last notes die away, we fold our prayer books in perfect silence and we make our way back to our rooms where, if we wish, we can continue our conversation with God. Me? I simply hold on to the silence and the peace and know that in there, God is with me and I am with him.
I mentioned this recently to a friend, who said she’d never been to such a service, so I invited her to ours, and she loves it too – even if it is slightly spoiled for her by the need to drive home. It reminded me of what richness we have inherited, and how profligate we have been with it. In a world where some struggle to sleep and find peace,, our forefathers left us this perfect preparation for rest – and we have all but abandoned it. we are a strange species to be sure.
I am often put in mind of some lines from George Herbert about how our attitude to death is transformed by the knowledge that Christ died so we should have eternal life
‘Down or dust’, that is our choice, will we rise with him, or go down into that dust where we cannot praise him?
Now, all I need is to be able to get to Matins on time, and I will be able to see what effect that has on my day – and all of this is so little time too.