The Little Office Of Our Lady – At Matins, Or Night Song, pt 11. By E. L. Taunton.



Title : To David when his land was restored.


Tomasi : That Christ, proclaimed by the voices of the heavens, is shown to the nations in the flesh. The voice of the Church concerning the Advent of Christ. For Praise. The voice of the Apostles to the believers. A Prophecy touching the condemnation of the ungodly and glorifying of the righteous. The pomp of God as King is described.

Venerable Bede : In the first part of the Psalm the Prophet, describing the powers of the Lord in His resurrection by various modes of proclamation, chides the worshippers of idols with merited rebuke. Secondly, he directs his words to the Lord, rejoicing that the Church believes in her Author, and exhorting the faithful to rejoice in the Lord because He is wont to deliver them from the oppression of the ungodly.

(1) The Lord reigneth, let the earth be glad thereof: let the multitude of the isles rejoice.

This Psalm is one of those written after the return from Captivity ; and this explains many of the allusions. It begins with a grand proclamation of the restored sovereignty of God over Israel, displayed in the overthrow of the heathen power of Babylon and the revival of the one true worship in the Temple at Jerusalem. It declares that the Lord has shown Himself stronger than those kings of the earth who warred against Sion ; so that His people, though threatened with calamity by earthly tyrants, can, with sure confidence, put their trust in a King mightier than any other. Hence its deeper spiritual meaning, following St. Augustine, points to the Kingdom of Christ as manifested in His Nativity, and yet more in His Resurrection, when the yoke of the devil was broken ; and to be manifested once again in greater power at the second Advent.

Let the earth be glad thereof. Not Judea alone, but the whole face of the world and all the dwellers therein. Tertullian takes the earth to mean the bodies of the saints, to which such blessings come by reason of Christ's victory. Again, the phrase may stand for the whole Church, on earth, in purgatory, or in heaven.

The multitudes of the isles denote the various Churches throughout the world ; and they are called isles because, says St. Augustine, the waves of manifold temptation dash round them as waves ; yet, however buffeted by the roaring billows, they are not broken thereby, but rather by their resistance break the force thereof. So the Churches of God, which spring up everywhere in the midst of persecutions raging about them, remain unbroken and rise higher than the waves of a sea that has calmed down. St. Gregory takes the earth, the solid land, to denote the assembly of the teaching Church, and explains the isles as the multitude of the faithful, firm in the midst of a sea of troubles, parted from earth and its allurements.

(2) Clouds and darkness are round about Him : righteousness and judgment are the correction of His seat.

The first and obvious meaning of the earlier clause of the verse, says Bellarmine, is the invisible Majesty of God, Who dwelleth in light unapproachable, and Whose revelation of Himself to Israel was first in the Pillar of cloud, looking out of which He troubled the host of the Egyptians [Exod. xiv. 24.] ; and then when He gave the law from Sinai in the midst of darkness and thunderings [Ibid. xix. 16.]. On the mystical import of these clouds and darkness, themselves brighter and more resplendent than any natural light, the Areopagite [A mediaeval writer, whose words were attributed to Denis, the Areopagite,
whom St. Paul converted at Athens. See Acts xvii. 34.] dwells, as denoting, amidst much else, the abstraction from earthly thoughts and sights, which is necessary for perfect contemplation of the Divine Glory, and that confession of our own ignorance and incapacity for comprehending the Infinite, which is a necessary preliminary for receiving any special revelation of God. The Carmelite and the Carthusian agree in reminding us of the second Coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, like His departure at the Ascension ; and there is thus a second literal sense. Yet, again, as He withdraws from sinners and refuses to show them His face, He is said in respect of them to be hidden in clouds and darkness. There are, besides, several mystical interpretations, which are conveniently summed up thus : These clouds and darkness overshadowed the Church when the Law and the Prophets made Christ known to her. The clouds are also the Apostles filling the restored earth with their teaching ; the darkness, those wise men who, understanding deep mysteries, explained them to the Church. The clouds are also the Body of the Lord, wherein the Sun of Righteousness was hidden ; the darkness, His concealed Godhead, which appeared not to the eyes of flesh. Or, again, the clouds are the sacramental species veiling Him in the Blessed Sacrament; and the darkness is the secrecy of His hidden but all-glorious life therein. Or, finally, the clouds are scruples that beset the soul; the darkness, that mystical dereliction in the midst whereof God is ever present.

