From the Compline Service to our Guardian Angel

«Ἅγιε Ἄγγελε, ὁ ἐφεστὼς τῆς ἀθλίας μου ψυχῆς καὶ ταλαιπώρου μου ζωῆς…»

“Holy Angel, overseer of my wretched soul and miserable life…”


In the daily cycle of prayers in the Orthodox Church, there exist the services of the Great and Small Compline (απόδειπνο), which are performed after the evening meal and before the nightly sleep. The Great Compline (Μέγα Απόδειπνο) is usually performed in our Churches during the weekdays of Great Lent. The Small Compline can be performed in Church with a priest, however its structure lends itself to being performed as part of personal prayer in one’s home or in one’s own cell in monastic practice.

Just before the conclusion of the service, a personal prayer to our Guardian Angel is read. This begins: “Holy Angel, overseer of my wretched soul and miserable life…” The prayer is written as a plea, largely penitent in tone and reveals the following truths about our relationship with our guardian angel. Firstly, our guardian angels provide great protection against demonic temptations and attacks. St John Chrysostom in his sermon on the Synaxis of the Holy Archangels states: “The Angels are honoured, for they are our allies against the opposing foes that war against us.”

Angels are Holy beings in Orthodox understanding, immaterial creations of God endowed with free will. However as Saint Basil explains in his treatise on the Holy Spirit: “their sanctification, being external to their substance, causes their perfection through the communion of the Spirit. They keep their rank by their abiding in the good and true, and while they retain their freedom of will, never fall away from their patient attendance on Him who is truly good.”

The Angels can strengthen us, as the prayer states, in our fear of God, because they utilize their will to stay firmly obedient and attached to the will of God. This fear is not to be scared of God Himself, but to be fearful of being sinful in the eyes of God. Our Guardian Angel not only protects us from the Devil, he also bears witness to our whole life, our birth, our rebirth through Baptism, the rises and falls of our spiritual life and eventually the separation of soul and body in death.


Source: Lychnos October / November 2016