The Little Office Of Our Lady – At Matins, Or Night Song, pt 8. By E. L. Taunton.



Title : For the Sons of Core.


Tomasi : That Christ causeth the soul to rejoice by His spiritual strength. The Prophet speaks of Christ to the Church and the same Lord Christ speaks to the same Church. The voice of the Apostles. The voice of the Faithful.

Venerable Bede : That Christ appears in the midst of the Church which he hath founded as on a most solid Rock. And from that the rivers of the flood thereof, the multitude of them that believe are invited to behold the miracles of the Divine Power; or that might which breaketh the bow and snappeth the spear in sunder [A recent writer called this Psalm " a song of holiness, a guide along the pathway to the land that is very far off" (Isa. xxxiii. 17).].

(1) Our God is refuge and strength, a Helper in the troubles which have fallen exceeding heavily upon us.

Our God. The One who shares our nature, the Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous [i John ii. i.].

Refuge. Here we have the Rock; now the Rock was Christ [i Cor. x. 4.]—in whose cleft Side we may hide ourselves until calamity is passed, according to that saying : The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats, and so are the stony rocks for the conies [Ps. ciii. 18.] ; and again : The conies are but a feeble folk, yet they . make their houses in the rock [Prov. xxx. 26.]. The words of our Saviour are the refuge of the soul in all temptations, as we say in that beautiful prayer, the Anima Christi: " Within Thy wounds O hide me" [This prayer is often called the " Prayer of St. Ignatius," on account of that saint's devotion to it. It is of much earlier origin, and some writers say that St.Thomas was the author.].

Strength. In the Lord God is everlasting strength [Isaias xxvi. 4.] ; and His strength is communicated to us by that grace in which we can do all things.

Helper. The word does not mean one who does all the work for us, but one who assists our own efforts and by his strength makes up for our weakness. We must do our part, but Be not far from me, 0 Lord: 0 my strength, haste Thee to help me [Ps. xxi. 20.].

(2) Therefore we will not fear when the earth is shaken : and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.

(3) Their waters rage and swell : the mountains are shaken at the tempest of the same.

This Psalm is used in the Office of Many Martyrs, of those who went through the deep waters of affliction, who were tossed by a sea of pain, thereby to pass into the eternal calm and the quiet haven where they would be. Some see in these mountains the Apostles. They did indeed shake at the tempest when they all forsook him and fled [Matt. xxvi. 56.] ; the highest and most glorious summit of all trembled at the voice of one poor servant-maid, and much more have lesser saints been, for the while, utterly carried away with the same sudden outbursts of tempest, and carried into the midst of the sea of doubt and temptation. So the Carmelite. Other commentators, such as St. Athanasius, see in the mountains carried into the midst of the sea difficulties of all kinds which are swept away by prayer, more especially evil spirits, those mountains of pride, cast out by the mighty hand of God. And yet in the general confusion of this life, they liken the faithful soul to the halcyon, a bird that not only brings her own peace into the rage of the storm, but there also nourishes her young, cradling them, as it were, on the foaming waves. So have the billows of persecution cradled many a martyr and confessor till the time came he should go home ; and of no one is this truer than of our ever dear and blessed Lady in that martyrdom which made her Queen of Martyrs. The Angelical takes it very mystically. Waters, he says, signify prophecy; their being troubled is interpreted of the frustration and confusion of heathen prophets and soothsayers, according to that saying : / will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent [Isaias xxix. 14.].

(4) The fury of the river maketh glad the City of God: the Most High hath made His tabernacle holy.

The very fierceness of the storm of tribulation is a cause of rejoicing in the City of God ; for it is only those who come out of much tribulation and wash their robes and make them white in the Blood of the Lamb, that are arrayed in white, and stand before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple [Apoc. vii. 14-15.]. This fury of the waters is that which Ezekiel beheld in vision : these waters that came down from the right side of the house, and rising first to the ankles, then as the prophet passed onward, to the knees, even to the loins, and then became a river which he could not pass; for the waters were rising, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over [Cf. Ezekiel xlvii. I, &c. II]. We may also see in this, with the Angelical, the river of grace which burst forth from Mount Calvary, those streams which branched off hither and thither to satisfy the waste ground and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth [Job xxxviii. 27.]. O fountain of gardens, well of living waters, streams from Lebanon [Cant. iv. 15.]; ye, the nether springs [Josue xv. 19.] of this world, bring to us something of the loveliness and peace of those upper springs [Ibid.], beside which the fair flock of Christ now feeds and lies down, none making them afraid. Or, with St. Ambrose and St. Bernard, we may understand the verse of the River of the Water of Life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the Throne of the Lamb [Apoc. xxii. I.]. And then the fury or rush of that water shall indeed make glad the City of God, the House not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, where is the Temple of Life that beareth twelve manner of fruits and yieldeth her fruit every month [Ibid. 2.]. There is another obvious interpretation to this verse. The fury of the flood of sorrow which overwhelmed the Queen of Martyrs, never caused her, the City of God, in which He was pleased to dwell, to lose for a single moment the interior joy which made her ever keep singing in her heart the Magnificat. The very fury of the flood was an increase of joy, thrilling her with a grief beyond compare, as it did, yet it was happiness also ; for in all she saw God's holy Will, and knew that He was doing it.

