Friday, February 10, 2012

Compline: Prayer That Closes the Day

Compline, the final prayer office in the liturgical day, is believed to have been first instituted during the 6th century by St. Benedict, the father of western monasticism. The Latin word completorium was used by Benedict to indicate the completion of the day incorporate corporate just prior to "The Great Silence" that would soon fall upon the monastic community as monks retired to sleep or the night watch.

For many of us, our daily quiet-time with the Lord comes in the morning, because we understand that once our day begins it is very difficult to put on the breaks until the day is done. After our daily tasks and errands, we eat supper, do the wash, put the kids to bed, feed the dog, try to carve out some time for our spouses, and prepare for the next day often with little energy left to say more than a short prayer, much less recall, reflect, and repent. It can be exhausting, especially when the only thing our tired minds and bodies feel like doing is crashing in front of the television to zone out and unwind before we have to wake up and do it all over again. However, there is an ancient prescription for this problem!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Poustinia (Poo-steen-ya)

i took my eight-month old son into the woods with me to pray last weekend.  It was a cold morning and we were both bundled up in our winter gear.  Usually at this time of the morning he is extremely busy and a bit noisy exploring and discovering new things that have been left about the floor by our other children.  But as we hiked through the woods and up to the bluff that overlooks our little valley he was quiet.  Jed Asher seemed to be in awe of this new world that i was showing him.  We arrived at the log where i usually sit to pray and read my Bible expecting him to begin his normal routine of wiggling, grunting, and slapping, and arching and thrusting himself toward dangerous things.  However, something quite different occurred.  He became unusually quiet as the sun crept through the maze of naked trees.  There, in the silence, with his head upon his papa's heart, my little Jedediah fell asleep...amid the quiet forest...on our log...in my arms.

Pousitnia is Russian for desert, or desolate place.  In its most literal sense, Poustinia is a geographical term, however, to many devout Russians it has another connotation.  As Catherine Doherty (the mother of Western Poustinias) writes, "To a Russian, then, the word can mean a quiet, lonely place that people wish to enter, to find the God who dwells within them."  In essence, the poustinia is the place where we go so that we can "Be still and know our God; that He may be exalted in the earth."