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Last Thing at Night: Prayers and readings…

08 December, 2011

Rema Devereaux's book reminds us that night time is an opportunity to take stock of the day: to celebrate the best, to learn from the worst, to surrender everything to God before going to bed.

last thingNight time is an opportunity to take stock of the day: to celebrate the best, to learn from the worst, to surrender everything to God and prepare for sleep. With a copy of Last Thing at Night at your bedside you will be able to achieve this. Based on the Church’s Night Prayer (Compline), it combines a psalm, a Gospel reading, a reading from a spiritual writer, the Nunc dimittis, a prayer, a blessing and the Salve Regina.

 

THE AUTHOR:

Rema Devereaux is an editor, writer and translator, and also a Secular carmelite.

CONTENTS

Introduction
Week One
Week Two
Week Three
Week Four
Week Five
Week Six
Sources and Acknowledgements
Further Reading
Introductory and Concluding Prayers

In this extract we give the Introduction, all the prayers for Week One, and the Introductory and Concluding Prayers.

128 pp. Darton Longman and Todd Publications. To purchase this book online, go to www.dltbooks.com

THE BOOK:

INTRODUCTION

At the beginning of John’s Gospel, two of John the Baptist’s disciples follow Jesus and ask him where he lives. He invites them to come and see and they stay with him. They may have spent the evening with him. Through the reflections in this book, Jesus invites us to do the same, to come and spend each evening with him and prepare with him for the night’s rest.

This book is a collection of prayers and readings for use ‘last thing at night’, before going to bed. The end of the day is a time for taking stock of the day’s events, surrendering them to God, and preparing for sleep, as well as for meditating on the darkness of the world and how the light of Christ comes to fill it and dwell within it. The readings I have chosen follow these twin themes of literal and metaphorical night.

Preparing this book has been a wonderful journey of discovering the richness of the Church’s tradition and the abundance of Bible verses appropriate to the theme of the end of the day. I am hoping that you too, as reader, will enjoy coming with me on this journey of reflective surrender. It is my hope that the book will become an inspirational companion to keep by the bedside.

The book is also an invitation to the reader to follow the monastic tradition of marking the day with prayers and readings. It is loosely based around the Church’s Night Prayer (Compline), a prayer traditionally said last thing at night. Many of the readings are taken from the works of the Carmelite saints, because the Carmelite tradition is particularly rich in evocations of the metaphorical night and the need for surrender to God.

I have supplied enough material for 42 days altogether, arranged in six week-long sections. For each day there is an opening psalm, a Gospel reading and a reading from the Church’s tradition. The introductory and concluding prayers are always the same, and you will soon come to memorise them. They are printed at the back of the book: a standard prayer to start, and at the end, after the reading of the day, the Nunc Dimittis, a blessing and the Salve Regina.

I suggest you take time to ponder each phrase, savouring the passage until it speaks to you (following the ancient monastic tradition of lectio divina). You might want to put the book down at any moment and let reading give way to silent prayer. Feel free to sit loose to the structure given here, and to use it as a springboard for your own personal end-of-day communion with God.

I would like to thank Brendan Walsh, my editor at Darton, Longman and Todd, for approaching me with the original idea for this book, and for his unfailing good humour and patience with the foibles of a first-time author; thanks also go to the editorial and production teams. I also wish to thank Joanne Moseley and Austen Ivereigh who kindly supplied their favourite readings for inclusion in the book.


WEEK ONE – MONDAY

Introductory prayer (see below)
Psalm 4

When I call, answer me, God, upholder of my right.
In my distress you have set me at large;
take pity on me and hear my prayer!Children of men, how long will you be heavy of heart,
why love what is vain and chase after illusions?

Realise that Yahweh performs wonders for his faithful,
Yahweh listens when I call to him.

Be careful not to sin,
speak in your hearts, and on your beds keep silence.

Loyally offer sacrifices, and trust in Yahweh.

Many keep saying, ‘Who will put happiness before our eyes?’
Let the light of your face shine on us.

Yahweh, to my heart you are a richer joy
than all their corn and new wine.

In peace I lie down and at once fall asleep,
for it is you and none other, Yahweh, who make me rest secure.

Gospel reading: Luke 17:7-10
‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal at once”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper ready; fasten your belt and wait on me while I eat and drink. You yourself can eat and drink afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are useless servants: we have done no more than our duty.”

Reading from the Church’s tradition
And when night comes, and retrospect shows that everything was patchwork and much which one had planned left undone, when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as it is, lay it in God’s hands, and offer it up to Him. In this way we will be able to rest in Him, actually to rest, and to begin the new day like a new life.
Edith Stein, Essays on Woman, p. 145

Concluding prayers (see below)


TUESDAY
Introductory prayer (see below)

Psalm 6
Yahweh, let your rebuke to me not be in anger,
your punishment not in the heat of wrath.
Have pity on me, Yahweh, for I am fading away. Heal me, Yahweh, my bones are shaken, my spirit is shaken to its very depths.
But you, Yahweh … how long?

