VERSICLES AND COLLECT.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. O Lord, hear my prayer.
And let my my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray.
O God Who hast willed by the message of the angel that Thy Word shouldst take flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, grant to Thy supplicants, that we who believe her to be verily the Mother of God may, by her intercessions before Thee, be helped. Through the same Christ, our Lord.
The three-fold invocation to the blessed Trinity is called the smaller Litany and, together with the Lord's Prayer, formed in the early ages the conclusion of the Office. But in course of time the sentiments contained in the Pater Noster were developed into a prayer which more particularly harmonised with the special application of the Office. This prayer is called a Collect, that is, the prayer of the people collected in public worship, or a prayer in which the priest collects into one the petitions of all present. Most of the Collects in the Missal (from which these in the Office are taken) are the arrangements of St. Leo the Great (461), St. Gelasius (496), and St. Gregory (604).
The words of the preceding Versicle: Domine exdudi oratidnem meam, are from the first verse of Psalm ci., and form a fitting introduction to the Collect. We say Oremus in the plural, even when reciting the Office by ourselves; for we are saying the prayer in the name of the whole Church. We thus follow our Lord's injunction : When ye pray, ye shall say, Our Father [Matt. vi. 9.]. In this Collect we give the Incarnation as the basis of prayer and simply express our petition, that we, who believe Mary to be the Mother of God may be helped by her intercession. A few words, but how they sum up in direct prayer the thoughts that have been ever rising in our mind during Matins and Lauds ! If she be the Mother of God, and all her graces flow from this privilege, her intercession must be of the greatest value. Therefore, we ask our heavenly Father to grant it may be availing. To which all present say: " So be it."
THE COMMEMORATION OF THE SAINTS.
All ye saints of God vouchsafe to intercede for our salvation and for that of all.
Be joyful in the Lord and rejoice, O ye just.
AT LAUDS, OR MORNING SONG
And be ye glorified all ye righteous in heart.
Let us pray.
Protect, 0 Lord, Thy people, and guard with perpetual defence those who trust in the patronage of Thine Apostles Peter and Paul, and the other Apostles.
May all Thy saints, we beseech Thee, 0 Lord, help us everywhere: and while we venerate their merits let us experience their patronage: and grant peace in our times, and ward off from Thy Church all iniquity: dispose our life, our deeds, our will, and those of all Thy servants, in the prosperity of Thy salvation : give to our benefactors the good things everlasting: and to all the faithful dead grant rest eternal. Through Thy Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, God, throughout all ages of ages.
O Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.
May the souls of the faithful through the mercy of God rest in peace.
Then is said one of the anthems of the Blessed Virgin, according to the season and, at the end : —
May the Divine help remain with us always.
But if another hour be recited immediately after the Pater nosier, the Dominus det nobis, the Anthem, &c., are only said at the end of the last Hour.
The origin of the commemoration is interesting. As we have already pointed out the first addition to the Divine Office was a Little Office of All Saints, consisting of Lauds and Vespers. But when, at a later date, the Cursus of our Lady took the place of the various Little Offices in use, a remembrance of them, in the shape of commemorations with Versicle and Prayer, was introduced. These varied in different places. For instance, in a Benedictine Cursus beatae Maria, belonging to the Monastery of Scholoyi (1513), we find after the Antiphon of All Saints, Sancti Dei omnes, prayers of SS. Peter and Paul, St. Benedict, and then of All Saints, Omnes Sancti tui. In the Dominican use (1529), the commemorations are of the Saints and of Peace : Da pacem. In the Cursus beatce Virginis of the Breviary for the Church of St. Donatus, Bruges (1520), we find, besides that of All Saints, one of the Holy Ghost, together with one of St. Basil, the local patron. In the old English Use of Sarum (the Primer) about (1420-30), the commemorations or "memorials" are (1) of the Holy Ghost; (2) of the Blessed Trinity; (3) of All Saints ; (4) of Peace : and to the various hours were joined as an additional cursus, commemorations of the Passion. This accounts for the various additional offices formerly in use, with the exception of that for the Dead. In the revised Cursus used to-day we can find in the commemoration of All Saints and its accompanying prayers traces of all the other little Offices in general use. First, there is the Antiphon with Versicle and Response ; then the prayer which recalls the Little Office of the Apostles. This is followed by a long prayer made up of many ideas blended into one : (1) That of All Saints corresponding to the Antiphon ; (2) then the prayer for Peace ; (3) then the prayer for the Dead ; (4) then the general prayer to the Blessed
Trinity. Between the prayer for Peace and that for the Dead are inserted two other petitions, the idea of the first seemingly taken from the two prayers at Prime in the Divine Office, and the other a prayer for benefactors. Upon what principle these two last came to be added we cannot tell, except that the composite prayer, Ontnes sancti tut, having a ring of a supplication for all estates of the Church, these two were added for the sake of completeness [The idea of the prayer for benefactors would likely be taken from the monastic additional prayers, the preces familiares mentioned on a former page.].
In this prayer we have all God's Church united, the Church in heaven, in purgatory and on earth. And thus united we place ourselves under the protection of the Queen of All Saints, of the Mother of the whole Church, and then approach the Throne of grace.
The concluding Versicles, which are used at most of the hours, call for but little comment. The invitation to Bless the Lord reminds us that, though we conclude our official act of blessing God, we are not to cease in our private capacity from continuing to praise God by a life of union with Him. " Thus," says the author of the Myroure, "ye began your Matins with prayer and ye end them with thanksgiving. For like as at the beginning of any good deed, we ought to know our own weakness and therefore pray for help; rightly so at the end, if aught be good, we ought to offer it up to Him with thanksgiving for His part and humble ourselves for our part. And take heed that ye say not: We bless God, or We thank God ; but ye say Bless we, and Thank we, stirring yourself to bless Him and thank Him more and more. For ye can never bless Him nor thank Him as much as He is worthy ; and therefore you end in desiring to bless Him and thank Him ever more and more " [pp. 136-7.].
The aspiration for the Faithful departed is a touching proof of the Church's care and love for her members who are in Purgatory. At the end of every hour she thus prays for them. It may serve to remind us, too, of our own death and of the need we shall be in one day of these same prayers. It will therefore stir us up to say it with fervour. The concluding Pater nosier is evidently taken from the Holy Rule of St. Benedict who orders his monks to end their hours with this Divine prayer.
The Anthems of our Lady will be treated of at the end of the Compline.
After our visit to the Heavenly Court and having conversed face to face with God we should come down from the Mount of God with deep peace in our soul, a peace the world can neither give nor take away. The Versicle, May the Lord grant us His peace, is an echo of the last verse of the Benedictus. St. Paul's words should be in our minds when we say this : And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ [Phil. iv. 7.].
During two seasons of the year—Advent and Christmas-tide—certain variations are made in the Office on account of the special relation of our Lady to these two periods. We will now note them.
(1) The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a virgin espoused to Joseph.
(2) Hail Mary, full of grace! the Lord is with thee : blessed art thou amongst women. Alleluia.
(3) Fear not, 0 Mary, thou hast found grace before the Lord ! Behold thou shall conceive and bear a Son. Alleluia.
(4) The Lord shall give Him the seat of David His father, and He shall reign for ever.
(5) Behold the handmaiden of the Lord : be it done to me according to Thy Word.
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907