Sunday, July 29, 2018

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

A popular evening devotion in the Catholic Church is Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. At Benediction, the Sacred Host is exposed for us to look upon it and adore it, and then the priest blesses us with the Host. It is a way for us to participate in some of the graces of the Holy Eucharist. Even if we cannot consume the Host, we can still unite ourselves to God and receive his grace by adoring the Sacred Host and being blessed with the Host at Benediction. Benediction is not part of any liturgy, and its form is not governed by any official documents. What I will describe here is the most common practice.

Benediction grew out of popular devotion to the Blessed Sacrament during the thirteenth century. After the elevations of the Host and Chalice after the consecrations were introduced at Mass toward the end of the twelfth century, many of the faithful developed a devotion to looking upon and adoring the Sacred Host. At one time, if a dying person was unable to receive Holy Communion as part of the Last Rites, the priest would still bring him the Blessed Sacrament to look upon. In 1246, the feast of Corpus Christi was instituted on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. It was and continues to be observed by large processions of people with the Blessed Sacrament. The modern devotion of Benediction comes from these thirteenth century customs.

Today, Benediction is commonly done in the evening before or after Mass or Vespers. At various times and places in the Church's history, customs have existed of gathering in the evening for various devotions, which may have included Vespers, sermons, hymns, the Rosary, or Benediction. Mass was not allowed to be said in the evening until 1953, so Benediction was a way to still adore the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.

At Benediction, the priest wears a surplice, stole, and cope. He is assisted by at least two servers in surplices. Benediction is a joyful occasion, so the liturgical color is white and the organ is played, even during Lent. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed in an elaborate silver and gold vessel called a monstrance. Pictured below is the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a monstrance.

Image credit: LaRedCultural

The hymn O salutaris Hostia is sung when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. This hymn consists of the last two stanzas of the hymn Verbum supernum prodiens, composed by St. Thomas Aquinas and sung at Lauds on the feast of Corpus Christi. It is a hymn of praise to the Blessed Sacrament. During the singing of this hymn, the priest incenses the Blessed Sacrament. Servers may hold torches at the foot of the altar throughout the ceremony, just as they do during the Canon of the Mass.

O salutaris Hostia,
Quæ cæli pandis ostium:
Bella premunt hostilia,
Da robur, fer auxilium.

Uni trinoque Domino
Sit sempiterna gloria,
Qui vitam sine termino
Nobis donet in patria.
O saving Victim, opening wide
The gate of heaven to us below;
Our foes press hard on every side;
Thine aid supply; thy strength bestow.

To thy great name be endless praise,
Immortal Godhead, one in three.
O grant us endless length of days,
In our true native land with thee.

Next, there is a period of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The amount of time spent in adoration varies from a few minutes to several hours. A popular devotion is to spend one hour (known as a holy hour) adoring the Blessed Sacrament, in response to our Lord's question in his Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Could you not watch one hour with me?” (Matthew 26:40). Sometimes, as part of the adoration, Vespers is offered before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. Hymns and devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary are frequently included, and the Holy Rosary may be said. Generally, the priest will lead whatever devotions he thinks are necessary and beneficial for the parish.

After the period of adoration, we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and sing the hymn Tantum ergo. This hymn consists of the final two stanzas of the hymn Pange lingua gloriosi, also composed by St. Thomas Aquinas and sung at both first and second Vespers of the feast of Corpus Christi. In the second line of the Tantum ergo, at the words “Veneremur cernui,” we bow in adoration of our Lord. The priest then incenses the Blessed Sacrament again. There are two well-known chant tunes for the Tantum ergo. Both originate from different parts of Spain.

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Præstet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.

Genitori, Genitoque
Laus et iubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio.
Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father,
And the Son who reigns on high
With the Holy Ghost proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honour, blessing,
Might, and endless majesty.

This is followed by a versicle and response (the versicle and response sung after the hymn at Vespers) and the collect of Corpus Christi.

Panem de cælo præstitísti eis.
Omne delectaméntum in se habéntem.

Deus, qui nobis sub Sacraménto mirábili passiónis tuæ memóriam reliquísti: tríbue, quǽsumus, ita nos Córporis, et Sánguinis tui sacra mystéria venerári; ut redemptiónis tuæ fructum in nobis iúgiter sentiámus:
Qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre, in unitáte Spíritus Sancti, Deus, per ómnia sǽcula sæculórum.
Thou hast given them bread from heaven.
Having within it all sweetness.

