THIRD NOCTURN. For Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, for thou alone hast destroyed all heresies in the whole world.
The spirit of this Nocturn is that of praising God for the work in the Church which He has appointed to our ever dear and blessed Lady. The Mother is now as she used to be in those sweet days of Bethlehem, Egypt and Nazareth when she dwelt daily face to face with her God and Son. She was then His guardian. She continues this office. If the Sacred Humanity no longer needs a Mother's loving care, Jesus wills that His mystical Body, the Church, should look to her in all needs and troubles, certain that it will never ask amiss. So, in a special way, is she the guardian of her Son, the Divine Truth, and thus the great destroyer of false doctrine. Seekers after Jesus will find Him as the Magi found Him: And they found the Child with Mary His mother [Matt. ii. 11.]. When Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople (450), began to attack the Divinity of our Lord, he denied Mary's title of Mother of God; and it was the glorious vindication of this name that secured the truth, that Jesus, her Son, is very God and very Man. The Antiphon sounds like a cry of triumph after the Council of Ephesus, which condemned the Nestorian heresy.
Title : A Song of David : when the House was burnt after the Captivity.
Tomasi : That Christ, reigning from the Tree amidst the nations, is to be shown in His second Coming. The voice of His Apostles to the people concerning the confusion of the idols and the calling of the Church. The voice of the Church calling. The prophet concerning the first and second Coming of Christ.
Venerable Bede : As to the letter, the time signifies that when the Temple was restored at Jerusalem or the loosing of the Babylonian captivity. But spiritually the destroyed House is built when, after the captivity of sin, the soul recovers the way of truth. For that House, to wit, the Church Universal, wherein Christ dwells, is always being built up with living stones, until the number of the Elect shall be fulfilled at the end of the world. In the first part of the Psalm the Prophet exhorts the general body to sing unto the Lord and to preach our Lord's Incarnation throughout the world, because He is very Lord above all Gods. In the second place, he warns the various nations first, to offer themselves, then to discharge the office of preaching ; and he makes a mention of our Lord's two Comings, that wherein He was judged by the world, and that wherein He is to judge the world.
(1) O sing unto the Lord a new song, sing unto the Lord all the whole earth.
This new song, written for the dedication of the Second Temple after the Captivity, is a simple recasting of the latter part of David's own Psalm for the bringing up of the Ark out of the house of Obed-Edom to the Tabernacle in Jerusalem [I Paralip xvi 7-36.], The alterations are very slight and do not introduce any fresh ideas ; and the absence of any special reference in the earlier form to the Ark, or in this to the new building, causes St Augustine to apply it to the spiritual kingdom of Christ. St. John Chrysostom applies this Psalm particularly to the Church Militant; others of the Eastern Church, such as St. Basil, to the two Comings of Christ. But the great majority agree in taking it of the gradual rising in the heavens of that building of living stones made without hands, eternal, the Church Triumphant. This is the City of God, which rises like the walls of Thebes in the old legend, to the sound of sweet music : built up with song, founded on belief, raised high by hope, completed in love, dedicated at the end of the year. It is a new song for all of us Gentiles, in that we sing the song of Baptism which brings us to regeneration ; of repentance, which cleanses us afresh when we fall; of glory yet to come when all things shall be made new. It is new in celebrating the Incarnation, because then God created a new thing, in that a woman shall compass a man [Jeremiah xxxi. 22.j. It reminds us of that New Song in Heaven which no one can learn save the Redeemed [Apoc. xiv. 3.]. Our old songs, says the Carthusian, were those of pride, of gluttony, of luxury, in hope of gain, prosperity, or harm to others ; our new song is of praise, reverence, and obedience and love to God, in newness of life, in the spirit which quickeneth ; no longer in the letter that killeth, but that which keepeth the New Commandment, that we love one another ; not with the narrow patriotism and fellow-feeling of a small tribe, but with a citizenship which embraces all the whole earth.
(2) Sing unto the Lord and bless His Name: be telling of His Salvation from day to day.
In this three-fold injunction to sing unto the Lord commentators bid us see the worship of the blessed Trinity ; and Haymo further tells us to note that there are, moreover, just three New Songs in the Gospel added to the ancient Psalter and Canticles : the Benedictus, Magnificat, and Nunc Dimittis daily sung in the Church.
