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The term Compline is a derivation of the Latin word completorium, designating the last (completing) Hour of the Daily Office, or times during the day when a religious community joined in prayer. Although Saint Basil mentions an hour between Vespers and the night Office in the fourth century, Compline is generally ascribed to St. Benedict, in the beginning of the sixth century as found in his Rule.
Compline consists of several parts, the beginning or introduction, the psalmody, with its usual accompaniment of anthems, the hymn, the capitulum, the response, the evangelical canticle, the prayer, and the benediction. St. Benedict decided that this Hour should consist of three psalms (4, 90, and 133) to be said without anthems, the hymn, the lesson, the versicle Kyrie eleison, the benediction, and the dismissal.
The Roman Office of Compline is more complicated by the insertion of a fourth psalm (30), In te Domine speravi and the confession and absolution of faults. The greater solemnity achieved by addition of the response, In manus tuas, Domine, with the evangelical canticle Nunc Dimittis and its anthem.
The English form follows the Roman quite closely and incorporates all of their elements and chant tones. Also, as in the Roman Office, liturgical variety allows inclusion of initium noctis as found in the Celtic Liturgy in the Bangor Antiphonary.
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