Great Compline in the Orthodox Church
EDIT: English Great Compline of Lent can be found here as served in the church. I realize many of you have found this page looking for an english text.
Each year during Lent, many of us are blessed with the service of compline at least on Mondays during the fast, if not also on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The service is customary for the end of the day (after Vespers and before the Midnight Office) and is celebrated regularly in the monasteries. There are reader versions available which we may also do in our own homes as our evening prayers.The English word “compline” actually comes from the latin completorium, which means “at the end of the work day.”
The service focuses around a theme of repentance, entreating the Lord to forgive us of our numerous sins during the course of the day and to protect us from the ‘evil fantasies of the night’ and ‘the darts of the evil one which are insidiously thrown against us’
After the recitation of the doxology a canon can be sung. During the first week of Great Lent we section the Canon of St. Andrew into 4 parts. The canon is loaded with Old Testament imagery beginning with the lament of Adam.
In parishes that do the Akathist Hymn the service of Small Compline is celebrated with the Canon to the Theotokos in full. (We sing a much abbreviated version during Matins every Sunday)
Compline is sectioned into the following parts:
Psalms 4, 6, and 12; Glory…, etc.; Psalms 24, 30, 90; then the hymn “God is With Us” and troparia, the Creed, the hymn “O Most holy Lady Theotokos”, the Trisagion and Troparia of the Day, Kyrie eleison(40 times), “More honorable than the cherubim…” and the Prayer of St. Basil the Great.
Psalms 50, 101, and the Prayer of Manasses; the Trisagion, and Troparia of Repentance,Lord have Mercy (40 times), “More honorable than the cherubim…” and the Prayer of St. Mardarius.
Psalms 69, 142, and the Small Doxology; then the Canon followed by Truly You are Worthy, the Trisagion, the hymn “O Lord of Hosts, be with us…”, Lord have Mercy (40 times), the Prayer of the Hours, “More honorable than the cherubim….”, the Prayer of St. Ephraim, Trisagion, the Supplicatory Prayer of Paul the Monk, and the Prayer to Jesus Christ of Antiochus the Monk. Then the mutual forgiveness. Instead of the normal final blessing by the Priest, all prostrate themselves while the priest reads a special prayer intercessory prayer. Then the Litany and the veneration of Icons and Relics.
For your own study and contemplation I have posted several of my favorite prayers from compline below:
Prayer of Manassas
In my personal experience this prayer is omitted in some parishes. Personally I find it to be very compelling, especially when you know the backstory on Manassas. His story is in 2 Kings
Thou who hast made heaven and earth with all their order; who hast shackled the sea by thy word of command, who hast confined the deep and sealed it with thy terrible and glorious name; at whom all things shudder, and tremble before thy power, for thy glorious splendor cannot be borne, and the wrath of thy threat to sinners is irresistible; yet immeasurable and unsearchable is thy promised mercy, for thou art the Lord Most High, of great compassion, long-suffering, and very merciful, and repentest over the evils of men. Thou, O Lord, according to thy great goodness hast promised repentance and forgiveness to those who have sinned against thee; and in the multitude of thy mercies thou hast appointed repentance for sinners, that they may be saved. Therefore thou, O Lord, God of the righteous, hast not appointed repentance for the righteous, for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who did not sin against thee, but thou hast appointed repentance for me, who am a sinner. For the sins I have committed are more in number than the sand of the sea; my transgressions are multiplied, O Lord, they are multiplied! I am unworthy to look up and see the height of heaven because of the multitude of my iniquities. I am weighted down with many an iron fetter, so that I am rejected because of my sins, and I have no relief; for I have provoked thy wrath and have done what is evil in thy sight, setting up abominations and multiplying offenses. And now I bend the knee of my heart, beseeching thee for thy kindness. I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I know my transgressions. I earnestly beseech thee, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me! Do not destroy me with my transgressions! Do not be angry with me for ever or lay up evil for me; do not condemn me to the depths of the earth. For thou, O Lord, art the God of those who repent, and in me thou wilt manifest thy goodness; for, unworthy as I am, thou wilt save me in thy great mercy, and I will praise thee continually all the days of my life. For all the host of heaven sings thy praise, and thine is the glory for ever. Amen.
Supplicatory Prayer of Paul the Monk and the Prayer to Jesus Christ of Antiochus the Monk
This set of prayers is traditionally done with one reader in front of the icon of the Virgin Mary and one reader in front of the Icon of Christ. On Fridays in churches that celebrate the Akathis Hymn these prayers are chanted
O spotless, unstained, incorruptible, undefiled, pure Virgin, Lady Bride of God, who through your wondrous birth-giving united God the Word with mankind, and linked the fallen nature of our human race with the heavenly; the only hope of the hopeless and the help of the persecuted; the ready support of those who seek refuge in you, and the shelter of all the Christians: do not despise me, the wretched sinner who have defiled myself with shameful thoughts and words and deeds, and through negligence of thought have become slave to the pleasures of life.
But as the Mother of our compassionate God, and a friend of man, have compassion on me the sinner and prodigal, and accept this prayer from my impure lips; and using your boldness as a mother, entreat your Son and our Master and Lord to open unto me the depths of his loving goodness and, overlooking my innumerable faults, to return me to repentance and make me a worthy servant of his commandments.
Stand by me forever; in this life as a merciful and compassionate and good and lovingly warm protector and helper, by repulsing the assaults of the adversary and leading me toward salvation; and at the time of my departure from this life, by embracing my miserable soul and driving far away from it the dark fares of the evil demons; and at the awesome day of judgment by redeeming me from eternal hell, and proclaiming me an heir of the ineffable glory of your Son and our God.
May this by my lot, my Lady, most-holy Theotokos, through your intercession and protection; through the grace and love for mankind of your only begotten Son, our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. To whom belong all glory, honor and worship, together with his beginningless Father, and the all holy and good and life giving Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
And grant to us, Master, as we depart for sleep, rest of body and soul, and preserve us from the gloomy slumber of sin, and from every dark and nocturnal pleasure. Arrest the drives of passion; quench the fiery darts of the Evil One which are insidiously cast against us; suppress the passions of our flesh, and calm our every earthly and material thought. And grant to us, O God, alert mind, prudent thinking, sober heart, light sleep free of any satanic fantasy. Awaken us at the time of prayer rooted in your commandments and having unbroken within us the remembrance of your ordinances. Grant that we may sing your glory through the night by praising and blessing and glorifying your most honorable and majestic name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Most glorious, ever virgin, blessed Theotokos, bring our prayer before your Son and our God, and entreat him, through you, to save our souls.
The Father is my hope, the Son is my refuge, the Holy Spirit is my shelter, Holy Trinity, glory to you. My one and my every hope, now I entrust in you, O Mother of God, under your shelter cover me. During the first week in Lent-Monday through Friday, the Priest reads at this time, from the Holy Gate, the Gospel of the day.