THE Little Office of our Lady is one of the liturgical prayers of the Church ; and she imposes it on many of her children. For them it takes the place of that greater office known by the distinctive title of the Divine Office. Although the Little Office of our Lady is considerably shorter than the ever-varying Office which the clergy and religious of both sexes in solemn vows have to say, yet, coming as it does from the same authority which regulates and prescribes its use, it is as much a liturgical prayer as the other, and has the same claims to be considered as part of the public official worship which the mystical Spouse of Christ, the Church, daily offers to her Divine Head.
In these last words we have the whole idea of Liturgical Prayer ; and, in order that it should be properly understood, and secure in our heart its true value, we propose to consider, somewhat at length, the nature of prayer, especially in its relation to the recitation of the Office.
We cannot get a better definition of prayer than that found in our catechism, which is the one given by the great Angelical doctor St. Thomas : Prayer is the lifting up of the
heart and mind to God. It is, in its simplest form, an act of the soul which calls into play the powers of understanding and will, or, in other words, the reason and the affections. The understanding has to be directed to God; the will has to be moved towards Him. Faith must illuminate our understanding so that we may know Him Whom we address ; while Hope and Charity must inflame our will so that we may love, praise, adore, thank, and beseech Him in Whom we believe. There can be no prayer, properly so-called, of the understanding without a resulting motion of the will; neither can there be a prayer of the will without the preliminary exercise of the understanding. Both must be employed ; for, as God is One, so is the soul. He has made man to His Own image and likeness. He does not wish us to have a dry knowledge of Himself, but such an understanding as will make us turn to Him as the sole Object that can adequately fill a creature's heart. Again, He does not ask us to love Him blindly, not knowing Who or What He is. He demands a reasonable service [Rom. xii. 2.], a love based on knowledge. Without the use of reason we debase His service into a mere superstition. Hence it can be seen, from the definition of prayer, that it is the work of the soul acting through understanding and will. It is well to get this principle deeply rooted in the mind from the outset, for it proves how necessary it is for each one, as far as means allow, to make a conscientious study of the subject of prayer; and especially of the Liturgical Prayer. For those bound to its recitation this must be a serious duty, since the Office is a daily task, laid upon us by Holy Church under a grave obligation.
Prayer is divided into two great classes : mental prayer and vocal prayer. Mental prayer is that in which the soul itself works without the aid of any exterior instrument. Vocal prayer, as its very name implies, calls in the use of the human voice as an external means of praying. But there is this important point to bear in mind. If the soul can pray without the help of the body, the body cannot pray without the help of the soul. Vocal prayer must find an echo in the heart, otherwise it is but an empty form, and merits the contempt which our Lord shows for the prayers of the Pharisees, who expected to be heard for their much speaking [Matthew vi. 7]. It would be but a lip-service which He does not want : These people know me with their lips and not with their hearts, says the Lord by His prophet [Isaias xxix. 13]. This strict dependence of vocal prayer on mental prayer is in keeping with our human nature. Our bodies can only be said to act in a reasonable manner when prompted by the soul. There is nothing in the nature of things that can prevent the soul from acting, that is to say, from knowing and loving, without making use of the organs of the body : a proof, by the way, making for the immortality of the soul. It is on account of this truth that Holy Church bids us, before beginning our Office, pray that we may say it attentively and devoutly; that is, with due application of the body and the soul.
Of vocal prayer, which mainly concerns us in this book, the division is two-fold—public and private ; and both have to be considered from the point of view of the prayer itself, and the one who prays. Public vocal prayer, strictly so-called, is that prayer which is the official act of the whole body of the Church. Private vocal prayer is that which individuals, by themselves or with others, say according to their own private devotion. It, therefore, cannot be looked upon as the public act of the whole body of the Church. Now as regards those who pray : the individual may be either a public servant of the Church who in her name is charged with making intercession ; or a private individual [Though forsaking his own fancies, he may find both his security and profit in following the formulas which are publicly authorised by the Church, and thus unite himself with the public praying of the Church] who bears no official position, and is not appointed, like Aaron, to stand between the living and the dead [Numbers xvi. 48]. Those who, either by their state or by vow approved of by the Church, are charged with saying the Office, whether it be the Divine Office or the Little Office of our Lady, say it as public servants of the Church who, officially, stand before the Throne of God and make intercession for the whole body of Christ's Church.