The Most High hath made His Tabernacle holy. In tribulation and sorrow there is a hallowing influence, for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son He receiveth [Heb. xii. 6.]. Great mystery of suffering ! Eighth Sacrament ! We can only understand thee when we look at the Crucified One ! In proportion to God's love is the chastening. Far be it from us to look upon it as a punishment. It is a refining of the gold, a casting out of the dross. So our ever dear and blessed Lady, of all creatures the nearest to God, was chastened above all others in the mystical sea of sorrows, and by this means God's tabernacle within her was made holy. The knowledge of this truth explains St. Teresa's cry, Either to suffer or to die; St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi's, More suffering O Lord; and that mystical thirst for sufferings which characterises so many of the saints.God is in the midst of her,

(5) God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved : God shall help her, and that right early.

God is in the midst of her. So He was in the beginning : The Tree of Life in the midst of the Garden [Gen. ii. 9.] ; thus when Paradise was lost. So He was afterwards when the second and better Tree of Life was set up between the penitent and the impenitent on Mount Calvary; thus when Paradise was regained. So in the ancient Tabernacle when the visible manifestation of God's presence, the Shekinah, rested between the Cherubim ; so also in that Temple, of which it is said : The glory of the latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former [Agg. ii. 9.]; for there His blessed feet trod, Who, as the Psalmist says, wrought salvation in the midst of the earth [Ps. Ixxiii. 12.], Of course the verse is also to be taken of her of whom was born Jesus Who is called the Christ [Matt. i 16.] ; and of the nine months of overflowing grace and love when Mary had in her midst her God [As an old hymn, Novae lucis hodie, has it:—The Monarch entered the hall Of His sacred home alone ; The steadfast gate is closed to all With the key of Solomon.].

And that right early. Therefore notice that all the great deliverances wrought in Holy Scripture were wrought so early as to have been brought to pass in the middle of the night. So Gideon, with his pitchers and lamps against the Midianites ; so Saul, when he went forth against Nahash the Ammonite; so Josue when he went up to succour Gideon; so Sampson when he carried off in triumph the gates of Gaza ; so also the allied kings under the guidance of Eliseus in their expedition against the Moabites, when they, according to God's command, filled the wilderness with ditches, and then beheld their enemies drawn to their destruction by the reflection of the rising sun upon the water. But in a deeper and truer sense we see here the early prophecies of that Eternal

Morning to which there shall be no Night ; that Eternal Spring to which there shall be no Autumn. So the Carmelite. The Angelical tells us here is to be seen the difference between the help of God and the help of man. The first is in time ; though not before the time ; the other so often late, late in hope, late in promise, and late in effect.

(6) The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are moved: He hath showed His voice, and the earth shall melt away.

Notice here the two external enemies of men, says Father Lorin : the heathen, that is, the world; the kingdoms, that is, the powers and principalities of the evil one.

But God hath showed His voice. First we can refer it to the day of Pentecost, when God showed His voice, not as at Sinai, from afar off, from the summit of the mountains, but in the room where the Apostles were gathered together; and showed it not in dreadful lightnings, but in quiet tongues of flame; showed it, not so as to terrify the multitudes : Let not God speak to us lest we die [Ex. xx. 19.], but so as to allure them to the unity of the Faith. Thus the Carthusian. St. John Chrysostom observes : The punishment of tongues dispersed men, the gift of tongues .brought them when dispersed together again. And if we ask why it should be said that God hath showed His voice, rather than that God hath caused His voice to be heard, the Carthusian tells us that to speak with Him is to act, to utter a command to be obeyed : He spoke and they were made [Ps. xxxii. 9.]. So that His order may be as truly said to be seen as to be done. And then most truly of all, as Peter Lombard [Bishop of Paris (1164). He was Master of St. Thomas, the Angelical. His works are in Migne, P. L., vols. cxci., cxcii.], the Master of the Sentences, teaches ; we speak of a visible word, of a Word that was made flesh and dwelt among us [John i. 14.].

And the earth shall melt away. And herein those mediaeval writers who have looked forward to the consummation of all things, seem to themselves to find not the destruction of the present world, but its regeneration and transfiguration into that new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. It shall melt away. But that which melts is not lost, only re-cast.

(7) The Lord of Hosts is with us: the God of Jacob is our upholder.