Righteousness and judgment are the correction of His seat. The direct meaning is, when by faith we have penetrated the cloud of mystery shrouding the designs of God, we find absolute truth and justice the very rule of all His doings. Thus, after Moses had sprinkled the blood of the Covenant and had gone up into the clouds overshadowing Sinai along with "Aaron, Nadah, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: they saw the God of Israel, and under His feet, as it were, a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven when clear" [Exod. xxiv. 9, 10.].

The correction of His seat. Bellarmine takes the words literally, as denoting the perfect equity of our Lord's judicial power in rewarding the just and punishing the wicked ; others, with Albert the Great, taking the souls of the faithful to be God's throne, explain that this throne is righted or corrected and set straight by attentive consideration of His dealing with sinners for warning and guidance.

(3) There shall go a fire before Him and burn up His enemies on every side.

This is, say most of the writers, that fire which precedes the Last Judgment, and that which Daniel foresaw in vision when the Ancient of Days did sit, and a fiery stream issued forth before Him [vii. 10.] ; of which St. Peter also tells : The elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burnt up [2 Peter iii. 10.]. It will burn up His enemies, the wood, hay, and stubble, but will only purify His saints, the gold, silver, and precious stones reared on Him, their Foundation [Cf. i Cor. iii. 12, 13.]. St. Augustine takes the fire to be the first Coming of Christ, and the flame of anger and persecution kindled everywhere by the preaching of the Gospel; a flame which burnt up the persecutors themselves and not the Church against which they raged ; just as a torch applied to green wood is itself consumed while effecting its aim. There is, besides these, more exactly still, that fire which our Lord came to send upon earth [Luke xii. 49.], or the kindling blaze of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. And of this the Prophet spoke, saying : I will send a fire on Magog and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles : and they shall know that I am the Lord [Ezek. xxxix. 6.]. This divine fire, says Cardinal Hugo, goes before the Lord, His coming to every faithful soul, as it kindles with longing for Him, and burns up all its sins therewith, as He heaps His coals of fire upon its head to soften and purify it. St. Bernard remarks : The fire of holy desire must needs go before His face to every soul into which He means to come, and a flame burning up all the mildew of sin, and making ready a place for the Lord. Then the soul knows that the Lord is at hand, when it feels itself kindled with that fire, and it saith with the prophet : From above hath He sent fire into my bones, and hath chastised me [Lam. i. 13.] ; and again : My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned, and at last I spake with my tongue [Ps. xxxviii. 4.], So, that, as Honorius says, by the forgiveness of sins His aforetime enemies are kindled with love and break forth in praise of His Name.

(4) His lightnings gave shine unto the world : the earth saw it and was afraid.

Here, again, in the literal sense, we may see a reference to the thunderings of Sinai, and the future fulfilment of St. Paul's words : That the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ [2 Thess. i. 8.]. But the mystical writers refer it to the preaching of the Apostles, those sons of thunder, to the Gospel, to the awe that fell on the nations at the mighty words and power of the new teachers.

(5) The mountains melted away like wax at the presence of the Lord; all the earth before His face.

When God came down to deliver the Law Mount Sinai was altogether covered with smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly [Exod. xix. 18.]. The Carmelite tells us that the mountains denote all those eminent in station, influence, power, wealth, or ability, who will either be converted and become flexible and ductile in the hands of the Lord, or else, in spite of their seeming greatness, will be destroyed, as by an earthquake before His face ; according to that saying : The everlasting mountains are scattered, the perpetual hills did bow [Hab. iii. 6.]. St. Laurence Justinian points out another sense, and tells us we have here a type of penance, because the liquid form and level which wax assumes under heat, fitly denote the tears and humility of a heart softened by the grace of God.

(6) The heavens have declared His righteousness, and all the people have seen His glory.

The Angels' song at His Birth, the star of His Epiphany, the voice at His Baptism and Transfiguration, the eclipse at His Death, the earthquake at His Rising, the cloud of Glory at His Ascension, all these, says St. Augustine, declare the righteousness of the Lord ; as Angels will again be the heralds of His second Coming when all the people, those nations of the earth who have already heard of His glory, as well as those who actually beheld Him working miracles in the flesh, will see Him in great power and majesty upon the Seat of Doom.