When performing this duty, even when alone, they cease to be private individuals : they are invested with the public character of ambassadors to the heavenly court. He is constituted in those things which appertain to God [Heb. v. i]. But although invested with a public character, those who recite the Office do not lose the merit of their own personal action according to the words of the Apostle : Who sows in blessings the same also shall reap in blessings ; [2 Cor. ix. 6] or that other saying : From the fruit of his month shall a man be filled with good things [Prov. xiii]. And there is no prayer so efficacious as that of the Office, for it has a peculiar and great merit before God for a reason we shall give below. "A single psalm said well excites all the powers of our soul and makes us produce a hundred acts of virtue. One hour said with devotion implies at the bottom of the heart a thousand good desires, a thousand pious affections": thus St. Alphonsus. Is it any wonder that St. Benedict tells his monks : " Let nothing be preferred to the work of God " ? [Holy Rule, Cap. 43]
But there is a deeper view of the public prayer of the Church and of those who are privileged to take part therein. We must look more closely into the matter and endeavour to search out honey and oil out of the Rock [Deut. xxii. 13]. Now the Rock was Christ [I Cor. x. 4]; and He, the same yesterday, to-day and for evermore [Heb. xiii. 8], is the soul of the Liturgical prayer. It is Jesus Christ Who prays in us ; it is He Who prays by us ; it is He Who prays with us. This is the great truth which gives the value to Liturgical prayer and sets it so far above any private devotions. It is this sublime truth which makes St. Alphonsus say that one Pater Noster said in the Office is worth a thousand said out of private devotion.
We must go back to our baptismal Creed for the foundation of all this. We profess our belief in the Almighty Father, in the Incarnate Son, and the Holy Ghost; and then in the mystical Body of Christ, quickened by the Abiding Presence, the Holy Catholic Church, which is the Communion of Saints. This is the doctrine of the Mystical Body which the Holy Ghost by St. Paul thus explains :—
For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink of one Spirit. . . . Now ye are the Body of Christ and members in particular [Cor. xii. 12, 13, 27],
And again :—
For there is one Body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (That) speaking the truth in love (we) may grow up in all things into Him who is the Head, even Christ, from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love [Eph. iv. 4, 5, 6, 15, 16].
And once more :—
And He is before all things and in Him all things consist. And He is the Head of the Body, the Church. . . . for it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell [Col. i. 17,18].
On these words of the Apostle the whole structure of the Liturgical prayer is built. It is the outward manifestation of the real life of the Church, the mystical Body of God the Son. And in this way our Divine Lord has united to Himself, as members of a body to the head, all those who live by grace. This forms what is called the Mystical Body of Christ. As He has a real human body born of the Virgin Mary so He has also a Mystical Body begotten by grace born of the Water and the Blood [I John v. 6] and quickened at Pentecost by the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Life-giver. Those who are members of His Body live with His life and act through with Him according to the saying : I live; no longer I but Christ lives in me [Gal. ii. 20] ; and that other : Of His fulness we all have received [John i. 16]. When this Mystical Body acts it is always in union with its Divine Head, Jesus Christ. Its acts become His acts, for they are guided by His Spirit. They are thus invested with a dignity and a worth far beyond their natural power. They become the acts of the Infinite God Himself. On the other hand, when Jesus Christ works He acts as the Head of the Church, of that Mystical body which He has united so closely to Himself and which only exists in Him. He makes use of the Body Mystical for carrying out His Own gracious ends; and plays on it as a skilful harper who touches the strings of a well-tuned instrument and is sure that they will respond to the feelings which sweep over his soul.
