The Church of England have a great little prayer at the end of Evening Prayer, or Compline, that I remember listening to as a teenager each Sunday. I have to come clean here and say that as a teenager, my listening channel of choice was BBC Radio Four. I love voices, and listening to interesting programmes on a wide variety of things. Radio 4 introduced me to radio drama, to many classics and to comedy of the word, rather than visual comedy. Slapstick humour doesn’t work so well on the radio.
And every Sunday Evening, at around 11.45pm, they broadcast Evening Prayer, Book of Common Prayer version. It was old, archaic, traditional even to the point of using Compline as the name. In a modern world it was an anomaly, a link back to the first monasteries where prayers were said strictly in pattern, strictly by timetable, strictly as rituals. Compline was so named because it was the completion of the day’s work and prayer: it was the final act of the monastery and the people within. It was, if you like, the seal on the envelope of that day that set all the worries, cares and concerns to one side and let the people within settle into silence and the peace of the night. And my favourite prayer of all they said was the Collect. It goes (because it’s still spoken by many as a prayer today) thus:
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.1549 Anglican Book of Common Prayer
That setting aside of the daily toil, that placing of trust in protection from all worries, that request for peace in sleep…. well, I know the monks were praying to their God at a time when life was seen as inextricably linked to faith and religion and lives were ruled by Holy Days and Obligations… but the ability to lay all aside and ask for a light in the darkness is surely one we could all do with now?
King George VI, in his 1939 Christmas broadcast, echoed the idea of putting faith in something else to lighten our darkness and lead the way safely when he quoted from Minnie Louise Haskins poem, God Knows. He chose, three months into the Second World War, to tell his subjects to put faith in the unknown to guard them against the darkness. I know that there are people of all faiths, and none, who read this blog. I’m not saying that you need a faith in God to lighten the darkness… but you need a faith in something to hold your hand and keep you safe in the darkest hours.
Who do you place your trust in? It could be God, or another deity or pantheon of Deities. It could be a person who you trust to give you hope or love when you need it most. It could be a concept, like freedom or free will, compassion or a trust in humanity to basically be good.
It could be that the Universe holds your faith, and repays your belief in abundance with rewards. It could be as basic as you trust your dog, your cat or your budgerigar to always be there, or at least to be there for this year when we all, goodness knows, need to see light in the darkest night. It could be you have that rarest of all things: faith in yourself, and your ability (strengthened by whatever you know you have inside you) to cope. Lighten our darkness for you could be as simple as telling yourself to sleep free from worries and concerns, ready to start again the next day. However you do that. For some people it’s a matter of they fall asleep easily and always have, for others a sleep routine or ritual might work. For others still, perhaps medical or psychological aid is necessary.
Whatever stage of freedom from worries at nightime you’re at, there is always a chance that you can be the Light in the Darkness for another person. That your deeds, words, actions can be their hope ahead. We are never just one thing or the other, victim or rescuer. The weakest victim has something to give to others, the strongest person needs to bend and let others help at times. Knowing when to ask for the light… when to place your hand in the hand of your Guide and walk with faith…. well, that’s wisdom. And I can’t teach you that. Life and experience teaches you that.
And as 2020 draws to a close and we approach the darkest nights, the shortest days and the strangest year’s end I’ve experienced, maybe we need to reach out to someone or something greater than we and ask it “Lighten our darkness… and protect us from all perils and dangers” as we place our hand in their hand and move on to another unknown and unknowable year ahead.
Daily Reading: Prayer, for the non-religious. We all pray sometimes, whoever we end up praying to. This short article sets out three reasons why prayer is part of human nature, and what it does for us. Godless prayer? If it needs to be.
Daily Book: The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery. A new children’s book that reads like an old classic. Set during the Second World War it’s a fantasy about the battle between Light and Dark and has a hero, Colin, who needs to put his hands and his faith in with his magical Guardians, the toys that watched over him when he was little. It’s about trust, faith, protecting each other and how love grows between friends. It’s aimed at 8 to 12 year olds, but I’m 52 and devoured it with pleasure. Seriously, it’s like Narnia crossed with Box of Delights crossed with The Dark is Rising. If I were a TV producer, I’d be grabbing this ready for next Christmas. Did I mention it was also set at Christmas?
Self Care Act of the Day: Find an evening prayer that works for you. It could be the Evening Collect just as it is, with a little adaptation, or it could be a prayer you write yourself to whoever/whichever/whatever makes you feel comfortable. A mantra to say at night to wrap yourself in a cloud of cared-for, looked-after love. If you’re a self-love person, then something like “I am strong, capable and I know I am safe throughout the night” could work. Make it the last thing you think at night. The seal on the day’s envelope. Security, deep in your heart.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted or bought by me with my everyday wages.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
A Self Care Christmas: A short ebook on keeping Christmas simple and making sure it doesn’t overwhelm.
Celebrating a Contagious Christmas: Available in ebook and paperback, it’s about making this year a festival of Hope.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little rhings in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, however we get to celebrate it this year, and a Happy, Healthy and Simple New Year.