Let us pray.
O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament left us a memorial of thy Passion: grant, we implore thee, that we may so venerate the sacred mysteries of thy Body and Blood, as always to be conscious of the fruit of thy Redemption.
Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

Then comes the Benediction itself. The priest takes the humeral veil, goes up to the altar, and takes the monstrance. He turns toward the people and makes a large Sign of the Cross with the monstrance to bless them. While he is doing so, bells are rung and the Blessed Sacrament is incensed a third time, like at the elevation at Mass. The priest turns back to the altar and places the monstrance back upon it.

The priest and servers then kneel before the altar and say the Divine Praises. These praises were written at the end of the eighteenth century as a devotion to make reparation for sacrilege and blasphemy. They are usually said in English. The priest says each line, with the people repeating it.

Blessed be God.
Blessed be his holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus.
Blessed be his most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be his most Precious Blood.
Blessed be Jesus in the most holy Sacrament of the altar.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her Holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be her glorious Assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
Blessed be Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.
Blessed be God in his angels and in his saints.

The Blessed Sacrament is then put back into the tabernacle. Benediction is concluded with Psalm 116, a psalm of praise sung at Lauds on Mondays, with the antiphon, “Let us forever adore the most holy Sacrament.”

Adoremus in aeternum sanctissimum Sacramentum.

Laudate Dominum omnes gentes: laudate eum omnes populi.
Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus: et veritas Domini manet in aeternum.

Adoremus in aeternum sanctissimum Sacramentum.

Gloria Patri, Filio, et Spiritui Sancto: Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Adoremus in aeternum sanctissimum Sacramentum.
Let us forever adore the most holy Sacrament.

O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.
For his mercy is confirmed upon us: and the truth of the Lord remaineth for ever.

Let us forever adore the most holy Sacrament.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Let us forever adore the most holy Sacrament.

Alternatively, a suitable hymn may be sung. The English hymn Holy God We Praise Thy Name is often sung at the end of Benediction. This is the end of the ceremony of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Once again, this is merely the most common practice. Individual dioceses or countries may have their own guidelines, but there is no official form for Benediction. This is because Benediction, unlike the Mass or Divine Office, is not a liturgy. Rather, it is a beautiful devotion that has grown out of the faithful's zeal and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

New terms
  • Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament – A popular devotion involving adoration of and blessing with the Blessed Sacrament.
  • monstrance – An elaborate silver and gold vessel in which the Sacred Host is exposed.
  • O salutaris Hostia – A hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas, sung when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.
  • adoration – Worshipping the Blessed Sacrament for a period of time, usually including various devotions and periods of silence.
  • holy hour – Adoration for one hour, in response to our Lord's question, “Could you not watch one hour with me?”
  • Tantum ergo – A hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas, sung after the adoration and just before the Benediction itself.
  • Divine Praises – A devotion originally written to make reparation for blasphemy, said in English after Benediction.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Liturgy of the Divine Office, Part 7: Compline

This is the final installment of our series on the Divine Office.

Previous parts in this series:
Part 1: Introduction to the traditional Divine Office
Part 2: Matins
Part 3: Lauds
Part 4: Prime
Part 5: Terce, Sext, and None
Part 6: Vespers

In the fifth part of this series, while describing the little hours of Terce, Sext, and None, I mentioned the connection between the hours of the Divine Office and the events of the Passion. Another author connected the eight hours of the Divine Office with the stages of the human life. Matins, sung before dawn, represents the womb. Lauds represents our birth. Prime represents youth. Terce represents early adulthood. Sext represents maturity. None represents middle age. Vespers represents the elderly years. Finally, at the end of the day, we sing Compline, which represents death and our passage to eternal life.

Compline has uncertain origins, though it has existed in some form since at least the fourth century. Like Prime, the text is mostly the same every day. Nothing in Compline is proper to the day, only the day of the week. Thus, Compline is the easiest hour of the Divine Office for common people to learn and offer as a private devotion.

The hour of Compline traditionally begins with the prayer Aperi Domine, but not with the Our Father or Hail Mary. The opening rites of Compline originated in Benedictine monasteries from as early as the sixth century. Monks would gather in the chapter house for a reading from scripture, before processing into the chapel, examining their consciences, confessing their sins, and finally beginning the office of Compline. Thus, Compline begins with a short reading from scripture, similar in both form and origin to the short reading from the Office of the Chapter at Prime. Like the readings at Matins, it is preceded by a blessing.

Noctem quiétam et finem perféctum concédat nobis Dóminus omnípotens. Amen. May almighty God grant us a quiet night and a perfect end. Amen.