What, then, is the work of Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church ? He is the great Adorer of His Father, or, as the saintly founder of St. Sulpice was wont to say, the Sole Religious [Religion in its real meaning is that bond which binds the creature to the Creator (Religo —I bind)]. Through the Incarnation, God is able to receive from Creation a homage and a worship which perfectly befit Him, and which otherwise could never have been found. Finite creatures, be they the holiest and highest, can never worship God as He deserves; for to Him is due a worship without bounds. How, then, can creatures, who are limited on all sides, pay such a homage ? No one but God Himself, the Infinite One, can offer a worship which has the perfection that is required. It was therefore necessary, if He is to have a fitting worship, that God the Son, of the very same substance and equal to His Father in all things, should become Man, so that as the God-Man He, in His created nature, and in the name of all creation, should pay a homage which, on account of His Own Divine Person, is infinite and worthy of all acceptance by the Eternal Father. But while on the one hand God receives from Jesus Christ a worship without ending, according to the words : Great is the Lord and exceedingly to be praised [Ps. xlvii. i] ; on the other, the life of the God-Man is also destined for us, to supply the wants of our race. He is decreed to be our Head in order to enable us through Him to worship our Maker. Not only during the thirty-three years of His mortal life was He to worship His Father, but that homage has to be paid for evermore. The life of Jesus now in Heaven is concerned with the same work : Living for ever to make intercession for us [Heb. vii. 25]. He is the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world [Apoc. xiii. 8] ; the Eternal Sacrifice to which we are associated. The Mystical Body ever needs to pour forth its homage to the Eternal; and Jesus Christ, her Divine Head, is ever making intercession for us in Her name. We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous [John ii. i]. This position of our Lord, as the Mystical Head of the Church, the Adorer of the Father in the name of His brethren, must be understood if we are to appreciate the Liturgical prayer at its proper value, and to understand our share therein. Let us, then, with the eye of faith, penetrate within the veil and, with adoring look, gaze on the worship of heaven. Let us enter into His courts with praise [Ps. c. 4] and listen to the morning stars singing together and the Sons of God shouting for joy [Job xxxviii. 7]. The Beloved disciple, St. John, shall be our guide.
And after this I looked and behold a door was opened in heaven; and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said: Come up hither and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a Throne was set in heaven and One sat on the Throne. And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone; and there was a rainbow round about the Throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
And round about the Throne were four and twenty seats; and sitting upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders, sitting clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
And out of the Throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices : and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the Throne which are the seven Spirits of God.
And before the Throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the Throne, and round about the Throne, were four living creatures, full of eyes, before and behind.
And the first living creature was like a lion, and the second living creature like a calf, and the third living creature had a face as a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying-eagle.
And the four living creatures had each of them six wings about him : and they were full of eyes within : and they rest not day or night, saying: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was, and is, and is to come.
And when those living creatures gave glory and honour and thanks to Him that sat on the Throne, Who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fell down before Him that sat on the Throne, and worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the Throne, saying: Thou art worthy, 0 Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they were and arc created [Apoc. iv. i-iv].
And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the Throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing as if it were slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the Throne.
And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a New Song: Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy Blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the Throne and the living creatures and the elders : and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying, with a loud voice : Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
And every creature which is in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that arc in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the Throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever: and the four living creatures said: Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever [Apoc. v. 6-14].
And the four and twenty elders who sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying: We give Thee thanks, 0 Lord God Almighty, Who art, and wast, and art to come, because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.
And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testimony : and there were lightning, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. And there appeared a great sign in heaven : a Woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars [Apoc. xi. 16-19].
