March 11, 2022

The Value of the Compline Prayer to the Theotokos

 By Metropolitan Chrysostomos III of Mani

The Prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos, which we read and chant during Small and Great Compline, and was written by the scholar Venerable Paul, the founder and builder of the Sacred Monastery of the Theotokos the Evergetidos in Constantinople in the eleventh century, has great value and importance for its spiritual content.

It consists of five parts. The first is about the Most Holy Theotokos. The second contains the awareness of the sinfulness of the praying believer. The third refers the Prayer to the Panagia, while the fourth is about the situations of human life, and the fifth closes the Prayer, referring to the Panagia's mediation to Christ, her Only Begotten Son.

The first part, which is about the Most Holy Theotokos, contains six wonderful epithets for the Panagia. It calls her, as she is: "Spotless, undefiled, unstained, immaculate, pure virgin, Lady Bride of God." We thus have here an invocation of the exceptional properties of the Panagia. She is the Panagia who, with the incarnation of the Son and Word of God in her womb united, reconciled God once again with human nature, which had distanced itself from that which is heavenly due to its fall into sin. The Panagia, therefore, becomes the only hope of those who are desperate, the help of those who receive spiritual warfare from the devil, for which she is the immediate support and protection of all Christians who hasten to her and take refuge in her.

For this reason, the praying believer, in the second part, asks not to be considered by the Panagia as a disgrace. Therefore, the believer feels, saying this Prayer, that he is a sinner, infected with a variety of sins, by shameful thoughts and words and deeds that have humiliated his being and that has reduced him into a slave with the idleness of life and captivity to the pleasures of the flesh. This constitutes self-knowledge, which is the "know thyself", and is a very important act for spiritual life, training and progress.

The believer comes, therefore, and entreats with sacred awe and devotion, and the awareness of his own sinfulness, and says to the Panagia in the third part of the Prayer: "But as the Mother of God who loves all people, mercifully have compassion upon me a sinner and a prodigal and receive my prayer though it be offered to you by unclean lips. Entreat your Son and our Lord and Master, using your boldness as a mother, so that he may open to me the loving mercy of his goodness, overlook my numberless transgressions, turn me to repentance, and make me an acceptable doer of his commandments."

There follows the fourth section, where the believers says to the Most Holy Theotokos: "Be my ardent help and protection in this present life, defending me from the assaults of adversaries, and lead me to salvation. At the hour of my death, care for my miserable soul and drive the dark faces of evil spirits far from it. On the awesome day of judgment, save me from eternal punishment and make me an inheritor of the ineffable glory of your Son, our God." It is characteristic that in the Prayer there is talk of the struggle of the soul against the demons, but also of the existence of hell and paradise, which awaits us in accordance to our life in this vain world. This part is indeed related to our whole existence, the present, the end of the present life and the final judgment in heaven by the Righteous Judge and Lord.

The Prayer ends again with the fervent supplication, that the Most Holy Theotokos will help and mediate for us to attain incorruptible eternal glory close to God. This can be achieved only with the grace and philanthropy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom belongs "all glory, honor and worship."

This is, therefore, a moving Prayer. On the whole it is wonderful. It is realistic and theological. It hides fundamental truths of faith. It interprets man and his spiritual struggle. Gives support and comfort. It contains many lessons from any deviations from our Christian orientation, and while on the one hand it does not escape from the earthly reality, on the other hand, it guides us in spiritual ascents, in the opening of heaven which to the right of the throne of God is our Panagia. And we should know the Most Holy Theotokos, who is full of grace, great with grace, our all-pure Mother, gives us her ear. She hears the aching soul. She sees each of us and prays to her Son.

This Prayer, then, warms our soul with love for the Panagia, brings us to our knees, raising our hands and bringing tears to our eyes. As far as services are concerned, is not Compline the most peaceful and calm, done at the end of the day, and through this beautiful Prayer we are brought into the sweet presence of the Mother of our Lord?

: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.