The Little Office Of Our Lady – At Vespers or Evensong, pt 1. By E. L. Taunton.

AT VESPERS, OR EVENSONG.[Vespers is the hour of the Evening Incense, and together with Lauds forms the original office. It follows the general lines of the Morning Song. Says Durandus: The Church in this hour says five Psalms—first, on account of the five wounds of Christ Who offered His sacrifice for us at the Vespertide of the world. Secondly, because we pray for forgiveness of those sins which in the course of the day we have committed through the five senses of our bodies. Thirdly, by those five Psalms the Church protects herself against nocturnal tribulations. For this hour brings to mind the weeping of those on whom the Sun of Righteousness hath set and who therefore are in darkness."]


While the King was at His repose my spikenard gave forth its odour of sweetness.

The Antiphons of this office form a series of pictures of Our Lady's relations with our Lord. This first one refers to the Incarnation. While the King was reposing in the unspeakable joy of the Father He was attracted to earth by the immaculate soul of Mary, which, like spikenard, gave forth its odour. Mary was thus a sharer in the sacrifice of the Lamb, which was the purpose of the Incarnation ; and this thought must be borne in mind while saying the following Psalm which treats of the Eternal Priesthood of her Son.


 Title.A Psalm of David.


Tomasi : That Christ was born from the spiritual womb of God the Father, before the morning star. The voice of the Church and of Christ to the Father. The voice of the Church concerning the Father and the Son. The Promise of the Father to the Son. A prophecy of future victory and concerning the Incarnation. It is sung concerning Christ the Lord.

Venerable Bede : This Psalm sings most fully and briefly of the Incarnation and Divinity of our Lord. In the first verse the Prophet narrates what the Father said to the Son ; in the second the Father to some extent, according to the measure of our captivity, declares the nature of the Godhead. In the third part the Prophet speaks until the end, showing the form of His manhood.

(1) The Lord said to my Lord : Sit Thou at My right hand.

(2) Until I place Thine enemies : as a footstool for Thy feet.

The beginning of this Psalm can only be compared in sublimity to the opening words of St. John's Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [John i. I.]. The Father said unto the Son, that which the One did not utter with the mouth, nor the Other hear with the ear. The Father willeth, and the Son knoweth it: the Son willeth, and the Father knoweth it. We are in the presence of the awful mystery of the Blessed Trinity. Let us fall down and worship. The words are not spoken to the Eternal Son in respect of His Godhead ; but as incarnate in time, and therefore inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. The Psalmist calls Him my Lord, because He is flesh of our flesh, our Brother, our very own in right of His Mother.

Sit thou at My right hand. Our Lord, as Man, occupies the highest place in heaven, and to Him is committed the judgment of the world, as it is written : They shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory [Matt. xxiv. 30.]. The word sit denotes the Human Nature of Christ, inasmuch as sitting cannot be predicated of the incorporeal Godhead ; and in contrast to the prominence of standing, it implies His present invisibility. St. Augustine says on these words : Sit Thou, not only on high, but also in secret, exalted that Thou mayest rule, hidden that Thou mayest be the object of belief; for what reward can there be for faith unless that which we believe be hidden ? The Carmelite observes that it also denotes His perfect rest after all His sufferings, in contrast to the time when weary with His journey [John iv. 6.] He sat beside Jacob's well; and still more to that day when He was exalted on the painful throne of the Cross; so that He, Whom His mother called Benoni, Son of my sorrow, is called by His Father, Benjamin, that is, Son of My right hand [Gen. xxxv. 18.]. Sit Thou, rest Thyself beside Me, rule with Me, enjoy My glory, be nearest unto Me, partake of My Majesty and power, reign with Me in co-equal power, as to Godhead with the same, and nearest, as to Thy Manhood. Until I make Thine enemies as a footstool for Thy feet. The word until is often used in Scripture without implying cessation when the point of time indicated as future has been reached. But in this case there seems to be a limit implied, for St. Paul says : Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death. For He hath put all things under His feet. . . . And when all shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subjected unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all [I Cor. xv. 24-28.]. From this we must not suppose, as Lorin points out, that our Lord's Human Nature will be absorbed in His Divine, or that He will cease to bear Rule ; whereas it is said of Him : Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever [Ps. xlvi. 7.]. The true meaning is that His Mediatorial Office and task of administering the government of the Church Militant will then cease, as there will be no more sin requiring His intercession, no more war demanding His invincible leadership. But His Priesthood is eternal and He always will be the mouthpiece of Creation, worshipping the Father with a perfect and complete adoration. His enemies, sin and evil, shall be made His footstool, whether trodden in His anger and trampled in His fury, as in the case of the finally impenitent, or voluntarily humbling themselves to worship at His footstool; for He is holy [Ps. c. 5.]. Bellarmine notes that it is the Father Who speaks these words ; not as implying the Son cannot do it for Himself, since whatever the Father doth the Son doth likewise, but because this is part of the Son's reward for His obedience as Man : Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him [Phil. ii. 9.], By reason of the close union which exists between Jesus and Mary, we may now read this verse of her set at His right hand and given the victory. May we be her willing captives !

(3) The Lord shall send forth the rod of Thy power out of Sion : Rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies.

Christ Himself is the Rod out of the stem of Jesse [Is. xi. i.], but as He in His Manhood went forth not from Sion, but from Bethlehem, commentators take the words generally of the Gospel Law preached first from Jerusalem, and more especially of the Cross, the sceptre of Christ's Kingdom, His strong staff and beautiful rod [Jer. xlviii. 17.] ; wherewith He, as with a bar of iron, bruises His opponents to make their hearts contrite; wherewith He, by the hands of the Apostles, subdued the world.

