The Little Office Of Our Lady – At Matins, Or Night Song, pt 9. By E. L. Taunton.



Title : A Psalm or Song for the Sons of Core.


Tomasi: That Christ loves the gates of His Church set upon the holy hills more than all the tabernacles of Jacob. The voice of the Apostles touching the Church. The voice of the Prophet, in the Holy Ghost, to the Apostles. The voice of Christ, the Holy One, to the Apostles touching the Church and the merits of the saints.

Venerable Bede : The sons of Core signify Christians to whom the Prophet proclaims the City of God to increase their yearnings for such glory. Otherwise : nearly all the psalms which are inscribed For the sons of Core are full of rejoicing, for they do not imitate the sins of their fathers and take to themselves the fire of lust, strange to the Lord, but loving that which the Lord desireth, speak glorious things concerning the City of God. In the first part the Prophet proclaims the heavenly City. In the second part, the Lord our Saviour declares her future belief by referring to various names, and reproaches the Synagogue because she knew not God, because the devout faith of the Gentiles believed. The third part in one verse toucheth on the blessedness of the world to come, and these parts are divided from each other by the interposition of pauses [A recent writer styles this Psalm: "The voice of the Holy Ghost touching that City of God, of whom it is written in verse five : A Man was born in her and the Most High founded her."].

(1) His foundations are upon the holy hills : the Lord loveth the gates of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

The City that is set upon a hill is God's building, not man's [Matt. v. 14.]; and so we read in another place, The Lord hath founded Sion [Isaias xiv. 32.], The abruptness of the opening verse, remarks St. Augustine, suggests that something must have preceded, not of necessity uttered aloud, but pondered in the mind of the tuneful citizen, who, filled with the Holy Ghost and thinking with love and desire of the City, breaks out in this wise, and tells us of that heavenly Jerusalem whose foundation is upon the holy hills, the Apostles and prophets, whose Corner-stone is Christ, none other foundation than Whom can any man lay [Eph. ii. 20; I Cor. iii. 11.]. The word holy is not superfluous, but, as St. Bruno the Carthusian says, distinguishes the hills of the mystical Jerusalem from those of the mystical Babylon, which are worldly power and ungodly wisdom.

The Lord loveth the gates of Sion. The gates are twofold : the Apostles and their successors, by whose agency men enter into the Church ; and the Sacraments, which are the privileges of heavenly citizenship. God loves them more than all the dwellings of Jacob, says the Carmelite with the Carthusian, because the saints and sacraments of the New Law are higher than those of old; the Church, far more noble than the tabernacles of Moses and David, than the temples of Solomon and Zorobabel; for the Law was only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very image of the things [Heb. x. i.]. There are, observes Perez, four principal gates to the Holy City : Baptism, to enter in ; Penance, to return by ; Holy Order, to ascend by ; and Extreme Unction, by which we go out; while the twelve articles of the Creed are at once, like the

Apostles, foundations and gates, each a single pearl of great price [Apoc. xxi. 21.]; fairer and more blessed than these tents of Jacob which Balaam, wondering, saw and blessed [Num. xxiv. 5.]. Again, the verse may be applied to our ever dear and blessed Lady, herself sprung from the holy and lofty race of Hebrew saints, prophets and kings, and loved by God more than all other virgin souls, dwelling in the tabernacles of pure bodies which wrestle, as Jacob, against all sin.

(2) Glorious things are said of thee, 0 City of God.

How glorious does not appear till we recall the glowing language of the Apocalypse and that of the many Christian hymns, as to the joys of the Eternal City ; for in this Psalm the Church Militant and Triumphant are so blended in idea into one, that it is impossible to sever them or contemplate them independently of each other. O blessed land of Paradise, exclaims St. Bernard, O blessed land of gladness, for which I sigh in this vale of mourning, where wisdom without ignorance, memory without forgetfulness, understanding without error, reason without darkness, will shine ! Blessed are they who dwell there and who will praise God for ever. Amen. So, too, are glorious things said of her, the mystical City of God, wherein the great King deigned to tarry, and endowed with all graces to make her a fitting abode for Himself. Note, moreover, that every soul is, in its degree, a City of God placed high on the Rock which is Christ; and having the gates of mind and body ever ready to open to the Lord when He knocketh, but barred closely against His foes. Of such an one shall glorious things be said, even : Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord [Matt. xxv. 21.]; and this other glorious thing: Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the Temple of God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the Name of My God, and the name of the City of My God, which is the new Jerusalem [Apoc. iii. 12.]. St. Bonaventure remarks that the Church has in this Psalm six titles : foundation, mountain, Sion, holy, gates, city. The first, because of her firmness ; the second, by reason of her exaltation ; the third, because of her looking for her God ; the fourth, from her grace ; the fifth, to denote her security and readiness to admit; and the last tells us of the gathering together of the multitude within her.

(3) I will be mindful of Rahab and Babylon, those that know Me.

