By Jordan Perras
The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.
I’ve done pretty much every personality test under the sun and they all say the same thing: you are someone who likes routine and feeling in control… though of course, I don’t really need personality tests to tell me that about myself, they are pretty clear parts of who I am. I have built structure into my daily, weekly, and monthly routines that rarely vary, to the extent that if you had my college roommates guess what time I go to bed these days, almost all of them would get it right.
I know I am not alone in saying that this pandemic has disrupted the majority of my routines and my illusion of control, and alongside that, somewhat of my sense of self as well. Towards the beginning of the pandemic, I wavered between giving up all attempts at routine, some mornings setting an alarm for one minute before my first meeting of the day (8:29am ha), and unrealistic expectations of how disciplined I could / should be, planning out multiple workouts, reading lists, and meal plans. Exercise worked for a while, giving me an illusion of control and a consistent routine, until it didn’t. Zoom happy hours and streamed yoga classes with friends worked for a while, until they didn’t. Nothing gave me a consistent anchor in the day.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30
And then, I started a daily practice of Compline, a practice re-introduced to me a few months ago via my small group’s weekly gathering. At first, the practice felt somewhat foreign – when should I pick from the variety of psalms or readings rather than simply reading what came next on the page, when to say specific prayers that seemed to roll off of everyone else’s tongues (seriously, try saying “soothe the suffering” five times fast).
Yet after three months of letting the same words seep into my soul daily, Compline has become that piece of routine, that steadfast practice that gives me closure at the end of days that seem to bleed together. There’s something about these prayers that seems so perfect for this moment – we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness – something to grasp onto when the picture of our daily lives in the coming months feels so elusive.
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It is an imperfect practice, sometimes I skip it altogether, choose the shortest psalm offering to make the time go by quicker (amusing seeing as Compline takes ~15 minutes) or speed past the section for intercessions (as if by not saying my intentions out loud I have managed to hide something of myself from God?).
One evening, I decided to set a specific timer and list out everyone I could think of, praying that they would stay safe and healthy. It is amazing how many people you can think of in a given time, and I tried to speak the names out loud without thinking too hard about why they popped into my head. Coworkers from my first job as a YMCA lifeguard, current coworkers, family friends, sorority sisters from college, close friends, people I haven’t thought about in years, they were all on my heart that night.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.
Some days I start Compline still pretty amped up from the day, filled with joy at the goodness I’ve seen or experienced. Most days, though, I am tired, tired of holding fear in my heart for my family’s health and safety, tired of seeing headlines that dehumanize the 100,000+ people who have died in our country alone, tired of not being able to hug my grandparents, tired of fruitlessly wondering when this will be over. Compline does not erase or remove those feelings. But the act of repeating the same prayers each night, trusting in the unchanging practice, simply reminds me that when I weep, God is with me. When I sleep, God is with me. When I am weary or suffering, God is with me. When I am joyous, God is with me. Thanks be to God.
Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.