In the midst of Thine enemies, that is to say, in the very hearts of those who were once Thy bitterest foes. And therefore it is said Rule —not slay—because the Kingdom of Christ is enlarged not by destruction but by the conversion of sinners.

(4) With Thee is the beginning, in the day of Thy power, in the splendours of the saints : from the womb before the morning star have I begotten Thee.

With Thee, inherent in Thy Nature. In the day of Thy power, when taking on Thee our flesh. In the splendours of the saints, when Thou shalt give light unto the world by the beauty and radiance of Thine Apostles and disciples; or when Thou shalt come to judge and display Thy force and power in marvellous fashion and make the splendours of Thy rising saints more glorious than that of the sun. Such exalted power is in Thee, because Thou art of the same substance with Me and partake of the same Nature, seeing that I begot Thee from the womb before the morning star. From the womb. The Sonship of our Lord is not an adoption, but natural and inherent. Some see here a reference to that " Fruit of the generous womb" of which the Angelical sings in the Pange Lingua, and to the Immaculate Conception, which made of Mary's womb a sanctified tabernacle for the operations of the Holy Ghost. The Birth of our Lord was in the splendour of the saints, because of the glorious vision of the angelic hosts which proclaimed His Nativity, because of the presence of the Queen of Saints, and St. Joseph, the just man. St. Augustine thus explains this difficult verse : The beginning means the Eternal Father, the Source of all things, even of the Son and Holy Ghost; and that His union with the Son, always perfect, though hidden, will be disclosed and revealed in the day of the Son's power at the Judgment, amidst the glories of the risen saints. The Doctor of Grace takes the last clause to denote not only the eternal Generation of the Word before the stars of heaven, but also the miraculous Birth of Christ in the early morning of Christmas day ; or, as others will have it, of her who looketh forth as the morning [Cant. vi. 10.] in her beauty and purity.

(5) The Lord swore and will not repent Him: Thou art a Priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.

Father Lorin points out that we have an Apostle, St. Paul, to explain this glorious revelation. The Lord swore. The Apostle dwells on the exceeding solemnity of this rite of inauguration, distinguishing Christ from the Aaronic ministry. For those priests were made without an oath, but this with an oath made by Him thai said unto Hun: The Lord swore and will not repent: Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedech : by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better Testament [Heb. vii. 21.]. Next the Apostle emphasises the words for ever, as forming another ground of distinction. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death ; but this Man, because He continueth ever, hath an eternal Priesthood: wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them [Ibid. 23.]. And thereby the mystical character of Melchisedech and his superiority over Abraham are pointed out, in that his name and office indicate Him as King of Righteousness and King of Peace; and as being a type of an Eternal Priest, having no earthly origin, no beginning nor ending; and that by receiving tithes from the ancestors of Levi he must rank, of necessity, above the Levitical priesthood. Therefore, himself a Gentile, he typifies that King and Priest who should be the Ruler and Head of the Church made up of Jew and Gentile [Ibid. 2.]. The word order implies the union of the Priestly office with the Kingly rank, as in the prophet Zacharias : He shall be a priest upon His throne [vi. 13.]. From the offering of Melchisedech, Bread and Wine, we shall see here the obvious reference to the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

(6) The Lord at Thy right hand : He shall wound even kings in the day of His wrath.

The Psalmist here directs his words to the Eternal Father at Whose right hand is the Lord Who is to do these wondrous deeds. Although kings may rise up against the Anointed and strive to overthrow His Church, yet He will rout them. He has done so in the past and will do so finally at the Doom.

(7) He shall judge among nations, He shall fill the ruins :  He shall dash to pieces the heads in the land of many.

St. Augustine understands this verse of the dealings of God and Christ with the enemies of the Church in this world ; and takes the words as denoting His work in the conversion of souls. St. Bruno takes the first clause of our Lord's rule over Jew and Gentile alike; not judging them, but judging and overthrowing Satan's power among them ; the second clause of the restoration of His ruined Sion by building up again those who level themselves low in humility, or by filling up anew with men the heavenly ranks left vacant by the fate of the angels; while the last paragraph is taken as meaning that He makes Himself the one Head, overthrowing all rivals which set up many heads other than Himself in the world. Some of the Fathers take the verse of the Day of Judgment, and look upon our Lord as the Divine Conqueror and Avenger of God's insulted Majesty.

(8) He shall drink of the torrent in the way : therefore shall He lift up His head.

To the splendours of the Psalm, the pomp and majesty therein revealed, there comes now a minor chord of intense poignancy. The Divine King and Priest is to suffer ; for He is the pre-ordained Victim. Torrent, that is, an intermittent water-course temporarily swollen by storms which bring down the rains from the hills. And this is explained as typifying the hurried, turbid, noisy, yet brief course of human life, to which our Lord bound Himself by His Incarnation, from His throne in heaven ; drinking of the troubles of our mortal condition truly in the way; for He was a stranger and a pilgrim on earth, far from His country; nay, going down by His Passion, which He began by crossing over the brook Cedron [John xviii. i.], into the lowest depths of the torrent, so as not to drink for refreshment and pleasure, but allowing the waters to come in even to His Soul [Ps. Ixx. I.], when His Head was lifted up on the Cross as he drank the last drops of that cup His Father had given Him. For His obedience thus carried out God hath highly lifted Him up, first in the Resurrection and then in the Ascension, and hath given Him a Name above every other name [Phil. ii. 9.]. Thus St. Augustine.


Glory to the Father Who said unto my Lord : Sit Thou at My right hand; Glory to the Son, my Lord, the Priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech ; Glory to the Holy Ghost the Power amidst the splendours of the Saints.

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