And praise His name. Herein the Unity of the Divine Essence is denoted, says Remigius, as the Trinity of Persons by the three-fold mention of the Lord which proceeds. It is not enough to sing unless we also bless the Lord's Name ; for it is, alas, possible to have songs wherein that Name is mentioned without reverence or love. We bless His Name by a pure and holy life, because thereby we make His honour known to others, and bring them to others, and bring them to submit themselves to His love. And it may be that here only His Name, and not Himself in very deed is specified, because, as the Carmelite remarks, the Word was not yet made flesh ; and in that case the Name we are bidden to bless is that divinely appointed One, the holy Name of Jesus.
Be telling of His salvation, is said first of all to the Apostles and then to all those who are carrying on their work of bringing souls to Christ. His salvation. Beneath these words in the Hebrew, as something precious and holy, lies the sacred Name of Jesus, our Saviour, or salvation.
From day to day. For He is Light of Light, very God of very God ; so that when we teach the Father truly we must teach the Son, and when we teach the Son we must teach the Mother. Our Lord is to be praised always in the light of day; not in the darkness of sin, but in the brightness of virtue. Let Him, the Sun of Righteousness, always rise in thy soul that the New Light may ever spring up in thee. Praise Him from day to day in the Old Testament and in the New; the two days which make but one Light, and in both of which He shines. Praise Him, says Remigius, not in the Old alone, like the Jews, nor in the New alone, like the Manichees; but remember that the Apostles went out, two by two, as preachers of His Gospel. Praise Him from strength to strength, from one bright lesson of power and holiness to another yet brighter. Praise Him and tell of His salvation, literally, each day as it comes; that none may rise and set without His Kingdom being extended ; praise Him from one cross, or one visitation of His boundless love to another cross, the proof that He is mindful of us; and lastly, praise Him from the Day of the Gospel to the yet brighter Day of the Resurrection.
(3) Declare His glory unto the heathen : and His wonders unto all people.
His glory may here be taken to denote the Godhead of Christ as His salvation tells us of the work of His Manhood. St. Justin, and many others, take the words to refer to the Hour of the Passion wherein the Son of man was glorified [John xii. 23.]; that His people might henceforth glory in nothing save His Cross. It is His glory which is to be proclaimed ; the loving beauty, the attractiveness of His Gospel, the lavish promise to repentant sinners, the blessedness of heaven, and the easiness of salvation in God's most dear Fatherhood. These we must declare rather than threats, menaces and terrors, which harden men's hearts and make them doubt of God's love. His glory : and taking this with His wonder, our thought naturally goes out to that memorial of His wonders [Ps. cx. 4.], the most holy Eucharist. Our Divine Lord is present there all glorious, immortal and incapable of suffering ; He is there the Living Christ, though shrouded beneath the sacramental veils. The thought then of His glory will bring us back and draw us to the feet of our Eucharistic King, and will unite us more and more with the worship that He is ever pouring forth to His Eternal Father.
(4) For the Lord is great and to be praised exceedingly. He is to be feared above all gods.
St. Augustine points out that these words are spoken of that same Jesus Who came to us in all the helplessness of babyhood. Despise Him not; though small, understand how great He is. He became little, because we were little ; but let His greatness be understood, and you shall become great in Him. So uprises the building of the house, so the very stones for the edifice increase and are lifted up.
To be praised exceedingly, that is, beyond the power of our faculties ; for what, says St. Augustine, can a little tongue do towards praising the Great God ? In saying exceedingly he suggests the thought : Ponder what I cannot utter, and when thou hast pondered it will be all too little. O Lord, says St. Anselm of Canterbury, Thou art not only He than Whom no greater can be the object of thought, but Thou art something which is greater than any thought; and therefore He is to be feared above all gods, who are but the creatures of man's thoughts, those idols of the heathens which He can overthrow, or those earthly potentates which He sets up and pulls down at His will.
(5) For all the gods of the heathen are but idols : but the Lord made the heavens.
Idols. The literal Hebrew means " nothings," mere phantasms, having no real existence ; and so the Apostle : We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but One [I Cor. viii. 4.]. But taking the word as demons, it seems to imply the graven images, the deified men and sacred animals of heathenism, implying, besides, the notion of evil and fraud as connected with the ancient oracles, which have been bound up with that word ever since the proclamation of Christianity.
But the Lord made the heavens. A claim on behalf of His almighty power, exceeding that made for their divinities by any of the heathen nations known to the ancient Jews ; inasmuch as they either accepted the heavens as itself a god, or left its origin doubtful, not knowing God as the Maker of all things. Mystically, the commentators explain, as usual, the heavens in this verse to denote the Apostles and other holy teachers, superior in spiritual power to the evil spirits against which they contended.
