The Little Office Of Our Lady – At None: The Ninth Hour, pt 2. By E. L. Taunton.


Title.A Song of Degrees.


Tomasi : That Christ may build up what is good in us, and does build it up unto Himself. The voice of Christ to the coming Church. The voice of the Church to the faithful. Venerable Bede : The Prophet rejoicing in having foreseen by the Spirit the grace of the New Testament, teaches at the beginning (lest any hurtful presumptuousness because of so great a gift should seize thee) that no one should ascribe any good results to his own powers, since all things are placed under God's authority, nor desire to outrun the time appointed by the ordinances of the Lord.

(1) Unless the Lord hath built the house: they labour in vain who build it.

They who built the Tower of Babel built in vain. The true House of the Lord, says St. Hilary, is that Temple of God which is made up of ourselves, as living stones, wherein the Spirit is pleased to dwell. No human skill can rear it, nor is it planned by worldly art. It is not built upon the earth nor on the shifting sand. Its foundation is laid upon the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being Himself the Corner-stone [Eph. ii. 19.]. The whole building is the work of God, although under Him skilled workmen have laboured ; and not in vain, for He was with them. The Lord has come to us. He has ransomed us from captivity and the House and the City are being built up : but they who go up thither must know that He alone is Builder and Keeper : Neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God Who giveth the increase [I Cor. iii. 7.]. No man can build up by his own unaided power even the single dwelling of his conscience; for, as St. Gregory says, God pulls down the human heart when He leaves it, and builds it up when He fills it. It is not by making war against the mind of man that He destroys it, but by leaving it; and when this is so and sin has dominion, the heart of a hearer is vainly counselled, because every mouth is dumb if He does not cry aloud in the heart.

(2) Unless the Lord keep the city :  in vain doth he watch who guards it.

Building, no matter how solid or lofty, is not sufficient for the protection of the house or city; and what is even more important, that the fact of being within the city, with its numerous houses, dense population and strong walls, does not secure the safety of one single dwelling. This teaches us that it is not enough to be in the Church of God; since all the sacraments, and God's ministers and our own will cannot protect one human soul, unless the Lord Himself be the Captain of the watch. And if so, how little can the soul of man avail to guard itself ? And note, that whereas it is said in the first verse Except the Lord build, yet it is not here said Except the Lord wake (since He that watcheth over Israel slumbers not nor sleeps), but except the Lord keep,' there can be no doubt of His power, and only our own sins can oppose His good will.

(3) It is vain for you to rise before the light: rise after ye have been sitting, ye who eat bread of sorrow.

Says St. Augustine : There is no use in rising, that is, in being proud and self-reliant, before the Light, which is Christ, arises on our souls. It is good to rise after Him, not before Him ; that is, not to set our own will before Him, as the mother of James and John did when she asked for the chief seats in His kingdom [Matt. xx. 22.]; as Peter did when he strove to dissuade Him from His Passion [Ibid. xvi. 22.]. After we have been sitting in humility at the Master's feet, it will be time enough for us to rise when we have eaten of that bread of sorrow which it is His will to give us.

(4) When He giveth His beloved sleep: lo, the heritage of the Lord, sons; the reward, the Fruit of the womb.

When He giveth His beloved sleep, that peaceful sleep of a holy death, whose waking is in heaven ; a gift given by the Father as the fruit of that time when He gave His beloved sleep upon the Cross.

Behold the heritage of the Lord, sons. Reading these two together we see that God's own special heritage are those saints who have fallen asleep in Jesus, the reward of the Fruit of the womb of Mary, the purchased possession of which the Incarnation and Passion were the price. Sons, born of water and the Holy Ghost, are the Lord's heritage ; and the reward, the priceless possession bestowed on these sons is Himself, the Fruit of the Virgin's womb.

(5) Like arrows in the hand of the mighty one: even so are children of the shaken.

Children of the shaken. These words are explained as meaning "shaken out," "rejected," or "shot swiftly" from the bow. In any sense, says St. Augustine, the word shaken means the Apostles themselves, shot as from the bow of Christ, the Mighty One, to pierce the hearts of the nations ; children mean the generation of teachers whom the same apostles sent in turn. Holy teachers, says Cardinal Hugo, are like an arrow, shapely, because humble ; slender, because poor; straight in charity; smooth in equity; long in long-suffering ; feathered with divers virtues; headed with the steel of patience; sharp in keen intellect: piercing in zeal ; swift in readiness of obedience ; motionless of themselves; but when shot forth by Him, in Whose hands they are, they go straight and surely to the mark.

(6) Happy is the man who filleth  his desire of them : he shall not be ashamed when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

St. Augustine explains this verse as follows. The man who has taken to himself, or filled his desire with the teaching of the Apostles, will feel no shame or confusion at openly contending with the teachers of false doctrine in the gate, that is in the matter of Christ Himself, by boldly declaring the truth concerning Him, as the Apostles did themselves when brought before kings and governors. They who stand at His side are in the gate; they who are against Him are shut outside, and may not enter into the city until they have confessed Him in Whose Name He bids them knock and ask for entrance.


Glory be to the Father the Builder and Keeper of the House and City ; Glory to the Son the Fruit of the Virgin's Womb ; Glory to the Holy Ghost Who giveth His beloved Sleep.

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