And I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with Him an hundred and forty and four thousand, having His Father's name written in their foreheads. And I heard a Voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: and they sang as it were a New Song before the Throne, and before the four living creatures, and the elders : And no man could learn that Song but the hundred and forty and four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These were they who were not defiled with women for they are virgins. These are they who follow the Lamb whither-soever He goeth. These were purchased from among men, the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb ; and in their mouth was found no guile, for they are with-out blemish before the Throne of God [Apoc. xiv. 1-5],
And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. . . And the temple was filled with smoke from the Glory of God, and from His power [Apoc. xv. 5, 8].
And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying: Alleluia I Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God. . . And the four and twenty elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God that sat on the Throne, saying: Amen; Alleluia. And a Voice came out of the Throne saying: Praise our God, all ye His servants, and ye that fear Him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia : for the Lord our God the Almighty reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory to Him : for the Marriage of the Lamb is come, and His Spouse hath made herself ready [Apoc. Xix. 1, 4-7].
And I heard a great Voice out of heaven saying, Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and shall be their God.
And He that sat upon the Throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me : Write : for these words are true and faithful. And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End [Apoc. Xxi. 3,5,6].
In this picture of the worship of heaven, which fills our heart with a reverential awe, we have all the elements of the Liturgical prayer. He Who sits upon the Throne is the object of all worship; the mystic living creatures are continually pouring forth their adoration ; the elders are for ever casting in abasement their crowns before the Throne ; the glorious angelic host in their varied choirs, each a very world of beauty, of intelligence and love, join in the mighty song of praise ; the one Voice from all creation, animate and inanimate, is always giving expression of their love and worship to their Maker, harping as harpers on the mystical harp of the Heart of the Lamb, Who has redeemed them to God and is in their midst as the Leader and Director of all the adoration, and the Voice Himself which comes from the Throne, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. For it is deep down in the Heart of the Lamb that are found all the prayers of the Saints. He first conceives them as the expression of His own worship to the Father, and then instills them into our souls ; thus causing us to have the same mind that is in Himself [Phil. ii. 5]. He is the eternal Praise and the Glory of His Father. It is through Him alone that we have access to the Throne of Mercy [Eph ii. 18].
Thus the public prayer of the Church is nothing else but the prayer which the Divine Head of the Church is ever pouring forth on our behalf to His Eternal Father. Sharing as we do in His life, forming but one body with Him, He makes use of our souls as so many instruments by which He can praise God. The words we utter are His in very truth ; it is He Who prays in us and by us, if we place ourselves wholly at His disposal. Hence no exaggeration can be found in the words we say when we remember it is He Who is saying them, and that on His lips they are perfectly exact and true. But if we are His instruments, we are reasonable ones. To refer to a former simile, we are not like a mute harp which is responsive only when the musician touches it, but we are like a harp of living strings—of strings which willingly place themselves under the master's power and share in his sentiment as far as possible. We have to love God with our whole soul, with our affections, and with our reason ; and so we must know what is our part in the Divine worship the Head of the Church is always pouring forth, and what part is His. Our part is a deliberate purpose of praising God in union with Jesus Christ, and it is all summed up in these glorious words said in the Mass just before the Pater Noster: " In Him and with Him and by Him, is all honour and glory to Thee, God, Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, through the ages of ages."
M. Olier has tried to bring out this great truth by means of a seal made from the designs of the French artist Lebrun. The upper part represents Heaven and the Holy Ghost, the source of all homage and of every blessing of which God is the object here below. Beneath, appears David with his heart enlightened, and transported by the light of the Holy Ghost. In him we recognise the face of his son, Jesus Christ, upon Whom the Holy Ghost reposes with all fulness, and Whose every aim is directed to the glory of the Divine Majesty. The harp the King holds in his hand, and which bears the words : Magnificate Dominum mecum (" Praise the Lord with me "), represents the soul of Our Lord, Who, by a never-ending love toward His Father, desires that every word of His should be repeated by all His brethren.
