Great Compline

The Journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ

O Lord, my God, I call for help by day; I cry out in the night before Thee.  Let my prayer come before Thee, incline Thy ear to my cry!  Psalm 88: 1-2

 

Good morning Prayer Team!

The Greek word for “Compline” is “Apodeipnon” which literally means “after dinner.”  There are many prescribed intervals of prayer during the day, and one of them is prayer before sleeping.  There is a “service” of the “small compline” which can be read by anyone.  It does not require a priest and it does not need to be read in a church.  There are many pious Christians who pray the “Small compline” throughout the year.

The “Great Compline” is a service reserved for the period of Great Lent.  It is traditionally prayed in the evening.  In most parishes, if it is done, it is celebrated on Monday, Tuesday and/or Thursday evenings.  (In Tampa, we offer it on Monday evenings).  On Wednesday evenings is the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy and on Fridays is the Salutations to the Virgin Mary.

The Great Compline lasts about an hour.  The curtain of the Royal Doors is generally closed during this service, until the very end, obscuring the altar from view.  There is very little movement in this service by the priest, and there are no Gospel readings (except for the first week of Lent).  The service consists of about dozen Psalm readings, several prayers and several hymns.  The most well-known hymn of the service is called “Lord of the Powers” and includes these words:

Lord of the Powers, be with us. For in times of distress, we have no other help but You. 

Lord of the Powers, have mercy on us.

This hymn is popular at our summer camps and at youth retreats because it is easy to learn and sing.  However, the hymn has its origin from the Compline service.

I like this service, in fact it is my favorite service of Lent.  Because it captures the spirit of Lent the best—it is simple yet profound, it is challenging yet comforting, sobering yet encouraging.  In this service, I realize that I am a sinner, but that through God’s grace and my repentance, I can be forgiven.  It makes me realize that my sins are as many as the grains of the sand on the seashore, and yet God’s mercy is more infinite than the widest sea.  Today’s prayer comes from the Great Compline, and is a prayer I try to pray every day of Great Lent.  Pray this prayer today, slowly and purposefully, and consider making it part of your daily prayers this Lent.

Prayer of Manasses, King of Judah

O Lord, Almighty, the God of our Fathers, of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and of their righteous seed; who created the heaven and the earth with all their adornment; who bound the sea by the word of Your command; who shut up the abyss and scaled it with Your awesome and glorious Name; whom all things dread and before whose power they tremble, because the majesty of Your glory is unbearable and the threat of Your anger against the sinners unendurable; yet the mercy of Your promise is both, immeasurable and unfathomable, for You are the Lord most high, compassionate, long-suffering and all merciful, and relent on the wickedness of man. You, Lord, in the multitude of Your goodness promised repentance and forgiveness to those who have sinned against You, and in Your infinite compassion appointed repentance for sinners that they may be saved. Therefore, Lord, the God of the powers, You have not appointed repentance for the righteous, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who have not sinned against You, but You appointed repentance for me the sinner, for I have committed more sins than the grains of the sand of the sea. My transgressions have multiplied, Lord; my transgressions have multiplied, and I am not worthy to look up and see the height of the sky from the multitude of my iniquities, being weighted down by many iron chains, so that I cannot raise my head; there is no respite left for me because I provoked Your anger and committed evil before You not having done Your will and not having kept Your commandments. And now I bend the knee of my heart, beseeching Your goodness. I have sinned, Lord, I have sinned and I acknowledge my transgression but I beg and ask of You: Forgive me, Lord, forgive me and do not destroy me with my transgressions; do not be angry with me forever and keep my evils in me, and do not condemn me to the depths of the earth; for You are God, the God of those who repent, and in me You shall show all your goodness; for even though I am unworthy, You shall save me according to the multitude of your mercy, and I shall praise you without ceasing all the days of my life. For every heavenly power sings your praises, and yours is the glory unto the ages of ages. Amen. (Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary)

Attend the Great Compline at least once this Lent!

 

+Fr. Stavros

Photo credit: Jerusalem Patriarchate

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Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John…
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