Yahweh, relent and save my life
rescue me because of your faithful love,
for in death there is no remembrance of you;
who could sing your praises in Sheol?

I am worn out with groaning,
every night I drench my pillow
and soak my bed with tears.
My eyes waste away with vexation.
Arrogance from all my foes!
Away from me, all evil-doers!

For Yahweh has heard the sound of my weeping,
Yahweh has heard my pleading.
Yahweh will accept my prayer.

Let all my enemies be put to confusion, shaken to their depths,
let them retreat in sudden confusion.

Gospel reading: Mark 1.32-34
That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were sick with diseases of one kind or another; he also drove out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.

Reading from the Church’s tradition
This is a simple exercise which can be done towards the end of each day. First, recall those moments of the day which you have enjoyed, relish them and thank God for them. These moments are God’s gift, signs of God’s self-giving to you.

Then pray for enlightenment, so that you can recognise God at work in you. Look first at your moods and feelings during the day, but without any judging or moralising. Then ask yourself, ‘What were the desires underlying my moods? Was it desire for my personal kingdom of wealth, status etc., or was it desire for God’s Kingdom of truth, justice, peace and compassion?’
Gerard W. Hughes, God of Compassion, p. 76

Concluding prayers (see below)


WEDNESDAY

Introductory prayer (see below0

Psalm 8
Yahweh our Lord,
how majestic is your name throughout the world!
Whoever keeps singing of your majesty higher than the heavens,
even through the mouths of children, or of babes in arms,
you make him a fortress, firm against your foes,
to subdue the enemy and the rebel.

I look up at your heavens, shaped by your fingers,
at the moon and the stars you set firm
what are human beings that you spare a thought for them,
or the child of Adam that you care for him?

Yet you have made him little less than a god,
you have crowned him with glory and beauty,
made him lord of the works of your hands,
put all things under his feet,

sheep and cattle, all of them,
and even the wild beasts,
birds in the sky, fish in the sea,
when he makes his way across the ocean.

Yahweh our Lord,
how majestic your name throughout the world!

Gospel reading: Matthew 7:7-11
‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks receives; everyone who searches finds; everyone who knocks will have the door opened. Is there anyone among you who would hand is son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish? If you, then, evil as you are, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!’

Reading from the Church’s tradition
Abandonment … that is what allows us to surrender to God. I am quite young, but it seems to me that I have really suffered at times. Oh, then, when everything was dark, when the present was so painful and the future seemed even more gloomy to me, I used to close my eyes and abandon myself like a child in the arms of this Father who is in Heaven.
Elizabeth of the Trinity, Letters from Carmel, Letter 129, p. 57

Concluding prayers (see below)


THURSDAY

Introductory prayer

Psalm 11

In Yahweh I have found refuge.
How can you say to me,
‘Bird, flee to your mountain?

‘For look, the wicked are drawing their bows,
fitting their arrows to the string
to shoot honest men from the shadows.

If the foundations fall to ruin,
what can the upright do?’
Yahweh in his holy temple!
Yahweh, his throne is in heaven;
his eyes watch over the world,
his gaze scrutinises the children of Adam.

Yahweh examines the upright and the wicked,
the lover of violence he detests.
He will rain down red-hot coals,
fire and sulphur on the wicked,
a scorching wind will be their lot.

For Yahweh is upright and loves uprightness,
the honest will ever see his face.

Gospel reading: John 3.19-21

‘And the judgement is this:
though the light has come into the world
people have preferred darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
to prevent his actions from being shown up;
but whoever does the truth
comes out into the light,
so that what he is doing may plainly appear as done in God.’

Reading from the Church’s tradition

Welcome one another, says the apostle, as Christ welcomed us, for the glory of God. A divided household cannot last and only a united community is capable of giving hospitality.
Each day and every instant of the day open your inmost heart to your brothers and sisters. Love them just as they are, not as you would wish them to be. What is the use of endless outside contacts, if at home there is no real acceptance of one another? Be humble always, gentle and patient. Be forbearing with one another and charitable. Open-heartedness in community will teach you how far you may open your doors to the outside world.
In the Heart of the City, In the Heart of God, p. 33

Concluding prayers (see below)


FRIDAY

Introductory prayer (see below)

Psalm 13
How long, Yahweh, will you forget me? For ever?
How long will you turn away your face from me?
How long must I nurse rebellion in my soul,
sorrow in my heart day and night?
How long is the enemy to domineer over me?
Look down, answer me, Yahweh my God!
Give light to my eyes or I shall fall into the sleep of death.

Or my foe will boast, ‘I have overpowered him,’
and my enemy have the joy of seeing me stumble.
As for me, I trust in your faithful love, Yahweh.
Let my heart delight in your saving help,
let me sing to Yahweh for his generosity to me,
let me sing to the name of Yahweh the Most High!

