Into Thy Hands, O Lord, I Commend My Spirit
In June I was asked if I would submit my favorite spiritual practice for publication in The Sceptre, the monthly newsletter for Church of the Advent of Christ the King in San Francisco. I share here what I wrote:
Preserve us, O Lord, while waking,
and guard us while sleeping,
that awake we may watch with Christ,
and asleep we may rest in peace. AMEN.
As a mediaevalist and an art historian, I naturally gravitate to those passages of scripture and liturgy which reflect a sense of continuity with the past, while imparting love, grace and a sense of hope in the future. It should come as no surprise to those who know me at Advent that the services which mark the hours of the Christian day are those that are most meaningful to me. Over the course of my life I have enjoyed the benefit of being a part of the congregations in several Oxford colleges, where the evening office, and occasionally Compline, are either said or sung; sometimes with a choir of boys and men. Attending morning Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral brings my spirit a sense of peace and focus at a time of day when others outside of college are busy arriving in the city centre for work, or shopping, or school.
The evensong worship at New College in Oxford has played a significant part in helping to guide and to centre my spirituality. Twice during university term-time the academical and lay clerks of the Choir of New College come back after supper to sing Compline in the Chapel at 9:30pm. The chanting is sublime; the glimpse of monastic mediaeval life, truly moving.
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us
from all perils and dangers of this night;
for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
When I am not in Oxford I carry these services, and the priests and choir members who lead them and sing in them, firmly rooted in my heart. Like an emergent vine, the voices of the Oxford clergy and choirs have held me close, supporting me through many difficult and challenging moments in my life; their many tender branches have never snapped under the burden of weight that I place upon them. The result of this foundation of faith is that I strive to complete whatever work I am tasked to do, regardless of how humbling it may appear to be. It is from the scripture and prayers I read in the daily offices that I am reminded to live life in all its abundance, in service to others. One of my greatest joys is to see how my daughter, through witnessing my own Anglican faith, has fostered her deep love of the sacred mysteries of the church. She has chosen to become actively involved in worship at Advent, serving as boat girl and acolyte under the careful supervision of the clergy during Latin Mass; her service to God and the priests makes me immensely proud.
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may repose upon thy eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
Collects in italics are from the COE’s Common Worship(2000) for the Office of Compline