LITTLE CHAPTER [Eccle. xxiv. 2.],
And I took root in an honourable people, and in the
Lot of the Lord was my inheritance; and my staying
in the fulness of the saints.
Thanks be to God.
Blessed art thou amongst women.
And blessed is the Fruit of thy womb.
The sense of confidence and firmness which pervades the Psalms finds its echo in the Little Chapter. Here we get it concentrated, as it were, upon one object, our ever dear and blessed Lady. As the day goes on (it is now the office for midday) and worldly trials are surrounding us, and the noonday devil [Ps. xc. 6.] is roaring, we need a renewal of confidence ; and the " valiant woman," Mary, that Mount Sion girt about with such mountains of grace, she who escaped from the snare of the fowler who sought to bring all under sin, she the Handmaid of the Lord who always kept her eyes fixed on Him, she, we are told, is a ground for sure confidence. For she has taken root, and is in the peaceful enjoyment of her heritage, and abides in heaven. All these are ideas of fixity. So confidence in her is reasonable ; for she trusts in the Lord and is therefore immovable. Her special heritage is in the Lot of the Lord, that is, in those souls who have chosen Him for their part of the heritage and their cup. They are specially dear to her and feel above all others her protection. On this Little Chapter let us hear the author of the Myroure : "Christian people are honoured above all people in knowledge of right belief and in the sacrament of holy Church. And therefore in them our Lady is rooted by spiritual help and favour, namely, in such as seek their chief heritage in heaven and not on earth. Also, our Lady abideth in the fulness of saints, for there never was a saint on earth nor angel in heaven that was or is so full of virtues and graces, but that our Lady had and hath them all in more fulness and perfection than they. And therefore, says St. Bernard : Verily her abiding is in the fulness of saints, for she failed not in the faith of patriarchs, nor in the spirit of prophets, nor in the zeal of the apostles, nor in the steadfastness of martyrs, nor in the soberness of confessors, nor in the chastity of virgins, nor in the plenteousness of the wedded, nor in the purity of angels " [p. 149.].
These thoughts lend a peculiar significance to the Deo gratias and to the praise we give her as " Blessed among women."
Grant 0 merciful God help to our weakness : that we who
venerate the Holy Mother of God, may, by the help of her
intercession, rise up from our sins. Through the same Jesus Christ, &c.
The prayer sums up the thoughts of the whole Office. We ask of God that we may in very truth feel the protection of her in whom we have been led to trust. Her protection serves only to one end, that we may rise out of sin. All is based on that. At the Marriage Feast of Cana she took pity on the temporal need of her hosts and interceded with her Son ; but it was on the condition that Whatsoever He tells you to do, that do ye [John ii: 5.]. So it is with us. She helps us in all things, but for one end only : to get us to do the Divine Will and avoid sin.
The Antiphon and Collect is from Lauds according to the season ; the Versicle is as above.
LITTLE CHAPTER [Luke i. 32, 33.].
The Lord God shall give Him the throne of David His father,
and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever :
and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.
The spirit of confidence which runs through the Psalms is strengthened here by the thought of the everlasting Kingship of Him Who comes to strengthen us and in Whose grace we can do all things. The last words, used in the Credo at Mass, are a promise of the Eternal Glory of the Kingdom we are invited to share. St. Teresa never heard these words either in the Office or the Mass without a special thrill of exultation. And in that Eternal Kingdom who is it that stands at the side of the King but the Queen, the "cause of our joy" and "our hope ? " So the thought of our Lord, Who alone is our refuge and confidence, does not take away our trust in Mary ; for she is but His instrument and the dealer of His good gifts to men.
The Antiphon and Prayer are from Lauds; the Little Chapter and Versicle is the Common.
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907