- The Little Office
- 1 Mirror of Justice
- 2 The Saviour
- 3 The First Years
- 4 In The Temple
- 5 Nazareth
- 6 The Annunciation
- 7 The Visitation
- 8 The Magnificat
- 9 The Benedictus
- 10 Christmas
- 11 The Magi
- 12 At The Manger
- 13 Nunc Dimittis
- 14 The Presentation
- 15 Flight into Egypt
- 16 The Holy Innocents
- 17 Life at Nazareth
- 18 Jesus in the Temple
- 19 Jesus at labour
- 20 Death of St. Joseph
- 21 Baptism Of Jesus
- 22 Jesus In The Desert
- 23 Calling The Apostles
- 24 Marriage at Cana
- 25 Silence Of The Gospel
- 26 Start Of The Passion
- 27 Foot Of The Cross
- 28 Jesus Laid In The Tomb
- 29 Resurrection
- 30 Ascension, Pentecost
- 31 The Assumption
The Little Office Of Our Lady – At Matins, Or Night Song, pt 3, by E. L. Taunton.
For Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus, Blessed art thou amongst women,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui. and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
The following psalm being concerned with the wonders of creation, the Antiphon directs our mind to Our Lady as the choicest and most perfect creature of God. For if man be made a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honour, how much more honourable and glorious is She whose Office and holiness is far above that of the highest Angel ? For which one of them could say to their God as She could say : Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee ? [Heb. i. 5.].
PSALM VIII Title —To the end : for the wine-presses, a psalm of David.
Tomasi. That Christ, the Son of Man, was made in His Passion a little lower than the angels. The voice of the ancient Church speaking of Christ and of faith. Also of the Ascension of our Saviour and of the infants that glorified Him and that said Hosanna in the Highest! The voice of the Church giving praise to Christ for the faith of all creatures.
Venerable Bede. For the wine-presses ; that is, a vintage song of thanksgiving. As in the wine-press when the grapes are bruised and the hardest pips crushed the sweetest wine pours forth, so when obstinacy and pride are crushed in the Church the sweetest tears of penance are beautifully expressed. The Church, true wine-press, at the commencement of the Psalm sings the praises of her Lord God, setting forth His majesty and the greatness of His operations. Then she speaketh more plainly of the nature of man which, from the
low and depraved condition whereto Adam's fall had reduced it, He raised to the height of glory ; and the one Person of Christ in its two distinct and inconfused Natures is unhesitatingly acknowledged.
(1) O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is Thy Name in all the world.
O Lord, our Lord. God's name is twice repeated ; for He is twice our Lord, in that He made us and in that He redeemed us. He is our Lord also through our knowledge and love of Him. We also are His servants ; by the special claim He has to our life, by our holy vocation ; therefore His interests are in a special sense ours. Again, our Lord naturally suggests Him Who by mortal birth is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh [Gen. ii. 23.] ; our Elder Brother, Who has shown to us the infinite tenderness and love of the Father.
How admirable is Thy name : The name of God implying perfection, all beauty, all riches, all power, all wisdom, and implying also that sweetest of all relations, taught to us by our Lord Himself, the Divine Fatherhood. But the name of our Lord is still more admirable ; for it is the Name of Jesus, name above all other names at which every knee shall bow [Phil. ii. 10.] ; the name which is the joy of the faithful and the true revelation of the Father.
In all the world, not in Judea alone, says Cassiodorus, seeing that in the fulness of the time the Gentiles were also to be added to the Church. And that Name when set up as a title over the Cross was written in three languages, as a sign that hereafter it should be preached, and should be worshipped by every tongue and nation.
(2) For Thy magnificence is lifted up above the heavens.
Commentators take this for the most part literally of the Ascension according to the words of St. Paul : Who descended, He it is also Who ascended above all the heavens that He might fill all things [Eph. iv. 10.] ; for then Christ, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, sent the Holy Ghost and charged His Apostles to speak salvation in His Name as the only means of reaching heaven, and that He was constituted Judge of the living and the dead [Acts x. 42.]. Others, and especially the Angelic doctor, see here implied the infinite distance between Christ Who is the power of God and the wisdom of God [I Cor. i. 24.], and the very highest of the saints ; not only the Apostles or the angels, but even Her who bare Him, Her whom Christian singers delight in styling the " new heaven." Father Lorin takes these words as implying that the magnificence of glory of God is far beyond what we can gather from the Scriptures, which tell us of the mysteries of heaven, or from those wonderful manifestations of His power and wisdom, the seven sacraments.
(3) Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou has perfected praise because of Thine enemies, that Thou mightest destroy the enemy and the avenger.
