Tomasi : That Christ by the Coming of the Holy Ghost hath stablished His Mercy upon us. The voice of the Apostles to the Gentiles. A speech of the Prophet concerning God's praise.
Venerable Bede : There are but two verses; yet words, however few, in praise of the Lord are always most full. We should apply this Psalm also to the person of the martyrs who now, having as it were achieved their glorious passion, arouse all other nations to the praises of the Lord Who hath done such things for His servants that they too may be the rather imbued with His example.
(1) O praise the Lord all ye heathen : 0 praise ye Him all ye nations.
This Psalm, says a Jewish commentator, consists but of two verses and refers to the days of the Messias. And by making it consist of only two verses, the Psalmist implies that all nations shall be put into two classes—Israel and the Gentiles. As these latter form the more numerous and more zealous portion, says Lorin, they are placed before the Jews in the order of the verse. St. Paul cites this verse when arguing for the union of Jew and Gentile in one church [Rom. xv. 4.]. An old commentator bids us note that the first part of the injunction began to be fulfilled when the Wise Men came with the gifts to Bethlehem, and the latter when the inscription in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew was set up over the Cross. The Carmelite says it is fulfilled continually in three classes of worshippers— devout pilgrims here on earth, souls in purgatory, and the blessed in heaven ; all of whom join in the chorus of praise to God.
(2) For His mercy is confirmed upon us : and the Truth of the Lord abideth for ever.
The Jews dwelt on the word us; and St. Paul allows this saying : Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the Truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers [Rom. xv. 8.]. But he goes on to show that the word us is used in a wider and more loving sense, which identifies Jew and Gentile as one new people; for he continues : And that the Gentile should glorify God for His Mercy.
And the Truth of the Lord abideth for ever. That Truth is the Eternal Word, Who said : I am the Way, the Truth and the Life [John xiv, 6.]. The Gospel, the truth that came by Jesus, abideth for ever : Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away [Matt. xxiv. 35.]. And the Mercy, when He said, It is finished; for then, having tasted of the sharpness of death, He opened the gates of heaven to all believers. Bellarmine remarks that the Apostle, when he says the Gentiles are to praise God for His Mercy and that Truth belongs to the Jews because God confirmed to them the promises made to the fathers, does not mean that the Jews have no part in the Mercy ; but that Mercy alone is shown to the Gentiles, to whom God had made no promises whatever; whereas in sending the Messias to the Jews He gave them both Truth and Mercy. His Mercy and Truth will abide for ever in yet another sense : in the enduring result of the sentence at the Doom, when He will save or condemn according to their deserts all who stand before His Judgment Seat.
Glory be to the Father the Lord God of all. Glory to the Son, Whose Mercy is confirmed upon us. Glory to the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, Who abides ever with the Church.
LITTLE CHAPTER [Cant. vi. 10.].
Who is she that cometh forth, as the rising morn, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army in battle array ?
Thanks be to God.
As the material sun is rising in the skies at the hour of Prime it reminds us of our ever dear and blessed Lady who, by her rising in all the beauty of the Immaculate Conception, put an end to the long night which had overshadowed the world since the Fall. She is fair as the moon, for she shines with a light not her own, but borrowed from the Sun of Righteousness Himself ; she is clear as the sun, for she became clothed with the same Sun of Righteousness, and charity covered her as with a mantle. She is terrible to our enemies ; for enmity has been put between them and her. This last thought encourages us to seek her protection during the coming day, for our enemies are hers. And this thought is carried on in the following versicle.
VERSICLE AND COLLECT.
Grant me grace to praise thee, 0 sacred Virgin. Give me strength against thine enemies.
These words of St. Ephrem were used as the Second Antiphon of the Third Nocturn, to which we refer the reader. Here only will we say they get a new force from the last words of the Little Chapter. We may note we do not ask for strength against our enemies, but against her enemies. For often those we count as our friends our Lady counts as her enemies ; for she sees that they are false friends to us and endanger the salvation of our souls.
The Kyrie eleison with the Versicle follow as at Lauds ; then is said the Prayer :—
O God, Who didst deign to choose the virginal womb of Blessed Mary in which to dwell: grant, we beseech, that guarded by her defence we may gladly take part in her commemoration: Who liveth and reigneth, &c.
We find thoughts which suggest this prayer in the Little Chapter and in the 84th Psalm. There is also the note of warfare, of a struggle against her enemies. When she protects us, with joy and gladness we shall serve her and show our love and gratitude by our devotion. The Office concludes with the same Versicles as at Lauds.
THE LITTLE CHAPTER [Is. vii. 14, 15.].
Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Emmanuel. Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to forsake Evil and choose Good.
These prophetic words of Isaias, declaring the Maiden-Motherhood of our Lady, are peculiarly appropriate to the Season of Advent. She was to be a virgin not only in conceiving but in bringing forth; and her Child was to be no ordinary Son, but Emmanuel, which, being interpreted is, God with us. Says the Myroure : " Emmanuel is as much as to say, God with us. For while He is God in His Own Nature, and with us in our Nature, so is He God and Man in one Person. By butter and honey we understand all other meats according to Man, whereby is shown that He was very man and lived, after His body, by man's meat. And He shall know to forsake evil and choose good; for though He were fed as an infant, yet He was as wise as when He came to man's age. They that treat of Nature say that cheese is evil, and the less it have of butter the worse it is. Therefore our Child ate butter that is without cheese, for He took our Nature without sin. He ate also honey, that is, sweet, for He delighted Him to do mercy to sinners and to all that were in disease or in need, the doing of which mercy was to Him sweeter than honey. A bee giveth honey and stingeth. So our sweet bee, Jesus Christ, in His first Coming gave honey of mercy and of pity. But they that will not dispose themselves to receive this honey here shall be stung with the tongue of sharp rigour at His second Coming, when He shall forsake the evil to endless pain and choose the good to everlasting bliss" [pp. 127-8.].
The prayer is the same as at Lauds and is said at all the hours during the season.
The Little Chapter is Quae est ista, as above ; and the Collect is that said at Lauds. The same prayer is said throughout the Office during this season.