Gospel reading: Mark 10.17-22
He was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not give false witness; You shall not defraud;

Honour your father and mother’ And he said to him, `Master, I have kept all these since my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and he was filled with love for him, and he said, ‘You need to do one thing more. Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Reading from the Church’s tradition
For I know well the spring that flows and runs,
although it is night.
1. That eternal spring is hidden,
for I know well where it has its rise,
although it is night …
3. I know that nothing else is so beautiful,
and that the heavens and the earth drink there, although it is night …
5. Its clarity is never darkened,
and I know that every light has come from it, although it is night.
John of the Cross, ‘Song of the soul that rejoices in knowing God through faith’, pp. 58-9

Concluding prayers (see below)


SATURDAY

Introductory prayer (see below)

Psalm 16
Protect me, O God, in you is my refuge.

To Yahweh I say, ‘You are my Lord,
my happiness is in none of the sacred spirits of the earth.’

They only take advantage of all who love them.
People flock to their teeming idols.
Never shall I pour libations to them!
Never take their names on my lips.

My birthright, my cup is Yahweh;
you, you alone, hold my lot secure.
The measuring-line marks out for me a delightful place,
my birthright is all I could wish.

I bless Yahweh who is my counsellor,
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep Yahweh before me always,
for with him at my right hand, nothing can shake me.

So my heart rejoices, my soul delights,
my body too will rest secure,
for you will not abandon me to Sheol,

you cannot allow your faithful servant to see the abyss.
You will teach me the path of life,
unbounded joy in your presence,
at your right hand delight for ever.

Gospel reading: John 20.19-23

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and, after saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
`As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven;
if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.

Reading from the Church’s tradition
In this contemplation, as I have already written, we don’t do anything ourselves. Neither do we labor, nor do we bargain, nor is anything else necessary – because everything else is an impediment and hindrance – than to say fiat voluntas tua: Your will, Lord, be done in me in every way and manner that You, my Lord, want. If You want it to be done with trials, strengthen me and let them come; if with persecutions, illnesses, dishonors, and a lack of life’s necessities, here I am; I will not turn away, my Father, nor is it right that I turn my back on You. Since Your Son gave You this will of mine in the name of all, there’s no reason for any lack on my part. But grant me the favor of Your kingdom that I may do Your will, since He asked for this kingdom for me, and use me as You would Your own possession, in conformity with Your will.
Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, ch. 32, para. 10, pp. 163-4

Concluding prayers (see below)


SUNDAY

Introductory prayer (see below)

Psalm 18, vv. 28-34
Yahweh, you yourself are my lamp,
my God lights up my darkness;
with you I storm the rampart,
with my God I can scale any wall.

This God, his way is blameless;
the word of Yahweh is refined in the furnace,
for he alone is the shield
of all who take refuge in him.

For who is God but Yahweh,
who is a rock but our God?
This God who girds me with strength
who makes my way free from blame,

who makes me as swift as a deer
and sets me firmly on the heights,
who trains my hands for battle,
my arms to bend a bow of bronze.

Gospel reading: Luke 6.12-16

Now it happened in those days that he went onto the mountain to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

Reading from the Church’s tradition

Just as a torrent, throwing itself with impetuosity into the ocean, drags after it everything it encounters in its passage, in the same way, 0 Jesus, the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Your Love, draws with her all the treasures she possesses. Lord, You know it, I have no other treasures than the souls it has pleased You to unite to mine; it is You who entrusted these treasures to me, and so I dare to borrow the words You addressed to the heavenly Father, the last night which saw You on our earth as a traveler and a mortal. Jesus, I do not know when my exile will be ended; more than one night will still see me singing Your Mercies in his exile, but for me will finally come the last night, and then I want to be able to say to You, 0 my God:
‘I have glorified you on earth; I have finished the work you gave me to do. And now do you, Father, glorify me with yourself, with the glory I had with you before the world existed.’
Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, pp. 254-5

Concluding prayers (see below)


 

Introductory and Concluding Prayers

Introductory prayer

Verse: O God, come to our aid.
Response: O Lord, make haste to help us.

Remain in silence for a few minutes, pondering on the day and offering it to God

Lord, I offer myself to you this evening, placing all the events of the day before you, good and bad, easy and difficult. Help me to place everything in your arms, at the foot of your cross. Amen.


Concluding prayers

After the reading from the Church’s tradition, take a moment to pray silently for your own and others’ needs, and to just be in God’s presence

Nunc Dimittis
Antiphon: Save us, Lord, while we are awake; protect us while we sleep; that we may keep watch with Christ and rest with him in peace.

At last, all-powerful Master,
you give leave to your servant
to go in peace, according to your promise.
For my eyes have seen your salvation
Which you have prepared for all nations,
the light to enlighten the Gentiles
and give glory to Israel, your people.
Repeat antiphon

Lord, as I prepare myself for sleep, come to me and watch over me this night and every night. Keep me safe until morning, when I shall rise ready to face the new day. Amen.

Blessing
The Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.
Response: Amen.

Salve Regina
Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy,
our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To you do we cry,
poor, banished children of Eve.
To you do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
your eyes of mercy toward use,
and after this exile
show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae;
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Hevae,
ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte
et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exilium ostende.
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.

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