There is a loveliness about the darkened church in the stillness of the evening. The beguinage doors close at 6:30 pm. It is only us sisters now; we have the courtyard to ourselves and the cats! We also share the courtyard with the few guests who stay at the guest house, some of whom come to Compline and some not. The ones who know the loveliness and peace of Compline encourage the others to come at 8 pm. We sisters cross the courtyard for the final service of the day, putting the church to bed in the dark of winter, the light of summer, the cold and rain, the warmth and light.
I remember Compline from my childhood, going to the English Compline at Young Women’s Christian Association camps around campfires or during Lent in the dimly lit church. There is something about the peace that descends into your heart at the end of the day through these ancient words and tunes. I felt it as a child so it must be there. The boarding school where I taught had non compulsory Compline and students of all faiths attended willingly and frequently because of the quiet and peace it afforded them at the end of busy studious school days.
Chants are sung and the sisters process to the Mary chapel and sing a Salve regina and receive a water blessing by the senior sister or Prioress and then all is quiet for a few moments. We again peacefully cross the courtyard, check on the cats sleeping under the trees, hold the monastery door for one another, slip along under the brick arched hallway of the monastery cloister to the stone steps and wrought iron banister to the second floor. We wish each other a “Dors bien” in French or a “Slap wel” in Nederlands. A sweetness ends the day… I never tire of it every night.