(6) Confession and beauty are in His sight : holiness and magnificence in His sanctification.
As the previous verse told us of the supreme power of God, so this one speaks of the royal pomp and dignity which attend Him : in Heaven, where He is encompassed by the shining ranks of the blessed spirits, or in His earthly Temple, with its adornment and stately ceremonial. St. Augustine takes the first word of this verse, confession, as signifying acknowledgment of sin, and points out how it precedes beauty, like washing and purifying is necessary before we can recognise the true grace of the features or loveliness of the complexion. He also bids us observe how holiness, as the only way to heaven, is the forerunner of magnificence, which can be attained there alone in His sanctification, that is, among the glorified saints ; whereas those who seek magnificence without holiness fall into destruction. The Carthusian says : In our true country there are in full perfection that confession of God's praise and glory, which is so imperfect here in the way towards heaven ; and that inner beauty of the soul, which is now marred and defaced by sin : because in His sight, in the Beatific Vision, there can be nothing defective, since the holiness and magnificence thereof surpass all words and imagination.
(7) Ascribe unto the Lord O ye kindreds of the peoples : unto the Lord glory and honour: ascribe unto the Lord the glory due to His Name.
There is a peculiar force, observes Cassiodorus, in this phrase, kindreds of the peoples, much more than if we had the word peoples alone; for in every nation there are at all times strangers, aliens, sojourners, abiding permanently, or for a time, but not reckoned amongst the natives ; while the phrase here includes all such, and provides that no one shall be shut out because of his origin. Bellarmine remarks that as it was the custom of the Jews to come up on great festivals to the Temple in Jerusalem, being divided into companies according to their tribes, so all the nations of the world are to do the like spiritually, by flocking into the Church of Christ with the triple inscription of glory and worship to the Eternal Trinity as in the Song of the Ransomed in the Apocalypse. The kindreds of the peoples heard and obeyed this call when, in the Epiphany, the wise men ascribed glory to their God, offering Him frankincense, power to their King with gold, honour to the mighty Dead, with myrrh for His embalming. We can do the like in true repentance for our sins, says Cardinal Hugo, giving glory to God by contrition, as it is written : My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel and make confession unto Him [Josias vii. 19.]. Power by actual confession made in the strength of God's grace, and honour in making satisfaction, for the honour due to His name is impeached when His sons fall into sin.
(8) Bring hosts and come ye into His courts. O worship the Lord in His holy court.
The Hebrew word here represented by hosts is that which refers to the Mincha, or clean sacrifice of fine flour [Exodus xxix. 2; Lev. ii. I. ]. This, at once, reminds us of that most perfect means of ascribing glory, and power, and honour to God, the Mass, the one Sacrifice left when all others were abolished, that great Act in which Jesus is both Priest and Victim. To this Sacrifice we must add the living oblation of ourselves, our souls and bodies, the dedication of our faculties and powers, the offering of prayer, fasting, and alms deeds.
His courts. These may be taken as the local churches here on earth, the place wherein Thy glory dwelleth [Psalm xxv. 8.]; or the monastic houses of His chosen servants; or, with the Carthusian, the inner recesses of our own hearts when we withdraw into silence and prayer.
In His holy court, that is, the presence of God manifested in our Churches. Here we have the singular court —and in the former phrase it is in the plural, courts. The commentators give us two explanations : that we may pass from the many Patriarchs, seers, and Prophets of the Old Law, each being but an imperfect type, to the fulfilment of all in the One Man Who is the Court of God under the New Covenant; and secondly, that we pass from the outer courts, that is, the Church Militant and the Church Suffering, into the one vast sanctuary of the Church Triumphant in heaven.
(9) Let all the earth be moved before His face : tell it out among the heathen that the Lord reigneth.
Let all the earth be moved before His face. This is to be understood first of the stir and expectation which preceded the first Coming of Christ, so that the world was moved and shaken from its deeply-rooted error and turned to the Lord. Then, again, of the earthquake, when the pale, blood-stained Face of Jesus looked down on the earth He had just redeemed by His death. It may also be taken of the second Coming of Christ to judgment; and of the alarm raised in the souls of earthly and carnal sinners at the thought of the wrath to come, so that they turn to repentance in fear and trembling of heart.