(7) Confounded be all they that worship carven images, and that glory in their idols.

Has it not come to pass ? Were they not confounded ? Are they not confounded every day ? Why are all they confounded that worship carven images f Because all the people have seen His glory. Now all the people confess the glory of Christ, and they who worship stones are ashamed ; for those stones were dead ones, but we have found the Living Stone.

Nay, those stones were men who were never alive, so they cannot even be called dead, but our Stone is living, and hath ever been alive with the Father, and He died and lived again for us, and He lives now and death shall no more have dominion over Him [Rom. vi. 9.]. The people know of this His glory, they abandon the temples for the churches. Thus St. Augustine. There are other idols, mere phantom objects of worship, besides graven images ; for all assiduous court and homage paid to the wealthy and powerful and all preference of earthly things to the will of God is idolatry.

(8) Worship Him all ye His Angels: Sion heard it and rejoiced.

(9) And the daughters of Judea were glad, because of Thy judgments, O Lord.

The high and mighty God, so real and living, is the object of the adoration of those blessed spirits, each one of whom, a very marvel of beauty and glory, would seem to us like a god, and worthy of our highest worship, did they not, like the Angel at whose feet St. John fell adoring, say : See thon do it not, for I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them that keep the sayings of this book. Adore God [Apoc. xxii. 9.]. The Angels did worship Him, as they sang at His Birth, as they ministered to Him in the Wilderness after the Temptation, as in the Garden they bowed down in adoration, comforting the awful agony of the Son of God ; as they attended Him in the pomp of His Ascension : and they worship Him now by guiding and watching over the souls of which He gives them charge.

Sion, the Church on earth, with those special favourites of the Lamb, the virgins who ever follow Him, daughters of Judea, rejoices in the eternal adoration which her Divine Head is ever the object of, and joins her alleluia to that eternal alleluia ever heard in the streets of the heavenly Jerusalem [Tobias xiii. 22.].

(10) For Thou, 0 Lord, art most high above all the earth : Thou art exceedingly exalted above all gods.

The word For, Bellarmine says, is here emphatic. It is possible for us to rejoice with a sure gladness in Christ's judgments, because He is supreme and His sentences cannot be over-ruled and set aside by any higher authority. It is evermore a thought of rejoicing for the daughters of Judea, all tender and faithful souls, that it is their own Bridegroom, One of their own flesh and blood, Who is throned above the highest Angels ; and that He, now Lord and King of Heaven, has thrown it open to us.

(11) O ye that love the Lord, hate ye the evil: The Lord preserveth the souls of His saints: He shall deliver them from the hand of the ungodly.

Here is a test of true love of God; not only abstaining from evil, but hating it, shunning it for its repugnance to the holiness of God, and not only because of the danger of indulging in it. The Evil is sometimes taken to mean the Evil one, the father of lies [John viii. 44.]. St. John Chrysostom says : Let no man deceive himself; God and the devil cannot be loved alike by one person, for either the devil is hated, or God is loved; if the devil is loved, it must needs be that God is despised. Now, then, can we find out whether we do truly love God ? St. Bernard shall answer: You must ask your heart, your tongue, your work, whether you truly love God. Your heart, because it thinks often on what it loves, and if you do not often think of God, you will know you do not truly love Him ; and if you think more of the world than you do of God, you love the world more than God. Ask your tongue if you love God, for it gladly speaks of what the heart loves ; therefore he whose conversation is chiefly of the world is hereby proved to love it more than God. Ask your work whether you love God; for if fire be placed amidst straw it will burn, and if the fire of Divine love be in the heart it will show itself in action.

The Lord preserveth the souls of His saints. Here we may note two things—He makes no promise at all as to the bodies, nor yet as to the souls of any but His saints. The torments of the martyrs did not move their souls. He offers salvation to all who will accept it. He will never allow a soul that trusts in Him to be separated from His love. How freely He gives not only His help, but His very self, we hear when He comes to us in Holy Communion : " May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul into everlasting life."

And He shall deliver them out of the hands of the ungodly. Not only by His grace and the protection of His holy angels here, but, says the Carmelite, by saving them from the accusations of the enemy in the Doom, and appointing them to be where no minister of evil can ever trouble them more.