Literally, the Holy Innocents who thus glorified Christ by their death, and they that cried Hosanna by their acclamations, as He Himself hath taught us [Matt. xxi. 16.]. Spiritually, the weaker members of the Church of whom the Apostle writes : I have fed you with milk and not with strong meat [I Cor. iii. 2.]. And again, those who had the innocence and simplicity of babes; as the first-born of the Church, the Apostles, who, taught by their Lord to speak, fed by Him like new-born babes with the sincere milk of the word [I Peter ii. 2.], and called by Him His children [John xxi. 5.]. So the Carmelite Angriani and Perez. Also we may understand it of all religious souls who, in simplicity and innocence, look to God alone and receive from Him their meat in due season, the food of their souls, by the teaching of the Holy Ghost ever whispering to their conscience.
Because of thine enemies —for their conversion ; or, if they will not turn, from their destruction, as it is written : The arrows of the little ones are made their wounds [Ps. Ixiii. 8.].
That Thou mightest destroy the enemy: for God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the wise. Note ; He chooses this sign rather than any other for the greater confusion of the Jews.
Avenger: Not only tyrants and unbelieving nations whom God has at various times raised up to chastise a sinful people, but the evil spirit himself who is only an instrument in his Creator's hands, and whose power, like those other avengers, will be destroyed when the good designed to be done through them is accomplished.
(4) For I see Thy heavens, the works of Thy fingers : the moon, and the stars, which Thou hast established.
Thy heavens, the works of Thy fingers: The whole course of events under God's Providence, Who has declared that all things should work together for good to them that love Him [Rom. viii. 28.]. Thy fingers, not hands, because, as St. John Chrysostom says, this is but a small thing for God's omnipotence.
The moon, that is, the Church, which is constantly renewed and receives all her light from the true Sun. The stars, the saints of God, as it is written : They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever [Dan. xii. 3]. Note: He mentions not the sun, because the Sun of Righteousness [Malachi iv. 4.] was begotten not made. Thus St. Ambrose. Again, the moon, says Jorgius [Jorgius, better known as Thomas of Wales, a Dominican, made Cardinal by Clement V. in 1305. Among many other works he wrote a Commentary on the Psalms, published in 1611 (p. 80).], Confessor of Edward I., denotes our ever dear and blessed Lady ; and that for various reasons : As the moon draws all its brightness from the sun, and yet it is the most luminous object next to him, so Mary, made full of grace by Him whose countenance is as the sun shining in his strength [Apoc. i. 16.], is the brightest of all the saints. And yet, as the moon is nearest to the earth, so our Lady is the lowliest of all in her humility. As the moon rules the tides, so Mary by her prayers helps those who are tossed on the bitter surges of the world.
And as Easter, the festival of the Resurrection, follows the course of the moon, so the spiritual arising of the Man by the Incarnation followed the consent of Mary's will to the message of the Angel. The choirs of angels which are her fellows [Ps. xliv. 15.] and bear her company, are rightly compared to the stars ; only less than the moon in glory and beauty.
(5) What is Man that Thou art mindful of him or the Son of Man that Thou visitest him ?
When, therefore, the prophet considers all the things tending to man's salvation, the Providence whereby all events work together for his good, the Church given him as a mother, the saints as examples and friends, his thoughts are naturally carried back to the one source of all, which is the Incarnation. What is Man ? The Psalmist answers in another place, Every man is but vanity [Ps. xxxix. 12. ] ; and again, All men are liars [Ps. cxvii. 10.]. Man : taken absolutely, as a sinner : the Son of Man, those who are endeavouring to keep the law of God. Thus St. Augustine. Also the Son of Man, our Lord's own description of Himself. In this sense the term is to be understood of His headship over the mystical Body.
Visitest the Incarnation, was God visiting His people, as it is written : Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people [Luke i. 68.]. And again, Thou visitest the earth and blessest it [Ps. Ixv. 9].
(6) Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, with glory and honour hast Thou crowned him: and Thou hast set him above all the works of Thy hand.
The Carmelite says : For as much as Christ went not up unto joy, but first suffered pain, so here we see Him in His low estate first, and then in His glory; for the humility of His Passion was the merit of His exaltation.
Lower than the angels, in that He condescends to become mortal and passible. A little lower. And what marvel, then, of speaking in respect of His humanity, He saith : My Father is greater than I ! [John xiv. 28.]
With glory, as respects Himself; with worship, in reference to others. Thus St. Basil. Again, a little lower, for it was but for a short time— a little, because He was mortal and passible of His own free will, and not like us, of necessity. Glory, in the victory of the Resurrection ; honour, on the throne of the Ascension. And note, as Albert the Great says, Christ is said to have many crowns [Apoc. xix. 12.], of which the chief are : the Crown of Mercy, wherewith He was crowned in the Incarnation and Nativity; the Crown of Sorrow, when the thorny diadem of the passion was given Him ; that of Glory in the Resurrection and Ascension ; and that of Dominion, which He will receive when the Court of the Redeemed gathers around Him. Over the works of Thy hands ; and therefore over those angels than whom for a season He was made a little lower.