Around David, but a little lower down, are priests clad in their choral dress, kneeling, with eyes raised heavenwards ; they also carry harps, upon which is inscribed the second half of the verse, Exaltemus nomen ejus in idipsum (" Let us exalt His name in the selfsame"). These represent the ministers of the Church and others charged with praising God in the name of their brethren; they unite themselves to Our Lord's Spirit and join in His tribute of praise. They wear the surplice, to show the purity required in those whom Our Lord deigns to use as His instruments. They are on their knees, to show that they ought to live in the spirit of worship. Their eyes are cast to heaven, and on their harps are the words In idipsum (" in the selfsame"), because their sole desire should be to praise God in and through Jesus. On the lowest part of the seal are the words of the Apocalypse: / heard a voice from heaven as the voice of many waters, as of harpers harping on their harps. It was a voice, not voices that were heard. Only one Voice goes up before the Throne of God, only one worship does God attend to. It is the Voice of Jesus which is heard for His reverence [Heb. v. 7.], "He alone," says M. Olier, "has the right to intone the Song of Zion, and to bid us, His children, join therein."
This, then, is the life of our Blessed Lord in heaven. As our Head He gives to His Father and to our Father, to His God and to our God [John. Xxi. 1.], the worship we ourselves are not able to give. "As in each man the head speaks, sees, and thinks for the whole man, and thus makes up for the weakness of the rest of the body, so does Jesus Christ supply for the defects of the body of the faithful, the bulk of Christians, who of themselves are blind, insensible, and dumb. He lays before God the wants of the entire body. He speaks for it, sees, and hears for it—in a word, being its Head, He does everything for it " [Bacquez: The Divine Office. p. 283.],
To quote M. Olier, and applying his words to the public prayer of the Church : "This is what Jesus Christ does invisibly in heaven. This is what His ministers are called to do in a visible manner here below ; or, rather, what our Lord does unceasingly through them on earth. To this end He places in their hands the Office, the expression of His sentiments, and of the duty of His members toward the Father ; and whilst, as Head and High Priest, He communicates His Spirit to enable them to perform it, His Church puts them under the obligation of reciting it in His name. Thus the priest, the representative of our Lord, is at the same time the living symbol of the unity of the members of the Body Mystical. The Church, represented in him, addresses herself by Jesus Christ to the Eternal Father, and, by the power of the Holy Ghost, our Lord gives life to the prayers of the Church and makes them worthy of God, even as in the Mass He uses His priest to consecrate the mystery of His Body and Blood and offer them as a victim meet for the divine regard."
This intimate union which exists between the Head and the members of the Body Mystical, and which makes us, as St. Paul says, One body and one spirit [Eph. iv. 4.], is the fulfilment of our Lord's promise made the night before He suffered : In that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you [John xiv. 20.]. And : Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee : they may also be one in us [Ibid. xvii. 20, 21.]. Not only was it His parting wish, but it was the subject of His last discourse : Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in Me. I am the Vine, ye are the branches [Ibid. xv. 4, 5.].
This, then, is our position when, in the name of the Church, we take up our Office book and say our hours. As the Apostle says : We put on the Lord Jesus Christ [Rom. xiii. 14.]. We become His mouthpiece, and give voice to the feelings of adoration, thanksgiving, supplication, and atonement which are for ever welling up from the Sacred Heart as Jesus lifts up His five wounds before the Father and intercedes for us. We give voice to that great cry which, amidst the toil and bustle of the day, and in the stillness and solitude of the night, is ever ascending from that same Sacred Heart in the countless tabernacles where in sacramental life Jesus abides in our midst. His prayer is ours; ours is His. Thou art my praise [Jeremiah xvii.], says the Prophet. Christ is our life [Col. iii. 3.], says the Apostle. Not only does He pray for us as our High Priest, but He also prays in us, as our Head ; and, filling us with His feelings, He joins our hearts to the homage He pays His Father. As the flame consumes every thread of wick in the same light and fire, so does our Lord's Spirit spread throughout the Church, enlightening each soul with the splendour of the one faith, and consuming it with the ardour of the one charity. He maketh His ministers a flaming fire [Ps. ciii. 4.]. This is why the Church always ends our prayers with the words, " Through Christ our Lord"—to unite us with Him Who prays in us, and to remind us of His promise that anything we ask the Father in His name shall be presently granted to us [John. xv. 16.].