The short reading at the beginning of Compline is 1 Peter 5:8-9, a reminder to always be on guard against the devil and keep our souls pure. Jesus said, in Matthew 24:43, “But know this ye, that if the goodman of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open.” The Rule of St. Benedict says, “Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.” We must always be prepared and fight against the devil. Thus, at Compline every day, we read the warning that St. Peter gave in his first epistle.

Fratres: Sóbrii estóte, et vigiláte: quia adversárius vester diábolus tamquam leo rúgiens círcuit, quærens quem dévoret: cui resístite fortes in fide.
Tu autem, Dómine, miserére nobis.
Deo grátias.
Brethren: Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
Thanks be to God.

Next is the examination of conscience and confession of sin. To begin, we implore God's divine help in the words of Psalm 123:8. This is the same verse that we say before the Confiteor at the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar at Mass. We bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross as we ask for God's help.

Adiutórium nóstrum ☩ in nómine Dómini.
Qui fecit cælum et terram.
Our help is ☩ in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

Before we can devoutly confess our sins, we must take some time to prepare ourselves. We must think about God, how good he has been to us, and how much we have hurt him in return. Furthermore, we must call to mind the specific sins we have committed, be sorry for them, and strive to never repeat them. Contrition for sins is a decision, not an emotion. To prepare ourselves to confess our sins, we say one Our Father silently. Alternatively, we can take some time to silently examine our conscience to help us identify and be contrite for the sins that we have committed. Many great examinations of conscience have been written to help with this process. My personal favorite is the examination of conscience from Saint Augustine's Prayer Book, published by the Order of the Holy Cross.

The Confiteor is then said, not sung. If Compline is offered in choir by a priest, then the Confiteor is said in the same manner as at the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar at Mass. The priest says the Confiteor confessing to “all the saints, and to you, brethren” (“omnibus sanctis, et vobis, fratres”), and then the other people present say the Misereatur. The others then say the Confiteor, confessing to “all the saints, and to you, Father” (“omnibus sanctis, et tibi, Pater”), and the priest says the Misereatur. If there is no priest present, the Confiteor is said as follows. Like at Mass, we strike our breasts three times at the words “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”

Confíteor Deo omnipoténti, beátæ Maríæ semper Vírgini, beáto Michaéli Archángelo, beáto Ioánni Baptístæ, sanctis Apóstolis Petro et Paulo, et ómnibus Sanctis, quia peccávi nimis, cogitatióne, verbo et ópere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa. Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, beátum Michaélem Archángelum, beátum Ioánnem Baptístam, sanctos Apóstolos Petrum et Paulum, et omnes Sanctos, oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.

Misereátur nostri omnípotens Deus, et dimíssis peccátis nostris, perdúcat nos ad vitam ætérnam. Amen.

Indulgéntiam, ☩ absolutiónem et remissiónem peccatórum nostrórum tríbuat nobis omnípotens et miséricors Dóminus. Amen.
I confess to almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and to all the Saints, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the Saints, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

May the almighty ☩ and merciful Lord grant us pardon, absolution and remission of our sins. Amen.

This opening rite of confessing our sins is concluded with Psalm 84:5, asking God once more for his mercy and for help in resisting temptation. At this verse, we make a small Sign of the Cross with our thumb on our breast, praying that our heart may be turned to God.

Convérte nos ✠ Deus, salutáris noster.
Et avérte iram tuam a nobis.
Convert us, ✠ O God our savior.
And turn off thy anger from us.

Now, we finally make the Sign of the Cross and sing the familiar opening verse that begins every hour of the Divine Office. Like at every hour, during Septuagesima and Lent, the word “alleluia” is replaced with “Praise be to thee, O Lord, King of eternal glory.”

Deus ☩ in adjutórium meum inténde.
Dómine, ad adjuvándum me festína.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen. Allelúia.
O God, ☩ come to my assistance.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Alleluia.

Three psalms with one antiphon are sung at Compline, like at the little hours. The psalms and antiphon depend only on the day of the week. During Paschaltide, the antiphon for every day is, “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.” Psalms 4, 90, and 133 have been sung at Compline for more than a thousand years. These three psalms are now sung at Compline on Sundays and first and second class feasts.

