Example 1: The Office of Compline

The Order of Compline

Words: The Office of Compline, from the Proposed Book of Common Prayer (1928), Church of England.
Music: The Office of Compline, published by the Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society (1949).
Recording: unless otherwise indicated, taken from the Office of Compline, as sung by The Compline Choir, CD “I Will Meditate,” 2013.

[A bidding prayer may be read and an orison may be sung. On festival days, a processional may be sung instead of the bidding prayer and orison, or as a prelude to one or both of them.]

Orison: Slowly the rays of daylight fade

Words: Adelaide Anne Proctor (1825-1862), third stanza of “An Evening Hymn”, in Legends and Lyrics, second series (1860)
Music: M. Searle Wright (1918-2004), from Ten Orisons, c1961
Recording: The Compline Choir, live broadcast , 26 Aug 2012

Slowly the rays of daylight fade:
So fade within our heart
The hopes in earthly love and joy,
That one by one depart.
Slowly the bright stars, one by one,
Within the heavens shine:
Give us, O Lord, fresh hopes in heav’n
And trust in things divine.

READER: The Lord Almighty grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.
CHOIR: Amen.

READER: Beloved in Christ, be sober, be vigilent; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist, steadfast in the faith. [from I Peter 5: 8, 9a]

READER: But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
CHOIR: Thanks be to God.

[The following is chanted.]

CANTOR: O God, make speed to save us;
CHOIR: O Lord, make haste to help us.

CANTOR: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost;
CHOIR: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

CANTOR: Praise ye the Lord;
CHOIR: The Lord’s name be praiséd.

[A psalm is sung. The appointed psalms for Compline are Psalm 4 (Cum invocarem), Psalm 31: 1 – 6 (In te, Domine, speravi), Psalm 91 (Qui habitat), and Psalm 134 (Ecce nunc). Other psalms may be used as appropriate to the church year. Many of the psalm settings sung in the service have been composed by Peter Hallock.]

Psalm 91

Words: The Book of Common Prayer 1979
Music: Plainsong, Tone IV ending 4

Recording: The Compline Choir, live broadcast, 2 Jun 2013

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, *
abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the LORD,”You are my refuge and my stronghold, *
my God in whom I put my trust.”

He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter *
and from the deadly pestilence.

He shall cover you with his pinions, and you shall find refuge under his wings; *
his faithfulness shall be a shield and buckler.

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night, *
nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness, *
nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, *
but it shall not come near you.

Your eyes have only to behold *
to see the reward of the wicked.

Because you have made the LORD your refuge, *
and the Most High your habitation,

There shall no evil happen to you, *
neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

For he shall give his angels charge over you, *
to keep you in all your ways.

They shall bear you in their hands, *
lest you dash your foot against a stone.

You shall tread upon the lion and the adder; *
you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

Because he is bound to me in love, therefore will I deliver him; *
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; *
I am with him in trouble; I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

With long life will I satisfy him, *
and show him my salvation.

 [A lesson is spoken by the READER, one of the three following choices:]

Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name. Leave us not, O Lord our God [from Jeremiah 14: 9]


Come unto me, all ye that labour and are are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light [from Matthew 11: 28 – 30]


Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the Everlasting Covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight; through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. [from Hebrews 13: 20, 21]

CHOIR: Thanks be to God.

[The following Respond is chanted:]

CANTOR: Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
CHOIR: Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

CANTOR: For thou hast redeeméd me, O Lord, thou God of truth;
CHOIR: I commend my spirit.

CANTOR: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
CHOIR: Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

[A hymn is sung. The hymn appointed for Compline is Te lucis ante terminum (Before the ending of the day). Other hymns may be sung as appropriate to the church year.]

Words: The Hymnal 1982
Music: Plainsong, Tone VIII

Recording: The Compline Choir, live broadcast, 2 Jun 2013

To you before the close of the day,
Creator of all things we pray.
That in your constant clemency
Our God and keeper you would be.

Save us from troubled, restless sleep,
From all ill dreams your children keep.
So calm our minds that fears may cease,
And rested bodies wake in peace.

A healthy life we ask of you,
The fire of love in us renew.
And when the dawn new light will bring,
Your praise and glory we shall sing.

Almighty Father, hear our cry,
To Jesus Christ, our Lord most high,
Who, with the Spirit, we adore
Forever and forever more.

[The following is chanted:]

CANTOR: Keep me as the apple of an eye;
CHOIR: Hide me under the shadow of thy wings.

