This week I read morning prayer live on Facebook for the first time. It was a very weird experience (and not without its technical difficulties) but I am glad to have done it. The daily office is something that I first came to appreciate living in community at a Franciscan friary in Dorset. The services punctuated the work day with prayerful pauses allowing us a different perspective on the day’s tasks. Perhaps my favourite prayer time of the day however was and still is Compline (a word from the Latin, ‘to fill up’, or complete). Psalms and canticles were sung in a dimly lit night-time chapel before the brothers retired to silence until after breakfast the following morning. It is now the prayer that I sing for my children as they fall asleep.
“Abide with us, Lord Jesus,
For the night is at hand and the day is now past.
As the night-watch looks for the morning,
So do we look for you, O Christ.
Come with the dawning of the day
And make yourself known
in the breaking of the bread.”
Night Prayer, Celebrating Common Prayer, Daily Office SSF
Today’s Gospel reading taken from Luke chapter 24 inspires the above prayer responses from the Compline service. The account of the two travellers on the road to Emmaus takes place towards the evening. Cleopas and his friend, traumatised by the life-changing events of the crucifixion, are grieving, in shock. Tired and dumbstruck they search for solace in a stranger they meet on the road.
Night-time can be dark and frightening. It is usually the time that disturbing and wild thoughts surface. The two men have lost hope, you get the sense that they feel defeated. But the whole time Jesus is hidden in plain sight beside them, spelling out his victory. And then, as the stranger is making to leave, the men are moved to ask him to stay.
“Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent” (Luke 24:29)
Today we see on the news images of tired, struggling key workers slumped on the floor after long shifts. People who are ill and in need of a hand to hold as they suffer. Just as Cleopas and his friend were struggling to make sense of chaotic events, as are many of us today, beside us walks Jesus just waiting to be recognised. Waiting to be asked to stay.
Ask Jesus to stay with you, in the dark times and confusion, and in moments of joy and revelation. As you settle into his company, may he make himself known in ways you could not comprehend.
- You may tonight wish to try out the compline service. The link to tonight’s prayer is here.
- Below also is a meditative prayer response to today’s Gospel taken from the ‘Youcat Youth Prayer Book’
On the Road to Emmaus
My eyes are locked in, my memory trapped and in chains,
imprisoned in the horror experienced like the loop of a recurring film.
My hopes are utterly dashed, my faith disillusioned.
My love has been fooled and shamed.
Crucified and derided and even its body has been stolen.
Behind me, my Jerusalem. I look back to the town in frozen horror.
Before me, an Emmaus with some lodgings somewhere
on the way to nowhere.
Tell me, unknown traveller what really happened there?
And who was it that I believed in?
Help me, mysterious teacher,
Unlock my frozen gaze and open up the door of my imprisoned memory.
Stay with me, strange friend for evening is near
And my day is almost done-
Unless you break the Bread for me,
And open my eyes to recognise you.