This verse is put into the mouth of God Himself. Rahab, interpreted by St. Jerome as meaning " pride," or the " haughty one," means Egypt, which is so styled by Isaias : Art thou not it that cut off Rahab ? [li. 9.]. Accordingly, we have a prophecy of the same seer to the like effect: And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day [xix. 12.]. How gloriously that promise was fulfilled the long list of the great saints of the church of Alexandria and of the Thebaid may tell us for Egypt; while the roll of the martyrs under the fierce persecution of Sapor, who ruled where the king of Babylon once held sway, is not less eloquent for Mesopotamia. Accordingly, the verse is but another form of Isaias' prophecy : In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land, where the Lord of Hosts shall bless saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine inheritance [Isa. xix. 24.]. But nearly all the old commentators suppose that Rahab, the harlot of Jericho [Josue ii. I.], is here named, and framed their interpretations accordingly. Seeing here the calling of the Gentiles, they point out how Rahab was the type of all converted sinners thronging amidst publicans and harlots into the Kingdom of Heaven, while Scribes and Pharisees remained without, still in that fated Jericho, whence the true Josue delivers them that trust in Him. Thus St. Augustine. Rahab, too, meaning " spaciousness," is a type, says St. Bruno, of those that once walked along the broad way of destruction, but receiving and hearkening to the Apostles, messengers of the Conqueror, entered on the narrow way when the world sinks in ruin at the sound of the Archangel's trumpet. And Babylon, the city of " confusion," is named, too, because from it there is a steady tide of emigration of sinners justified by grace and drawn into the fellowship of Jerusalem.

(4) Behold, the strangers, and Tyre, and the people of the Ethiopian, these were there.

Strangers, that is, the Gentiles who are alien from the commonwealth of Israel [Eph. ii. 12.].

Tyre denotes those in the "strait" of penitential sorrow, and the Ethiopians such as are black with sin and long in spiritual darkness. These were there, that is, these nations were admitted by the New Birth unto that City whose deadliest foes they once had been.

(5) And shall not Sion say : A Man, yea a Man, was born in her, and the Highest Himself hath stablished her ?

St. Augustine explains it of Christ Himself, the Most High, Who founded Sion, choosing her for His earthly mother, and condescending to be born in her. And how these words apply to our ever dear and blessed Lady is clear to all. Haymo [Haymo, monk and bishop of Halberstadt (834) wrote a Pia, brevis ac dilucida in omnes psalmos explanatio (Migne, P. L., vol. cxvi.).] explains these words as a cry of wonder on the Psalmist's part, as though he were saying : I know that glorious things are said of thee, O City of God, but is it possible that thou canst ever declare that the Man has been born in thee, that the Most High has deigned to become incarnate ? Or as others, with Albert the Great, take it : Will any man say to Sion, a Man, even the Most High Who founded thee, is born in her?

(6) The Lord shall rehearse it in the writings of the people and the princes : of those who were in her.

Euthymius urges that this verse has reference to the use made of the Old Testament by Christ Himself to prove His mission and authority ; for St. Luke tells us there was delivered unto Him the Book of the Prophet Isaias; and when He had opened the scroll He found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor [iv. 17.]. This sort of scripture of the prophets he calls the writings of the peoples, or of the princes, because they were given to the nations and rulers of the Jews, and were thus the peculiar possession of them that were born in Sion. Others take the writings of the peoples as meaning the New Testament intended for the unlearned and simple, not merely for scholars and philosophers, but which are nevertheless, as the Carthusian reminds us, the writings of the princes, too; of the Apostles, evangelists, and great doctors of the Church ; for these are they of whom it is written : The princes of the people are joined unto the God of Abraham [Ps. xlvi. 9.].

(7) As of all rejoicing ones, the dwelling is in thee.

What does this as mean ? asks St. Augustine. It tells us that our earthly joys are only a faint image of those delights which as yet we know not, and that the words our ignorance forces us to employ are quite inadequate to describe the gladness of heaven. The dwelling, too, is there, not the mere tabernacle of Jacob, shifting and uncertain in place, but eternally unshaken on the lofty hills of the Golden City. And lastly, they take the verse of our ever dear and blessed Lady as the holy place within which abode our true Isaac, our mystic " laughter," and in whom, therefore, the joy of the whole earth was for a time contained ; in which sense the words are used in the Antiphon.


Glory be to the Father, the Most High, founder of Sion : Glory be to the Son, the Man Who was born in her : glory be to the Holy Ghost from Whom flow all streams which water the Paradise of God.


Grace is poured out on thy lips.

Wherefore God hath blessed thee for ever.

As the Psalms of this Nocturn have been occupied with the beauty and excellence of the Bride, these last words taken from Psalm xliv., and there spoken of the Bridegroom, are here taken and " turned " to the Bride, summing up, as it were, the whole spirit of this Nocturn ; reminding us once more of the therefore, that is, of the reason why God so blessed and exalted her.

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