That the Lord reigneth. In the time of St. Justin, and as long after as St. Augustine, the reading of this phrase was : The Lord hath reigned from the wood ; and St. Justin charges the Jews with having cut out the latter words, as well as some other expressions in the Bible, as being too distinctly prophetic of Christ. Assuming the genuineness of the addition, the original reference is to the wood of the Ark of the Covenant, from which went forth the might, overthrowing Dagon, the idol of the Philistines, and over which brooded that mysterious manifestation of the Divine Presence, the Shekinah. The reference to the wood of the Cross is also clear; and Holy Church embodies the words in the Vexilla Regis of Venantius Fortunatus ["Fulfilled is all that David told In true prophetic song of old ;
Amidst the nations God, saith he, Hath reigned and triumphed from the Tree.].
Among the heathen. These tidings were to be spread, as the Jews refused to hear them. The proclamation that the Lord reigneth denotes not the beginning of His power and worship. And observe, it was a heathen governor who made this proclamation by the very form of that Title which He set up on the Cross : Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews [John xix. 19.].
(10) He hath corrected the round world, which shall not be moved. He shall judge the people righteously.
Many of the commentators argue that the Psalmist does not speak here of the first creation of Nature, but of the new creation of Grace, correcting and making anew what had been injured. According to the words of the Prophet, the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain [Isaias xl. 4.], Christ came that He might correct mankind (aforetime corrupted) that it might never be moved. His Cross is the pillar of Humanity, on which that house is reared ; that house He built on the foundation of those Apostles whom He corrected after their doubt, by His Resurrection, and which He stablished firmly by the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, so that they should never be moved again.
He shall judge the people righteously. This is not spoken of the second Coming only, but of the first also ; as the words denote the whole course of Christ's providential government, the absolute righteousness of the laws which He has laid down in the Gospel for the guidance of mankind.
(11) Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad: let the sea be moved and the fulness thereof. Let the fields be glad and all that are therein.
(12) Then shall all the trees of the woods rejoice before the Lord, for He cometh : for He cometh to judge the earth.
These verses have been thus interpreted: The heavens represent, as we have said before, the Apostles and those who do the Apostles' work ; the earth, their hearers, drinking in the rain of doctrine ; while the sea denotessinners, ever restless, bitter, and barren ; the fulness thereof, the proud and wealthy who despise the Gospel. The field is in contrast to the sea, being level, stable, and fruitful, and thus a type of humble souls diligent in good works; while the trees of the woods are the yet unreclaimed. Thus the Carmelite. Then, again, the heavens rejoiced at our Lord's Birth, because of His Divine Nature, and showed their gladness by the shining of a star and the songs of angels ; the earth was glad because of His Manhood; the sea and all waters, because of their hallowing as the matter of Baptism ; the fields, because for three and thirty years the feet of God trod this earth of ours; while all the trees of the woods rejoiced in that one of them was to be the instrument of man's redemption.
For He cometh ; for He cometh. In the two-fold use of the words He cometh may be seen a reference to the two Comings of Christ : that in which He came to judge between us and the enemy who held us in bondage ; and that Advent wherein He shall come again to reward and punish.
(13) He shall judge the world with righteousness and the people in His truth.
Some note the distinction between the world and the People as implying the Gentiles and the Jews. He will judge in righteousness, as without any partiality or acceptance of persons ; and in truth, because He knows all things and cannot be deceived. Thus the Carthusian. And yet more, because He fulfils the promises made to His people, who shall be received into everlasting glory when the world is judged, and will then rejoice before the Lord, flourishing as green olive trees, no longer in the wild wood, but in the Paradise of heavenly bliss.
Glory be to the Father Who is more to be feared than all gods; Glory to the Son Who reigneth from the Tree ; Glory to the Holy Ghost Who is the beauty of holiness.
Grant that I may praise thee, O hallowed Virgin : give me strength against thy foes.
The reason why we seek to praise our ever dear and blessed Lady is on account of the strength we receive through her to combat not only our enemies, but her foes also. Or, again, the highest praise we can give her is to use the grace she so abundantly procures for us from her Divine Son. As in our earthly combat each victory won is a praise to the trusty blade which served us so well, so each temptation vanquished is an act of praise to her But as the praise, however, does not rest in the weapon, but goes on to the artist who made it, so our praise of Mary, the second Judith through whom we conquer our spiritual enemies, goes on and becomes the praise of the Maker to whose Name be laud in all things. The second office of our Lady towards the mystical Body is announced in this Antiphon. She is the giver of strength to those in combat; or, in other words, she is the divinely appointed channel of grace—"the Mother of Divine grace." just as the neck is the ordinary channel of communication between the head and the members, so is our dear and blessed Lady between the Divine Head and the members of the Mystic Body.
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907