As I drove into town after supper on Sunday evening, the all-too-familiar boom, boom of some young man’s car stereo assaulted me. Otherwise, it was a lovely fall evening, just dark.
I was on my way to church for a bimonthly service of sung Compline, one of the ancient monastic offices that can be traced to the fourth century. It is the final service before bedtime, with the singing of psalms and the Nunc dimittis (the Canticle of Simeon). The version for the evening was partly from the Roman breviary as well as from the Book of Common Prayer.
The church was in partial darkness, illumined largely by the many votive candles in the windows and rood screen. A thurifer appeared from back, incensing the altar. We knelt in confession of our sins, followed by silence. Silence was easy with only seven of us, in addition to the choir.
And so began the psalms in plainsong. Tonight, they were sung by the men of our small, unpaid, but superbly trained choir. Then the lesson from Saint Matthew and a hymn. This old, fine, downtown church has a beautiful Schoenstein organ, recently built, and an organist more than capable of doing it justice. After the Nunc dimittis, the Lord’s Prayer, and collects, the choir and organ performed superbly to music by Haydn, “Trinity of Blessed Light.”
Then, they concluded...