“The witness of the early Church teaches us that individual Christians devoted themselves to prayer at fixed times. Then, in different places, it soon became the established practice to assign special times for common prayer, for example, the last hour of the day when evening draws on and the lamp is lighted, or the first hour when night draws to a close with the rising of the sun.” – General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours #1
Compline (Night Prayer) is the last of these common times of prayer, celebrated at the end of the day before going to bed. In addition, it is a cherished tradition in the Order of Preachers. By the time Dominican liturgical practice was being unified in the mid-thirteenth century under the hand of Humbert of Románs, fifth Master of the Order, Compline had become for the Order one of the richer and more varied of the hours of prayer. From the early days of the Order, dispensation from attendance at the choral observance of the hours on account of study was accorded lectors and students – the one exception being the hour of Compline from which no one was excused. Festal antiphons for Seasons and feast days, varied responsories, and a multitude of plainsong melodies for the hymn Te lucis ante terminum, characterized Dominican practice.
In 2014 the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great, U.S.A. (under the direction of frs. David Wright, O.P. and James-Peter Trares, O.P.) set out to produce a new english edition of Compline that presents Compline (Night Prayer) as envisaged by the Liturgia horarum (1971) and as enriched by the proper Dominican elements proposed in the Supplement of 1982. These elements are not simply additional texts; often the plainsong melody is the proper Dominican element. This new edition was first introduced in our Studium (House of Studies) in Saint Louis, MO, and then subsequently to the entire province.
In 2016 the student brothers of the Provinces of St. Albert the Great (Central) and St. Martin de Porres (South) decided to undertake a project to share this new edition of Compline digitally through our preaching project, www.preachingfriars.org. What is presented here is not the entirety of the new Compline books. However, it is our hope that by making Compline more widely available, people’s prayer lives will be enriched.
The student brothers would like to thank frs. David Wright, O.P. and James-Peter Trares, O.P. for their assistance in making this project possible. In addition, we would like to thank the copyright holders of the respective texts for granting us permission to use them for this project.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I join you to pray Compline in person?
Yes, absolutely. All of the liturgies at St. Dominic Priory (in St. Louis, MO) are open to the public. Please be sure to check here for the latest times.
2. I am used to praying Compline (Night Prayer) from the four-volume Liturgy of the Hours. Why is yours so different?
The four-volume Liturgy of the Hours uses the Grail Psalter, and you are probably accustomed to praying this translation. The translation we chose is from the New Grail Psalter, produced by the monks at Conception Abbey in Missouri. The antiphons also differ from the Liturgy of the Hours – they were produced by fr. David Wright, OP.
Likewise our edition of Compline seeks to incorporate elements from the Dominican liturgical tradition, while simultaneously being faithful to the Liturgy of the Hours as it was envisioned after the Second Vatican Council. One example of this (among many): in the Dominican tradition there is only one Collect (closing prayer), while in the Roman tradition there is a proper Collect for each day of the week.
3. I noticed that the confiteor you use is different from the one we use at Mass. What gives?
There is a long tradition of religious orders having modified confiteors. Typically the order will insert the names of their founders and/or prominent saints. You can read more about it here (scroll down to “Distinctive marks of the Dominican Rite).
4. Something isn’t working OR I noticed an error.
Please feel free to contact us and let us know about it.