[A setting of the NUNC DIMITTIS {from Luke 2: 29 – 32, plus the Gloria Patri} is sung. The text may be from the King James Version or from one of several modern translations. This anthem preceeds and follows it:]

Preserve us, O Lord, while waking, and guard us while sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace: according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the gentiles, and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. [King James Version]

[The Apostles Creed is intoned by the choir. The congregation rises.]

CANTOR: I believe in God,
CHOIR: the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again
and ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

[The congregation is seated. The Kyrie is chanted:]

CANTOR: Lord, have mercy upon us.
CHOIR: Christ, have mercy upon us.
CANTOR: Lord, have mercy upon us.

[The Lord’s Prayer and the following versicles and responses are intoned:]

CANTOR: Our Father,
CHOIR: who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen. [from Matthew 6: 9b – 13]

CANTOR: Blessed art thou, Lord God of our fathers;
CHOIR: To be praised and glorified above all for ever.

CANTOR: Let us bless the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;
CHOIR: To be praised and glorified above all for ever.

CANTOR: Blessed art thou, Lord God of our fathers;
CHOIR: Let us praise him and magnify him for ever.

CANTOR: Blessed art thou, O Lord, in the firmament of heaven;
CHOIR: To be praised and glorified above all for ever.

CANTOR: The Almighty and merciful Lord guard us and give us his blessing.
CHOIR: Amen.

[The Confession and Absolution are spoken:]

READER: We confess
READER and CHOIR: to God Almighty, the Father, The Son, and the Holy Ghost, that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed, through our own grievous fault. Wherefore we pray God to have mercy upon us.

Almighty God, have mercy upon us, forgive us all our sins and deliver us from all evil, confirm and strengthen us in all goodness, and bring us to life everlasting. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

READER: May the almighty and merciful Lord grant unto us pardon and remission of all our sins, time for amendment of life, and the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
CHOIR: Amen.

[The following versicles and responses are chanted:]

CANTOR: Wilt thou not turn again and quicken us;
CHOIR: That thy people may rejoice in thee?

CANTOR: O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us;
CHOIR: And grant us thy salvation.

CANTOR: Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this night without sin;
CHOIR: O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us.

CANTOR: O Lord, hear our prayer;
CHOIR: And let our cry come unto thee.

CANTOR: Let us pray.

[Two or more collects are intoned by the CANTOR. At least one collect addresses the liturgical season of the church. A collect may be said for the benefit of a loved one of a choir member. At least one of the following collects may be intoned:]

Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, this place, and drive from it all the snares of the enemy; let thy holy angels dwell herein to preserve us in peace; and may thy blessing be upon us evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


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 thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.


O Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, who at this evening hour didst rest in the sepulchre, and didst thereby sanctify the grave to be a bed of hope to thy people; Make us so to abound in sorrow for our sins, which were the cause of thy passion, that when our bodies lie in the dust, our souls may live with thee; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God world without end.


Look down, O Lord from thy heavenly throne, illuminate the darkness of this night with thy celestial brightness, and from the sons of light banish the deeds of darkness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may repose upon thy eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

CHOIR: Amen.

[An anthem is sung, appropriate to the season of the church year.]

Words: Bianco da Siena (d. 1434), trans. by Richard F. Littledale (1833-1890).
Music: Jeff Junkinsmith (b. 1956).

Recording: The Compline Choir, live broadcast, 19 May 2013.

Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this heart of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn,
till worldly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity
my outward vesture be,
and lowliness become my inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart,
which takes the humbler part
And of its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
no soul can guess its grace,
till it become the place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes its dwelling.

[The final versicles and responses are sung. The choir uses a setting composed by Peter Hallock:]

CANTOR: We will lay us down in peace and take our rest:
CHOIR: For it is thou, Lord, only that makest us to dwell in safety.

CANTOR: The Lord be with you:
CHOIR: And with thy spirit.

CANTOR: Let us bless the Lord:
CHOIR: Thanks be to God.

[The closing blessing is spoken:]

READER: The Almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, bless and preserve us.
CHOIR: Amen.

Next: Example 2: Psalms 134 and 4 (Hallock)

4 thoughts on “Example 1: The Office of Compline

  1. Pingback: Psalm 91 and a movie | Compline Underground

  2. Dear Kenneth
    What a beautiful book you have written to introduce me to this beautiful Compline Service. My experience has always been with a group of people at a retreat or conference, and somebody chooses the Compline Service and we whip through it then off to bed to begin another day in the morning. It was wonderful listening to you and then following the service with the choir and readings.
    New light, at the beginning of Holy Week. I want to continue and share this with Jim but for now I get to read it first. Life is very busy at the moment but I will share, I promise.
    God’s Peace be with you and Peggy

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