Psalm 4 is addressed by King David to all sinners. It tells us to trust and hope in God as we go to sleep, saying, “The things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds,” and, “The light of thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us...In peace in the selfsame I will sleep and I will rest.” Psalm 90 sings of God's protection in times of hardship. It begins, “He that dwelleth in the aid of the Most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of heaven,” and later says, “For he hath given his angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways.” Finally, Psalm 133 is a short psalm of praise to God and the last of the fifteen Gradual Psalms used in Jewish Temple worship. It concludes with the verse, “May the Lord out of Sion bless thee, he that made heaven and earth.” These three psalms form a beautiful conclusion to the Church's great feasts and prepare us for the passage to eternal life.

After the three psalms and their antiphon, the hymn Te lucis ante terminum is sung. This beautiful hymn is attributed to St. Ambrose.

Te lucis ante términum,
Rerum Creátor, póscimus,
Ut pro tua cleméntia
Sis præsul et custódia.

Procul recédant sómnia,
Et nóctium phantásmata;
Hostémque nóstrum cómprime,
Ne polluántur córpora.

Præsta, Pater piíssime,
Patríque compar Únice,
Cum Spíritu Paráclito
Regnans per omne sǽculum.
Before the ending of the day,
Creator of the world, we pray
That with thy wonted favor thou
Wouldst be our guard and keeper now.

From all ill dreams defend our eyes,
From nightly fears and fantasies;
Tread under foot our ghostly foe,
That no pollution we may know.

O Father, that we ask be done,
Through Jesus Christ, thine only Son;
Who, with the Holy Ghost and thee,
Doth live and reign eternally.

In this hymn, we pray for protection during the night from any temptation to sin. This also shows Compline's symbolism of the end of our life. It is followed by the invariable capitulum of Compline, a cry for God's protection in the words of Jeremiah 14:9.

Tu autem in nobis es, Dómine, et nomen sanctum tuum invocátum est super nos: ne derelínquas nos, Dómine, Deus noster.
Deo grátias.
But thou, O Lord, art among us, and thy name is called upon by us: forsake us not, O Lord our God.
Thanks be to God.

The first twenty-five chapters of the Prophecy of Jeremiah are written in very poetic Hebrew, calling the Jews to repentence and faithfulness to God. Jeremiah warned the Jews of the impending fall of Jerusalem and Babylonian exile, which happened at the end of his ministry in 586 BC. We may hear his prophecy today as a call to repentence and faithfulness to prepare for our inevitable judgment. Thus, this verse calling upon God is sung at Compline every day.

Next, to continue preparing our souls for the passage to eternal life, we sing a short responsory, which is taken from Psalm 30:6. These were also the final words that our Lord said on the Cross before he died.

In manus tuas, Dómine, comméndo spíritum meum.
In manus tuas, Dómine, comméndo spíritum meum.
Redemísti nos, Dómine, Deus veritátis.
Comméndo spíritum meum.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
In manus tuas, Dómine, comméndo spíritum meum.
Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
For thou hast redeemed us, O Lord, God of truth.
I commend my spirit.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

What better way to prepare ourselves for death than with the words that Jesus Christ used to prepare for his death? Before his Crucifixion, Jesus said to his disciples at the Mount of Olives, “But of that day and hour no one knoweth, not the angels of heaven, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). We must always be prepared to die and face God's judgment. Thus, at the end of each day, the Church gives us this hour of Compline to prepare ourselves for our inevitable death. After confessing our sins and adoring God with psalms, we unite ourselves to our crucified Lord and entrust our souls to him. After the responsory, we sing Psalm 16:8 as a versicle and response.

Custódi nos, Dómine, ut pupíllam óculi.
Sub umbra alárum tuárum prótege nos.
Keep us, Lord, as the apple of thine eye.
Protect us under the shadow of thy wings.

Next is the third and final canticle of the New Testament. In the morning, at Lauds, we sing the Benedictus, Zechariah's hymn of praise at St. John the Baptist's circumcision. In the evening, at Vespers, we sing the Magnificat, our Blessed Mother's hymn of praise when she visited Elizabeth. Finally, at night, at Compline, we sing the Nunc dimittis or Canticle of Simeon, the priest Simeon's hymn of praise when he saw our Lord. It is taken from Luke 2:29-32. At Compline, the Canticle of Simeon is preceded and followed by an invariable antiphon, asking yet again for God's protection. We make the Sign of the Cross at the first line of the canticle. (The asterisk marks where to alter the pitch when singing.)

Salva nos, Dómine, vigilántes, custódi nos dormiéntes; ut vigilémus cum Christo, et requiescámus in pace.

