Compline Underground describes a loose network of individuals who have, over the years, formed groups to pray the Office of Compline in parish churches, cathedrals, or outside the confines of brick and mortar. The interest in Compline, a 1500-year-old monastic prayer service of the Christian church, transcends denomination, and sometimes even faith, for it strikes something unconscious and universal in the hearts of those that respond to a ritual at the close of the day. In such an ecumenical spirit, this blog is intended to be a gathering-place for anyone having an interest in Compline (also known as Night Prayer), and a forum where I and others can share our thoughts and reflections on this late evening prayer service.
Compline is the last of the daily Divine Hours, which are also called the “offices”, and known, especially inside Benedictine monasteries, as the “work of God” or Opus Dei (not to be confused with the group of the same name). In Christian monasteries, monks or nuns chant up to eight of these offices during the course of a day, and Compline is recited at the end of the day before going to sleep.
I am a member of the Compline Choir of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle. Compline in English was first introduced outside of monasteries in North America as a chanted choral office by Peter Hallock at St. Mark’s in the spring of 1956, and has been sung regularly every Sunday evening there since then. I joined the group in 1964. In the mid-1960’s hundreds of people, mostly in their late teens and early twenties, discovered the service through word of mouth or by listening to the weekly radio broadcast; many of them sit or lie on the floor to listen to the half-hour service — a tradition, though unique, that still continues and has attracted attention throughout the United States and Canada to the Office of Compline itself. Over the years, many organized groups, mostly choirs, have been started to pray Compline outside of monasteries; I’ve been able to identify over eighty such groups currently active; they can be found on the “Where to experience Compline” tab, and, with your help, I want to add to it and keep it active – so please send me your updates!
Singing Compline and the other offices led me into a three-year process of discernment, resulting in my becoming a Benedictine Oblate in June of 2010 at St. Placid Priory in Lacey, WA.