An important result follows from the consideration of the doctrine of the Mystical Body. It is one that fills us with great consolation. As long as we keep our mind and heart lifted up to God—that is to say, as long as we keep ourselves, as it were, basking in the sunshine of His presence—the weaknesses of human nature, such as distractions, cannot harm us or take away from the value of our prayer. Our Lord continues to use us as His instruments until we, by a deliberate act of our will, break off the union and, of set purpose, withdraw ourselves from His influence.
That great Benedictine soul, St. Gertrude, being once, in spite of all efforts, more than ordinarily distracted, lost heart, and began to be much troubled. Our Divine Master vouchsafed to appear to His servant and consoled her by saying : Daughter, behold My Heart ; for the future look to it and supply your defects. When you mould pray, ask it to help you to give to My Father the worship you owe. I shall ever be ready to second you as soon as you call Me to your aid. St. Bernard learned the same lesson. " David rejoiced of old to have found his heart to pray to his Master and to his God [2 Kings vii. 27.]. " And I have found the Heart of the King, of the Brother, and Friend, of the loving Jesus. And therefore shall I not adore ? Yea, I will pray. For His Heart is with me, yea, boldly will I say it, for my Head is Christ" [Migne, P. L., vol. 184, p. 642.].
"The Spirit of our Lord," says M. Olier, "is like a river that flows into the vast bosom of the Eternal, and in the rapidity of its course carries along everything it meets with. It is enough that by our will we give ourselves to Him, and are sensitive under His touch. He will then carry us along with Himself into the abyss of the Divinity, there to be absorbed for ever."
To sum up, then, the Liturgical Prayer, such as we have it in the Office, and is laid upon us by the Church, is no private devotion, but it is the Prayer which the Word Incarnate is ever pouring forth on behalf of the Mystical Body of which He is the Head. Those who say it are the willing instruments placed at His disposal by His Spouse, the Church. We abide in Him and He in us. The words we speak, we speak not of ourselves, but in His Person. In the Liturgical Prayer we have the most perfect means of adoring, and thanking God, and of making supplication, atonement, that the Eternal Wisdom could provide. By Jesus Christ, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name [Heb. xiii. 15.]. From this point of view there is nothing to be added to make us esteem and love our Office. No one who knows what it is can hesitate in putting it far above any private devotion ; for nothing can compare with it, save and except the Mass, with which it is so closely connected that one cannot be understood without the other [ The Sacrifice of Prayer to be perfect must never be separated in thought from the great Eucharistic Sacrifice of the New Law. The Office and the Mass form but one whole, and one can understand the Office only when it is studied in the light of the Altar ; for it is the setting of rich gold which surrounds and sets forth the priceless jewel of the Mass. When we consider that the Prayer of our Lord, like His Sacrifice, has the same four ends, viz., adoration, thanksgiving, supplication, and atonement, we can immediately see that the Mass must be steadily kept in view in any study of the Office we may undertake. The whole Office must, therefore, always be referred to the Mass either as preparation or thanksgiving, both for priests who have to say it, and for others who take part in the offering by their presence.]. Therefore, to spend time over our Office, to taste more and more of its sweetness, to find in it food for our souls, to form all our spiritual life on it, to get the matter for our mental prayer from it, to make its phrases those with which we habitually approach the Throne of Mercy, to make it regulate our whole life, even if, for this purpose, we have to abandon our self-willed and private devotions, which, valuable in themselves for others, are perhaps not fitted for us, into whose hands the Church puts the Office book as her public servants ; to do all this is surely the highest wisdom.
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907