MATINS, the night Office of the Church, is originally of monastic institution, and was a private devotion in preparation for the early morning Office of Lauds. During this solemn hour we may think of some of the events connected with this time. The Annunciation, the Birth of our Lord ; His Own frequent prayers on the hill-tops of Judea; St. Peter's denial and repentance; our Lord in the tomb; the desolation of our Lady; the coming to judgment like a thief in the night [1 Thess. v. 2.] ; the cry at midnight: Lo, the Bridegroom cometh [Matt. xxv. 6.], and other such thoughts.
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.
(1) After having united ourself to our Lord's intention, the Church sets before us, as the most perfect model of the union which can exist between the Creator and the Creature, Mary, the Mother of God made man. The Church seems to say to us, with St. Ambrose [Migne, P. L. vol. xv., p. 156.]: " May there be in every one the spirit of Mary, that he may magnify the Lord." And what this spirit was the Gospel tells us in these words : But His Mother kept all these words in her heart [Luke ii. 51.].
(2) Hail Mary. —The pious author of the Myroure thus discourses on the Hail Mary : " The salutation is taken from the gospel of the greeting of the angel Gabriel and of Elizabeth ; and it was the beginning of our health. And therefore this word Ave spelt backwards is Eva ; for like as Eve's talking with the fiend was the beginning of perdition, so our Lady's talking with the angel, when he greeted her with this Ave, was the entrance of our redemption. And so Eva is turned Ave ; for our sorrow is turned into joy by means of our Lady. For Eva is as much [as] to say as ' Woe'; and Ave is as much [as] to say as' Joy,' or without woe. Therefore meekly and reverently thanking this glorious Queen of Heaven and Mother of our Saviour for our deliverance, say we devoutly to her : Ave Maria, Hail Mary. Mary is as much as to say ' Star of the Sea’ or ' enlightened,' or ' Lady.' For all that are here in the sea of bitterness by penance for their sins, she leadeth to the haven of health. Them that are rightful she enlighteneth by [the] increasing of grace. And she showeth herself ' Lady' and Empress of power above all evil spirits in helping us against them both in our life and in our death. Therefore we ought often and in all our needs call busily upon this reverend name, Mary" [Pp. 77, 78.].
(3) Full of Grace. —" Divers saints had divers gifts of grace, but never creature had the fulness of all graces but our Lady alone. For she was filled in body and in soul with the Lord and Giver of all graces." [Myroure, p. 79.] From the first moment of her being she was prevented and so girt about with grace that original sin could find no place. The Lord possessed me from the beginning of His ways [Prov. viii. 22.]. The garden enclosed, the spring shut up, the fountain sealed, that Solomon sings of, and likens his beloved to [Cant. iv. 12.], are types of our Lady's soul; and the grace within her was ever welling up in its fulness. The Psalmist refers to her in these words : In the Sun He hath set His tabernacle [Ps. xix. 4.] ; for more glorious than many suns, was the soul of her who for nine months was the living tabernacle of God, and was adorned with the fulness of grace which was possible to any creature.
(4) The Lord is with thee. —" For with her He was in her heart by excellence of grace, and in her reverend womb [by] taking there a body of our kind" [Myroure, p. 79.]. These words were also used by the angel who appeared to Gideon when he was threshing wheat by the vine-press to hide it from the Midianites : The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour [Judges vi. 12.]. They were also the greeting which Boaz gave to his reapers: The Lord [be] with you [Ruth ii. 4.] ; and they are enshrined in the Mass and Office in the oft-repeated words Do minus vobiscum.
(5) Blessed [art] thou amongst women. —" For by thee both men and women are restored to bliss everlasting" [Myroure, p. 29.]. Other women in Scripture have had these words applied to them : Blessed above women shall Jael be [Judges v. 24.], sings the inspired prophetess, Debora, of Heber's wife, who with her hammer smote Sisera, the foe of Israel [Ibid. iv. 21.] ; and Ozias, the high priest, in like manner addresseth Judith after her triumph over Holophernes: Oh, daughter, blessed art thou of the most high God above all the women upon the earth [Judith xiii. 18.]. These were types of our Lady. The words were said to Blessed Mary first by the angel at the Annunciation [Luke i. 28.], and were repeated at the Visitation by St. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Ghost [Ibid. 42.], showing us that her blessedness is far above that of other women who were declared so only by their fellow-men. Our Lady receives the testimony not only of man, but of an angel sent by God [Ibid. 26.].
(6) And blessed be the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. —"Blessed be the womb, and blessed the fruit thereof, which is life and good to angels in heaven and to men on earth ; that is, Jesus, that is to say, Saviour. For He hath saved us from sin and from hell; He saveth us daily from the malice of the fiend, and from perils, and He hath opened to us the way of endless salvation. Therefore, endlessly be that sweet fruit blessed "[Myroure, ibid.].
(7) Jesus. —This, like the name " Mary," is an addition to the words of Scripture, linking in one salutation the two names.
