Compline is our last prayer service (or divine office) of the day. It is at 7:30 and probably the most beautiful of our services. We pray the same prayers for Compline every night, so during the time of the year when the days are shorter it is sung in the dark. It is also for me the hardest one to attend. I am pretty tired at that time, for we get up early, so I guess 7:30 is more like 11:30 as far as my body is concerned.
One night last spring, I decided to go for a short walk before Compline to keep myself from dozing. It’s a good time of the year for evening’s walk; the weather is gripping and the sky clear, and I love watching the planes that are circling the city to wait their turn to land at the airport.
As I was enjoying the walk, I saw a man leaving his car and walking towards our church. I have seen him off and on for the last year that I have been guest master. He likes Compline. He works for a news organization in Atlanta and sticks out because when he comes he wears a prayer shawl around his neck. Not a Jewish one, which I think are very beautiful (one day I may get one), but similar.
I stopped, and we chatted for a short while. I noted that I have not seen much of him lately. He told me that he can only come twice a week because of his work, which is Tuesday and Wednesday, and even then he can’t always make it. He told me that he almost did not come because he was so tired, but came anyway since he can no longer come every night like he did in the past. I responded by saying that he was really coming to express his love of God without thinking of getting something back. He found that interesting and mentioned to me that he and a friend talked about that very subject a few days back.
He was a true man of God. He was humble, kind, and he seeks to grow in his love of God and others.
It is always very humbling for me to meet those who come here. They teach me a great deal, and I find it interesting that some people think that just because I live in a monastery that I am for some reason ‘closer’ to God. We just need to believe it and live from that space.
I often do not live from that place. Though, as the years pass ever more quickly, I find that grace is slowly and patiently bringing me to that place of ‘rest’.
I am here because I am weaker than others, more fragmented, and this is a healing place for me. It is for others who come here for retreat or just a place to pray and to heal. They have no idea what they do for us; the monks.
People come here, all religious paths or none, and pray, rest, walk around, and some share with us. It is they who make this place hollowed ground, these blessed children of God who bless us with their presence, love and at times friendship.
It is not always easy knowing the monks, for when they come close they experience our humanity, our struggles and, yes, failures. Yet, they do remain friends, true friends. Not much is better than that, if anything.