Monday, September 17, 2012

Good-Night, Moon for Grownups (Catholic ones)

A golden oldie rerun while I pound away on chapters 8 and 9.

The Church teaches that the primary hours of the Divine Offices, the "hinges" of the day, are Morning and Evening prayer (Lauds and Vespers).  These two hours are the ones we should try to fit into our day.  But my own feeling is that for the purpose of learning to pray the Office, and for becoming comfortable and personally attached to it, there's nothing like Night Prayer (Compline).

Night Prayer is on a 7-day repeating cycle. No matter what the liturgical season, there is no need to flip from psalter to propers--everything is there for each day, about 3 pages' worth per night. Night prayer is short and sweet--just one psalm or--on Saturday and Wednesday--two very short psalms. Say Night prayer every night for a week or two, and you will have acquired the rythmn and feel for liturgical prayer.

What makes Night Prayer special is the the "bed time" character of the psalms and prayers. It's as if God were tucking you in for the night, reassuring you that everything is going to be all right, little one, now go to sleep and don't be afraid--I'll be here if you need Me.   For example:

I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once, for you alone,Lord, make me dwell in safety.(psalm.4)

Into your hands I commend my spirit (psalm. 31)

Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep,that awake we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace. (antiphon for canticle of Simeon)

Night holds no terror for me sleeping under God's wings. (amtiphon for psalm. 91)

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel, who even at night directs my heart. (psalm 16)

Lord, we beg you to visit this house and banish from it all the deadly power of the enemy. May your holy angels dwell here and keep us in peace, and may your blessing be upon us always.

Then there is the fuller sense we should always look for in the liturgy. We aren't just praying about going to sleep, but about dying, and receiving His loving reassurance about that as well.  Indeed, the psalms of Tuesday' and Friday's night prayer are of a more sorrowful type, meant to put us in mind of Gethsemane and give voice to our own sorrows or those of others. But that refrain of ultimate trust and abandonment to  Mercy: "into your hands" ties the whole day together into a package that we can give to him and forget about.  Christ  is here. Tomorrow is another day.


  1. Thanks! I so needed this right now.

  2. Could it be sympathetic anxiety over our upcoming election down here? That's certainly the big hunk of anxiety I'm giving over to the Lord when I say night prayer these days.

  3. Stress comes from everywhere: "oh Lord, there's so much rhubarb" (Simcha), except in my case it's pumpkin, beets, cucumbers, corn (if I see another cucumber within the next 6 months, it will be too soon). Then there's getting homeschooling off the ground for yet another season. And that tiny little matter of the powers that be in the U.S. (following Canada's illustrious lead!) throwing freedom of speech under the bus. And the election. The anxiety is more than sympathetic. Canadians know too well that if our big brother to the south slides off the cliff, we go along for the ride (crash). Maybe I should be more grateful for all those pumpkins...

    (sorry for the rant!)

    1. Thank you for the article on Goodnight Moon and the Night Office. I like the idea of the Night Office being God's Goodnight Kiss. I am reminded more pointedly of the way I sometimes prefer some prayers to others as "more insightful" or decline some as "too rote." When we get into the rhythm of liturgical prayer, we get out of the habit of choosing which stressors in our lives to hang on to and which ones to give over in prayer. In Good night moon, not even the "bowl full of mush" is overlooked, but gets its line, its psalm, as it were. Mrs. Pinkerton, were I your neighbor, I would gladly take a pumpkin off your hands.

      Right now, I am trying to do the OOR while also pretending to be on a tour of the fifty states that my five year old has launched, and which requires her to make my desk into a new country or state every three and a half minutes. It's a humbling experience... and brings me back to where I should be.

      a good afternoon to all,

      Susan M.

    2. Susan, you are at a delightful stage in life if you are doing the OOR and humoring a five year old at the same time! Sometimes I long to be back there again.Other times I sigh with relief that most hours per day are now my own. I've got a couple of old posts on praying the office amidst family life.If you scroll down to the bottom to the list of labels and click on "Motherhood" and "family life" you will see some of those. Always glad to see your reflections here.

  4. Susan, thank you for reminding me that we can CHOOSE not to let something stress us! I also love the image of Night Prayer as a good night kiss from God.

  5. Thank you dear sisters, I am indeed at a delightful seat before the Lord.

  6. I've always thought of Compline as "God's Lullaby"

  7. Daria,

    The GILH #88 says "the Sunday Psalms" may be used instead of the ones chosen for each day, in Night Prayer. Would one choosing this option have to pray Psalms 4, 91, & 134, or would I still be in accord with the instruction by praying only Psalms 4 & 134 each night?

    I find 91 rather tiresome for night-time, traditional as it is. 4 & 134 are among my favourites. To be able to pray those every night with a clear conscience - knowing I am still in union with the Church and not just praying privately - would make me very happy.