He, the Captain of the Lord's host, is with us, that we may overcome our Jericho, in that case to become, as the name implies, a " City of Palm Trees" to us by the victory it enabled us to win [Cf. Josue v. 14.]. He, the Lord, Who caused the mountains round Dothan to be full of chariots of fire and horses of fire [4 Kings vi. 17.], for the defence of His prophet ; He Who sent one of His host to smite in a night one hundred four-score and five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. But notice under what character as regards ourselves : The God of Jacob. Now Jacob is by interpretation a " supplanter " [Gen. xxvii. 36.] or wrestler. Our upholder He is only when we have wrestled with Him in prayer, as did the patriarch ; wrestled, says St. Jerome, in the night of affliction as he did in the darkness ; wrestled by the brook of penitence as he did by the ford of Jabbok ; wrestled alone as he did when he sent his family forward ; wrestled and said, as he of old, "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me [Gen. xxxii. 26.]. The Carmeilte and the Carthusian, however, take these words in another sense, that is, we must be supplanters of wickedness, strugglers against and conquerors of temptation, if the God of Jacob is to defend us.

(8) O come hither and see the works of the Lord, what wonders He hath placed on the earth : Making war to cease even unto the end of the earth.

(9) He breaketh the bow and cutteth the weapons in sunder: and burneth the shield in the fire.

The Carmelite remarks the difference between this invitation and that of Psalm xciv. One to come and sing, and the other to come and see. The two are separated on earth and only to be joined in Heaven. To see here is to see sadness, iniquity, faithlessness, impurity, every sin. To see there is to see not only the Gates of Pearls, not only the Streets of Gold, and the Sea of Glass; but to learn the New Song of all the Redeemed, to hear it, and to be joined to that strain which knits together the angelic inhabitants of Heaven, and those who, not only through much tribulation, but also through much sin, have been redeemed from the earth. And notice that the invitation is only to those who shall be counted worthy to enter into that blessed place. Come hither; for, as St. Leo the Great says, in what other place can the works of the Lord be so fully seen as in that where they are perfectly glorious, gloriously perfect, where they know neither limit to the efficiency, nor measure to their beauty ? And who are they that shall be accounted worthy of that invitation ? Read further and observe how he limits the call.

What wonders hath He placed upon the earth ? This, that these present bodies, formed out of clay, moulded from earth, must one day say to corruption : Thou art my father; to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister [Job xvii. 14.] ; must be utterly taken to pieces, must be like the grain of wheat, which, except it die, yieldeth no increase.

Making war to cease. And therefore is He rightly called the Prince of Peace, therefore rightly at His birth was peace proclaimed by the angels, at His departure was peace bequeathed to the Apostles.

The bow, the spear, the chariots. A trinity of evil here, as so often. The bow; some take of the fiery darts of temptation, injected, as it were, from a distance by evil spirits into the fancy. The spears; of the hand-to-hand fight with the world that every faithful soul must carry on. The shields; those earthly means of safety on which all are apt to lean, forgetful of the God from Whom alone true help can come.

(10) Be still and see, for I am God: I will be exalted among the Gentiles, and I will be exalted on the earth.

(11) The Lord of Hosts is with us: the God of Jacob is our upholder.

Be still. Put not your trust in human means of safety, see the works of the Lord and know that He has make Himself our refuge and strength. Be still from idle fretting, from profitless worrying.

See that I am God. The past tells us that He is the God Whose wisdom reacheth from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordereth all things [Wisdom viii. i.], and that His Hand has ever been over us. So, be still and see that I am God.

I will be exalted. This double declaration is to be compared with the double declaration of our Lord : All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth [Matt, xxvii. 18.]; or still better : I will be exalted among the heathen, namely, by the preaching of that Cross whereon the Son of Man was lifted up.

And I will be exalted on the earth, the new earth, that is, the Land of the Living, the earth where the saints shall reign, the earth where there shall be no more sea.

The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our upholder. This is a repetition of verse 7, and has been already commented upon. But coming again at the end of this Psalm of confidence, it seems to sum up all that has been said, and with greater force insists upon the Divine truth that God, and He alone, is our Refuge and Strength. And it is as well that this should be repeated ; for although the past teaches us this truth, yet we are apt in the darkness of the hour of trial to forget it and cling for safety to that arm of flesh [2 Paralip xxxii. 8.], instead of to the Hand of Him Who walketh upon the waters and chideth us for our little faith.


Glory be to the Father Who is our Refuge and Strength : and to the Son Whose City the River of Life maketh glad : and to the Holy Ghost, the God Who is in the midst of Her.


As of all rejoicing ones our dwelling is in thee, 0 holy Mother of God.

This antiphon is taken from the Psalm that follows, and is directly applied to our ever dear and blessed Lady. She is called in the Litany " The Cause of our joy; " and the spiritual Sion, the Church, rejoices, for her Founder comes from her, and by her. As in the first antiphon of this Nocturn we had drawn out the beauty of the Bridegroom and the excellence of the Bride, and in the second the secret of this excellence, the grace of God ; so here the glorious results and our share therein. The fuller meaning of the verse will be drawn out in the course of the Psalm.

From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907