COMPLINE has provided those who sing, and those who listen, with
opportunities to enter into sacred time, and to have their own
direct experiences of the divine.
Every week, I feel touched by the presence of those who come -
to listen, to meditate, and to connect with the Presence that is
both within and among us.
Wayne Teasdale writes:
The Divine Reality . . . is
everywhere, in everything, and radiates from all beings. . . It
also appears in the depths of the self and the unconscious, in
dreams, creativity, love, wonder, philosophical reflection, poetic
inspiration, in chance meetings, and in all the little joys of
life. There is no place we can look or be that we will not find
God, if only we recognise what we are seeing.
(The Mystic Hours, New
World Library, 2004)
At some point in the search for the divine reality comes a deep
revelation, as well as a paradox: that if God pervades all
(including ourselves), then our search could be just as well
described as God's seeking us. This is expressed in Psalm 139:
"Lord, you have searched me and known me. . ."
As the psalm so beautifully describes, the spiritual journey
includes both attraction and aversion. We are attracted to the
divine presence through encounters with beauty, a sense of peace,
or through memorable feelings of forgiveness or grace.
In addition to these, the devotional texts from compline, and
the ritual connection to something deep within the human
consciousness, began to draw me into an experience of God.
At the same time, we constantly avoid encounters with the
divine, through expressions of our own unworthiness, dwelling on
our own fear or despair, or seeking diversions that are transitory.
Entering into the spiritual life is a constant process of "letting
go" of things that hold us back.
One thing that can free us to change and take action is a
reminder of our own impermanence, and the passing away of all
material things. Many of the texts we sing at compline speak of
seeking our unchanging Source in the midst of the changing
universe. We sing of that "trust in things Divine" that comes only
when we free ourselves from things that are passing away, and
direct our attention to things eternal.
At the same time, we are deepening our experiences of God
through a continual process called attunement:
We shall never be ourselves until we
know we are here to become more and more attuned to something
bigger and grander than we are. Nothing less than such attunement
will pull out of us that which lies waiting to be completed in us.
. . Attunement occurs when we focus ourselves so that our energy
begins to open to the single direction of God. . . Paradoxically,
we find that while the power source, God, is far more than anything
we can drum up, it also lives in our depths. The more we are
attuned to God, the more we become ourselves.
(John Gorsuch An Invitation to
the Spiritual Journey, Paulist, 1990)
This is the third of four edited extracts from
Prayer as Night Falls: Experiencing compline by Kenneth V.
Peterson (Paraclete Press, £12.99 (CT Bookshop £11.70);
978-1-61261-376-5). Reviewed, Books, 17 April.