(8) Holy Mary, Mother of God. —These words are of Ecclesiastical origin and should be very dear to us ; for they proclaim that privilege for which all her graces were designed—the Divine Maternity. When Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, taught that there were two persons in Jesus Christ, and that therefore Mary should not be called the Mother of God, the Council of Ephesus , held under St. Cyril of Alexandria, representative of Pope Celestine, declared the true doctrine of the Incarnation and that Mary, by rightful title, was to be called " Mother of God." These words are, therefore, an act of faith in the Incarnation ; for the Mother is ever the guardian of the Child:— And they found the Child with Mary His Mother [Matt. ii. 11.].
The remainder of the prayer is a natural act of the heart, and was formulated about the sixteenth century. The Franciscans, in 1515, seem to have been the first to add them to the Breviary.
Oh, Lord open Thou my lips.
And my mouth shall show forth Thy praise.
O Lord, incline to my aid
O Lord make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, and now, and always; and in ages of ages.
Alleluia (or), Praise to Thee O Lord, King of eternal glory.
(1) 0 Lord open thou my lips are words taken from the great Psalm of penitence, the Miserere. " This verse is only said at Matins, and is the beginning of God's service, in token that the first opening of your lips or mouth should be to the praising of God ; and all the day after they should abide open and ready for the same and be so occupied and filled therewith that nothing contrary to His praising might enter us" [Myroure, pp. 8l, 82.]. The sign of the Cross is here made on our lips, to consecrate them to the service of Him Who was crucified. It reminds us, too, of that fiery coal which purified the lips of Isaias in the vision, the year King Uzzias died : Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the Voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us ? Then said I: Here am I; send me [Isaias vi. 5-8.]. The prophet gained courage after his purification ; so do we when the love of God, known to us by the Cross, touches our heart and kindles the fire within us.
(2) Lord incline to my aid are words from Psalm Ixix. i. " As we cannot do anything well any time of the day without His help, as He says Himself in His gospel : Without Me you may do right nought [John. xv. 5.], therefore both at Matins and at the beginning of each hour you ask His help and say : God take heed unto my help. And forasmuch as he that is doing of a thing and cannot bring it about hath need of hasty help, therefore feeling your need you pray our Lord to haste Him and say : Lord haste Thee to help me. And take heed that all this verse, both that part that is said by one alone and that that is answered by all together, is said in the singular number, as when you say 'mine' or 'me,' and not 'our' and 'us,' in token that you begin your praising and prayer in the person of Holy Church, which is one and not many. For though there be many members of Holy Church as there are many Christian men and women, yet they make but one body, that is, Holy Church, whereof Christ is the Head. And because that prayer that is said in the person and unity of Holy Church is never left unsped; therefore, trusting that our Lord hath heard your prayer and is come to help you, you begin all together, lowly inclining, to praise the Blessed Trinity, and say : Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. One glory to all Three. For the Three Persons are one God. This word 'Glory' is no common English, and therefore you shall understand that 'glory' is called a good fame spoken of with praising. Therefore when you bid ' glory' to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, you ask and desire that the Blessed Trinity should always be praised and thanked, and worshipped, for His endless goodness that is in Himself, and for all the benefits that He hath done and shall do to His creatures, both in making of creatures in the beginning and continually keeping of them in their being, and in the perfect end He shall bring all things to ; and, therefore, you add to, and say : As it was in the beginning, and now, and always, and without end " [Myroure, pp. 81, 82.].
(3) Alleluia. —"And you shall not in praising delight you in [the] melody of the song nor of the notes, nor in your own voices ; but all your joy and delight must set only in God; therefore anon after Gloria Patri you say Alleluia [Alleluia is a word supposed to be of Hebrew origin. It is one of those terms which cannot be translated. It is a cry of joy, admiration, and triumph, and is equivalent to Praise the Lord, Some writers have looked upon it as a word escaped from heaven : as in the hymn Alleluia dulce carmen, sung in former days on the Saturday before Septuagesima, when Alleluia ceases until Easter.] which is a word of joy and praising; and especially it betokeneth that unspeakable joy that is in heaven endlessly in praising and lauding of God. Therefore praising our Lord with such ghostly joy as you can have in Him here and desiring to praise Him in everlasting joy, you say Alleluia. Doctors say
“Alleluia, song of sweetness,
Voice of joy that cannot die ;
Alleluia is the anthem Ever dear to choirs on high ;
In the house of God abiding
Thus they sing eternally."
that Alleluia is as much to say as 'Praise God,' or 'The Praising of God’ or ' Lord make me safe,' or ' Sing praising to God,' or 'Father and Son and Holy Ghost,' or 'Light, Life, and Health.' But because it is a word of joy therefore in times of penance, that is from Septuagesima till Easter, it is left, and instead thereof you say: Laus Tibi Domine, Rex aeternae gloriae , that is, Lord, praising be to Thee, King of endless bliss. For though penance doing be praising to God, yet it is done in sorrow of heart and sharpness of body, and not in gladness and joy, namely, for sinful people. And therefore, in time of penance we say Laus Tibi not in joy, but in praising of God, and not Alleluia, which is a word both of praising and joy " [Myroure, pp. 82, 83.].
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907