(7) All things Thou hast put beneath His feet, sheep and all oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field.
All things Thou hast put beneath His feet. Let the Apostle interpret : In that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him [Heb. ii. 8.]. But when He saith all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted Who did put all things under Him [I Cor. xv. 27.]. Note in these three verses of the Psalm we have the four living creatures of the Apocalypse [Apoc. iv. 7.] (for these may denote the four parts of Christ's work of mercy), as well as the four evangelists. What is man ? Here we have the face of a man. Thou hast made Him a little lower than the angels, there the ox, the animal fit for sacrifice; Thou hast crowned Him with glory and honour, there the victorious lion ; Thou hast put all things under His feet, there the eagle that soars above everything else. So Rupertus [Ven. Abbat Rupertus, O.S.B., of Deutz, died in 1135. His Commentary on the Apocalypse is printed in Migne, P. L., vol. clxix. (See p. 912).].
Beneath His feet. As the head of Christ is His Divinity, so His feet are His manhood ; and to Him, as Man, is given the empire, which, as God, was always His, Who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature . . . that in all things He might have the headship [Col. i. 15-18.].
Sheep : By these we understand those whose business in Christ's Church is not to teach but to learn : My sheep hear My voice [John x. 27.].
And all oxen : Those who labour in His word and doctrine; according to that saying of St. Paul, quoting from Deuteronomy [v. 4.], Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn [I Cor. ix. 9.]. For by these great profit is obtained in His Church ; as it is written : Much increase is by the strength of the ox [Prov. xiv. 4.].
Yea: The word shows that a change of subject is made, namely, from the good to the wicked.
The beasts of the field : “Those that own no master," "but follow their own hearts' lusts, like brute beasts, as St. Peter teaches, made to be taken and destroyed [2 Peter ii. 12.]. For the wicked as well as the good are made subject to Christ. Thus St. Bruno, of Aste-Perez remarks, not only are the sheep, the lowly and the docile who hear the voice of the Shepherd, put under Him, but even the oxen, the powerful rulers of the earth ; and the beasts of the field, the wandering and barbarous tribes which knew no law before.
(8) The fowls of the air and the fishes of the sea, and whatsoever walketh through the paths of the seas.
The fowls of the air are the saints who rise above the world, but only by means of the sign of the Cross [A bird with extended wings is in the shape of a cross.].
The fishes of the sea : Ordinary Christians regenerated of water and of the Holy Ghost, and who are made fellows of Jesus Christ, the Divine Fish [The old symbol of our Lord, so frequently found in the catacombs, is a fish, the Greek word is ICHTHUS, which, read as an acrostic, means Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.].
And whatsoever bad, as well as good, unholy, no less than holy; walketh through the paths of the seas, that is, exposed to the waves and storms of this troublesome world. Thus Cassiodorus. But St. Augustine will have the fowls of the air to be the proud and ambitious, the fishes those who are restless and acquisitive. While others see in the winged fowls the angels; in the fishes the evil spirits of the Abyss ; or again, in a good sense the dwellers in the isles afar, and mariners in them who walk through the paths of the seas. So Perez.
(9) 0 Lord, our Lord, how admirable is Thy Name in all the world.
Admirable, not only because He is very God, as set forth in the first verse, but also because He is very Man, as taught in the succeeding verses. The beginning and the ending of this Psalm is the same, as being in His praise Who is the First and the Last [Apoc. xxii. 13.], the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever [Heb. xiii. 8.].
Glory be to the Father Who hath put all things under the feet of the Son of Man; Glory be to the Son Who vouchsafed to become Son of Man, made lower than the angels, but now is crowned with glory and honour as Priest and King and Prophet; Glory be to the Holy Ghost, the Finger of God's right hand (Digitus Paternae dextrae, cf. Veni Creator), by Whom the heavens were made.
Like choice myrrh Thou hast given forth Thy perfume, O holy Mother of God.
Myrrh was one of the mystic gifts of the three kings brought to the Holy Child. It denotes mortification, which is a necessity if we would be united to our Lord : Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus Christ, that the life also of Jesus may be manifest in our body [2 Cor. iv. 10.]. We will dwell more upon the subject when commenting upon the lessons whence this antiphon is taken. But now it seems to foreshadow the 8th to the 13th verses, and gives us a thought about the Queen of Martyrs, in whose mouth the Church puts the words of the Canticle of Canticles : A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me [i. 13.]. And this thought teaches us that it is by penance alone that we can repair the destruction sin has brought upon God's creation.
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907