(12) There is sprung up a light for the righteous, and gladness for such as are true-hearted.

We may take this light first of the seeds of Divine grace, sown in the illumination of Baptism, and growing up by degrees to the perfect day of true holiness. Then of Christ Himself, sown with tears in His grave, rising again in glory and bringing gladness to His people. Or the Sending of the Holy Ghost, Who enlightens the mind with the brightness of divine grace which is vouchsafed to the righteous and true-hearted, that is, to all who have washed their sins in the Blood of Christ. St. Augustine says in his Confessions : There was a great dark cloud of vanity before mine eyes, so that I saw not the Sun of Righteousness and the Light of Truth ; I loved my darkness because I knew not Thy Light; I was blind and loved my blindness and walked from darkness to darkness : but, Lord Thou art my God Who hast led me out of the darkness and the shadow of death and hath called me into this glorious Light. And, behold, I see.

Again, we may take this light as the voice of Conscience which is the heaven-given guide to each individual soul. And what is Conscience ? It is the Light of that great gift of God, Reason, the Light of the Divine Countenance impressed upon our soul [Cf. Ps. iv. 6.], teaching us practically what to do in every specific act. Conscience, after all, must be the guide by which we stand or fall in God's sight; it decides before the act whether it be sinful or not. After reasonings or discussions cannot effect the sinfulness of any past act. That is decided, there and then, by the previous voice of Reason. This Light is clear and brilliant in the souls of the righteous and true-hearted who listen to the Voice of the Holy Ghost, trust Him as their Teacher and make use of His Seven Gifts to purify their understandings from the darkness of sin and to strengthen their wills. Thus the Light of Reason, or the Voice of Conscience, is developed, and we know even as we are known [Cor. xiii 2.], and our heart is filled with the joyful gladness of the Sons of God who walk with Him in white [Cf. Apoc. iii. 4.],

(13) Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous : and give thanks for a remembrance of His holiness.

Holiness is not only an attribute of God, but is also a grace communicated by Him to His people, for which they are to give thanks. It is Justification; it is the Sacrament of Penance ; it is Holy Baptism, say various commentators. The Carmelite takes the words of the Blessed Sacrament, wherein we bless and thank Him, by the Eucharistic worship, which is His Own memorial Rite wherein He is Priest and Victim, Host and Guest [St. Thomas thus writes in the Adoro te : —" O most sweet memorial of His death and woe, Living Bread which giveth life to man below, Let my spirit ever eat of Thee and live, And the blest fruition of Thy sweetness give."].


Glory be to the Father, the Lord of the whole earth ; Glory to the Son, Who preserveth the souls of His saints ; Glory be to the Holy Ghost, Who is the joyful gladness of the true-hearted.


(1) (During the year) After childbirth, O Virgin, thou didst remain inviolate, Mother of God intercede for us.

(2) (During Advent) The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Ghost.

The first of these two Antiphons continues the description of the relations of our ever dear and blessed Lady to the Mystical Body. Through her own stainless Conception and her miraculous child-bearing she became the official intercessor between the Members and the Head. Jesus came to us through her. She has given Him to the world. Without her free consent the Incarnation would never have taken place; for God forces no one. He ever respects the free will He has given, that free will by which we are made images of our Maker. Having thus given us Jesus, the great Gift of God, is it wonderful that we should also get His gifts through her ? Or that having given us the greater she should also give us the lesser ? This Antiphon, then, teaches us her office of Intercessor between us and Jesus, Who is Himself the one Mediator of God and Man [I Tim. ii. 5.]. She does her office now, as she did at Cana of Galilee, when she told Him the wants of the guests and then told the people, Whatsoever He shall say to you that do ye [John ii. 3-5.].

This Antiphon when used during Christmas-tide, and recalls the spotless Motherhood of Mary, ever a Virgin. Before, in, and after child-bearing she remained inviolate, and was, according to the flesh, the Mother of none save the Son of God.

The second of these Antiphons, made up of a familiar Versicle and Response, is used during Advent-tide, and emphasises the divine Maternity from which flow all the offices of Mary to the members of Jesus Christ. It finds its echo in the Psalm : The Lord hath made known His salvation ; and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God, that is, Jesus, the Son of Mary.

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