Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit…
Every night Compline, the last of the” hours » of the Divine Office of the Church, we repeat these words of Jesus on the cross. His seventh and final “word” is actually Jesus quoting Psalm 31, a psalm that can easily be read as a prayer of the suffering redeemer.
While the first six verses of the psalm are prayed every Wednesday at Compline, we pray the fifth verse every night as the responsorial following the reading. Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit…
It is repeated three times, in a Trinitarian fashion, commending our soul to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I had always thought of this prayer in terms of death, given that it was the last word of Jesus from the cross. And that’s not an incorrect impulse. Compline is seen as a meditation on and preparation for death. Sleep is like death, a surrender of one’s consciousness, as we break from the experience and knowledge of what is going on around us. The prayers of Compline, then, are time of a little memento mori. The prayers are ripe with reminders. We examine our conscience, we pray the Canticle of Simeon, and we close with the request, “May the Lord grant us a peaceful night and a peaceful death.”
Most of the time when I repetitively pray those words of Psalm 31, they are a bit like an adult version of the child’s prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…”
Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit….
Recently, however, I have experienced things in my life that have required great trust. Those words, then, have become more real, more tangible. And perhaps a bit harder.
Lord, I don’t just commend my spirit to you someday in the future. I don’t just give you my soul on my death bed, when it’s time to go to heaven.
No, I give it every day. Vulnerable. In trust. I give it, not knowing what lies ahead. I do not know what’s ahead, but I have to trust that he is here. Even when I can’t feel him. Even when I don’t have answers. I give it all, in trust.
Do I really commend my spirit to the Lord?
Or do I only do it when it’s easy? Do I only surrender control when I can see what lies ahead, or when life is comfortable? Are those words only for the future, at the very end, when I want to go to heaven? What about today? Do I commend my spirit to him? Do I trust?
… Even if I’m on the cross?