2:29 Nunc dimíttis ☩ servum tuum, Dómine, * secúndum verbum tuum in pace:
2:30 Quia vidérunt óculi mei * salutáre tuum,
2:31 Quod parásti * ante fáciem ómnium populórum,
2:32 Lumen ad revelatiónem Géntium, * et glóriam plebis tuæ Israël.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, * et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, * et in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen.

Salva nos, Dómine, vigilántes, custódi nos dormiéntes; ut vigilémus cum Christo, et requiescámus in pace.
Protect us, Lord, while we are awake and safeguard us while we sleep; that we may keep watch with Christ, and rest in peace.

2:29 Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, ☩ * according to thy word in peace;
2:30 Because my eyes have seen * thy salvation,
2:31 Which thou hast prepared * before the face of all peoples:
2:32 A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, * and the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, * and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Protect us, Lord, while we are awake, and safeguard us while we sleep; that we may keep watch with Christ, and rest in peace.

The Gospel according to St. Luke describes Simeon as a “just and devout” man. God promised him that before his death, he would see Jesus Christ. Forty days after Jesus's birth, Mary and Joseph brought him to the Temple of Jerusalem, in obedience to Jewish law. Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and was filled with joy, singing this hymn of praise to God. As we prepare ourselves for death at Compline, we unite ourselves with Simeon's fervent desire to see our Lord Jesus Christ face to face.

This is followed by the invariable collect of Compline. This collect is relatively recent, dating from the thirteenth century. As always, anyone who is not a priest introduces it with “Domine, exaudi orationem meam” instead of “Dominus vobiscum.”

Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
Vísita, quǽsumus, Dómine, habitatiónem istam, et omnes insídias inimíci ab ea lónge repélle: Ángeli tui sancti hábitent in ea, qui nos in pace custódiant; et benedíctio tua sit super nos semper.
Per Dóminum nostrum Iesum Christum, Fílium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti Deus, per ómnia sǽcula sæculórum.
The Lord be with you.
And with thy spirit.
Let us pray.
Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, this dwelling, and drive far from it the snares of the enemy; let thy holy angels dwell herein to preserve us in peace, and let thy blessing be always upon us.
Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, this dwelling.” We pray that God may always be with us. Even as we sleep, we wish for God to be with us in our bedrooms. Whether we are at church, at home, or travelling, we always pray for God's presence. We pray that God and his angels may preserve us and our homes from any temptation to sin or anything that could possibly separate us from God's grace. Once again, at the end of the day, we strive to prepare ourselves for death. Our ultimate hope must be to perservere to the end of our lives and die in God's grace. Finally, we pray to God, “Let thy blessing be always upon us.”

Compline concludes with “Dominus vobiscum” (or “Domine, exaudi orationem meam”) and “Benedicamus Domino,” like the other hours of the Divine Office. However, unlike the other hours, there is no prayer for the souls in purgatory. Instead, there is one final blessing, said “slowly and gravely.” We bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross as this blessing is said.

Benedícat et custódiat nos omnípotens et miséricors Dóminus, ☩ Pater, et Fílius, et Spíritus Sanctus.
The almighty and merciful Lord, ☩ the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, bless us and keep us.

Finally, the Divine Office for the day is concluded with the final antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is one of four hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary, each with a corresponding versicle, response, and prayer, depending on the season. The hymn praises our Blessed Mother and asks for her intercession. When our Lord was dying on the Cross, he said to his beloved apostle, St. John, “Behold your Mother” (John 19:27). Thus, as our final act of preparation for the night and for our death, we entrust ourselves to the intercession of our Blessed Mother. St. Bonaventure, a theologian of the thirteenth century, said, “Men do not fear a powerful hostile army as the powers of hell fear the name and protection of Mary.” The intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary is essential in uniting ourselves to God. Veneration of Mary is a beautiful and fitting end to the day's liturgy. The final antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary is commonly sung kneeling before the altar or before a statue of Mary.

From the First Sunday of Advent until the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary on February 2, the final antiphon is the Alma Redemptoris Mater. It was written in the eleventh century by Blessed Hermann Contractus. In popular culture, it is mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Alma Redemptóris Mater, quæ pérvia cæli porta manes,
et stella maris, succúrre cadénti,
Súrgere qui curat, pópulo: tu quæ genuísti,
Natúra miránte, tuum sanctum Genitórem,
Virgo prius ac postérius, Gabriélis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatórum miserére.
Mother of Christ, hear thou thy people's cry
Star of the deep and Portal of the sky!
Mother of him who thee from nothing made.
Sinking we strive and call to thee for aid:
O, by what joy which Gabriel brought to thee,
Thou Virgin first and last, let us thy mercy see.

After the feast of the Purification until the Wednesday of Holy Week, the Ave Regina Caelorum is sung. Its author is unknown, but it has existed since at least the twelfth century.

Ave, Regína cælórum,
Ave, Dómina Angelórum:
Salve radix, salve porta,
Ex qua mundo lux est orta:

Gaude, Virgo gloriósa,
Super omnes speciósa,
Vale, o valde decóra,
Et pro nobis Christum exóra.
Hail, O Queen of heaven, enthroned!
Hail, by Angels Mistress owned!
Root of Jesse, Gate of morn,
Whence the world's true Light was born:

Glorious Virgin, joy to thee,
Loveliest whom in heaven they see:
Fairest thou, where all are fair,
Plead with Christ our sins to spare.

No final antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary is sung during the Sacred Triduum. From Easter through Friday of the Octave of Pentecost, the Regina Coeli is sung. Like the Ave Regina Caelorum, its author is unknown, but it has existed since the twelfth century. There is a legend that St. Gregory the Great heard angels singing the first three lines of this hymn one Easter morning in Rome, and then he added the fourth line himself.

Regína cæli, lætáre, allelúia;
Quia quem meruísti portáre, allelúia,
Resurréxit, sicut dixit, allelúia:
Ora pro nobis Deum, allelúia.
O Queen of heaven rejoice! alleluia:
For he whom thou didst merit to bear, alleluia,
Hath arisen as he said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.

Finally, from the Saturday of the Octave of Pentecost until the next First Sunday of Advent, the Salve Regina is sung. It is traditionally attributed to Blessed Hermann Contractus in the eleventh century, the author of the Alma Redemptoris Mater. The Salve Regina is also said at the end of the Holy Rosary.

Salve, Regína, mater misericórdiæ;
vita, dulcédo et spes nóstra, salve.
Ad te clamámus éxsules fílii Hevæ.
Ad te suspirámus geméntes et flentes
In hac lacrimárum valle.

Eia ergo, advocáta nostra,
illos tuos misericórdes óculos ad nos convérte.
Et Iesum, benedíctum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsílium osténde.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo María.
Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy,
our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping
In this valley of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us.
And after this our exile show unto us
the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

After the final antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary and its versicle, response, and prayer, we make the Sign of the Cross and say one last blessing. This is also one of the blessings used before a reading in the third nocturn of Matins.

Divínum auxílium ☩ máneat semper nobíscum.
May the divine assistance ☩ remain always with us.

The Our Father, Hail Mary, and Apostles' Creed are traditionally said after Compline. After that, we retire to our rooms and go to sleep. We have been prepared through the ancient and beautiful hour of Compline to sleep peacefully in God's grace and to one day have eternal rest with him. St. Benedict ordered that silence be observed after Compline until the next morning. This is known as the “Grand Silence,” and it is still observed in most religious communities and seminaries. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

Thus ends the Divine Office and the day's liturgy. In the hours of Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline, the Catholic Church has offered her highest worship and her sacrifice of praise to almighty God. Throughout the day, we have adored and praised God in the Psalms, begged God's mercy and forgiveness, prayed for our needs for that day, honored our Blessed Mother and the saints, and united ourselves to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the climax of each day's worship. The Divine Office has nourished and sustained the Catholic Church since ancient times. Thus, it is the solemn duty of every priest, deacon, subdeacon, monk, friar, nun, and religious brother or sister of the holy Church to offer the Divine Office every day. In addition, it is praiseworthy for every Catholic to join the Church in offering the Divine Office. There is a link in the sidebar to Divinum Officium, a website that has the entire Mass and Divine Office in Latin and English for each day (also in German, French, Italian, Hungarian, and Polish). In any case, we must always strive respond to St. Paul's command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17Pray without ceasing!

New terms
  • Nunc dimittis or Canticle of Simeon – The hymn of praise of the priest Simeon when he saw our Lord, taken from Luke 2:29-32, sung at Compline every day.
  • final antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary – One of four hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary depending on the season, sung at the end of Compline.
  • Alma Redemptoris Mater – The final antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the First Sunday of Advent to the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary on February 2.
  • Ave Regina Caelorum – The final antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary from February 3 to Wednesday of Holy Week.
  • Regina Coeli – The final antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary during Paschaltide.
  • Salve Regina – The final antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the season after Pentecost.