The Little Office Of Our Lady – At Vespers or Evensong, pt 3. By E. L. Taunton.


I am black but comely, O daughters of Jerusalem: therefore hath the King loved me and brought me into His innermost chamber.

It is the Maiden-mother, smitten with grief and plunged in a sea of woe, that we contemplate in this Antiphon. Mary is at the foot of the Cross. Sorrow has discoloured her. Her compassion with her Divine Son has pierced her to the heart. She could have laid down her life for Him had He wished it: and she lives to see Him die ; and willingly sees she this (though it break her heart), for such is His will. Her perfect conformity with the Divine will in this supreme hour is the last test of that Mother beyond all compare. Therefore is she, in the peace of Jerusalem, the object of her Son's tenderest love.


This, the same as the third Psalm of Terce, will be found at page 343.


The winter is past, the rain is over and gone : Arise, My friend, and come away.

The chilly winter of sorrow is past, the rain of affliction is over and gone; Mary has been made conformable to the Image of her Divine Son. The exile is at an end. For twelve years has she helped on the infant Church ; and now the moment of reunion is at hand. Come, My beloved, arise and come away. And like she did after the Angel's first visit, Mary in those days arose and went with haste into the hill-country [Luke i. 39.], into that City among the mountains, whence cometh help, where the Son abides. It is the picture of Mary assumed into heaven we contemplate in this Antiphon, and of the sleep He giveth His beloved.


This, the same as the second Psalm at None, will be found at page 365.


Thou art made beauteous and sweet in thy delights, O holy Mother of God.

In this Antiphon Mary crowned and rewarded in heaven is the joyful and hopeful picture set before us. The woman set in the heavens clothed with the sun with the moon beneath her feet, and about her head a crown of twelve stars [Apoc. xii. i.]. She is there for our sakes, in the King's house, as Esther, to beseech for her people, to do God's mercy towards them, to make His Word run swiftly in their hearts, to scatter the ashes of penance over their lives, to break up the icy-bound hearts and to be ever the monument and example to all Israel of God's righteousness and judgment.


Title. Alleluia.


Tomasi : That Christ may fill His Church with peace and abundance of spiritual wheat. The voice of Christ to the Church that she may praise the Father : or the voice of the Holy Ghost by the Prophet to the same that she may not cease to praise Christ.

Venerable Bede : In the first part the Prophet accosts Jerusalem, that is, the City on high, that now, made secure in her citizens she ought to praise the Lord with continual rejoicing. Secondly he counts up at more length, in mystical expression, what great kindness the Loving and Merciful One hath bestowed on His people.

(1) Praise the Lord 0 Jerusalem : Praise thy God O Sion.

The two names denote the one Church under two aspects. St. Paul knew the first as the heavenly one, when He spoke of Jerusalem which is above, is free, which is the Mother of us all [Gal. iv. 26.].

And he knew what Sion meant who said : Ye are come unto Mount Sion and the Church of the first-born which are written in heaven [Heb. xii. 23.]. Both of them, the Triumphant and Militant Church, have the praise of God as their one occupation. But, says the Carmelite, they perform it in different ways. The Church Militant praises Him by persevering in works of mercy ; the Church Triumphant by pure enjoyment and delight in Him, an occupation full of sweetness : interrupted by no trouble, weakened by no fatigue, disturbed by no cloud. Our work will be to praise God and to love Him : Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, 0 Lord, they shall be always praising Thee [Ps. Ixxxv. 4.]. Why ? Unless that they shall be always loving Thee. Why ? Unless that they shall be always beholding Thee.

(2) For He hath strengthened the bars of thy gates : and hath blessed thy children in thee.

The true bar of these gates , says St. John Chrysostom, that by which they are fastened on the right hand and the left, is the Cross to which He, Who is the Door, was nailed. It is the bar of the heavenly as well as of the earthly Church, and it was in the might of its strong resistance that the gates of hell did not prevail against the Gospel, when all kings and nations and cities and hosts of evil spirits endeavoured to sweep it away. The lesser, but still important, bars of the Church on earth are the keys of St. Peter, the doctrine of the Apostles, the bishops, doctors, and priests, by whose vigour and watchfulness the assaults of heresy and unbelief are driven back. The clear living Voice of the Church, speaking through its Infallible Head, teaches us what we have to believe and what we have to do, and guards us from wandering. Faith, Hope and Charity are three good bars against the devil and his angels ; but Faith faileth, Hope groweth feeble, and Charity waxeth cold, unless each and all be strengthened by the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.

And hath blessed thy children, that is, not only made them happy, but also (a frequent meaning in Scripture) numerous ; granting to the Church to increase and multiply and fill the earth.

In thee. The promise is confined to the Church. St. Augustine asks, if the Lord has strengthened the bars of the gates, how comes it to pass that there are so many scandals in the Church ? Because here the wheat and tares are mingled together ; this world is the threshing floor, not the garner. It is not said that God has shot the bars of the gates, but that He has strengthened them and that for future use ; for the time when the Bridegroom comes, and they that be ready to go in with Him to the Marriage. Then shall the door be shut. Then, says the Carthusian, no foe may enter, for the law of absolute holiness keeps sin aloof ; no friends shall pass out, for the blessed are confirmed for ever in grace, according to the saying : Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more [Apoc. iii. 12.],

And hath blessed thy children within thee, since Blessed ate they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the Tree of Life and may enter through the gates of the City [Apoc. xxii. 14.].

(3) He maketh peace in thy borders : and with the fat of wheat satisfieth thee.

Jerusalem is too strong to be assailed, and no foe may cross the frontier of her territory. In that City on high there is peace even in the borders, for the last and lowest saint in heaven is filled with tranquil rejoicing. Here, in the Church below, although without are fightings and within alarms, yet being justified by faith we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord [Rom. v. i.]. There is another sense in which we can understand peace in thy borders; and that is as a prophecy of the Reunion of Christendom when those sects which border on the Church in doctrine and worship shall no longer make war against her, but be reconciled in purest friendship.

And with the fat of wheat satisfieth thee. St. John Chrysostom points out that here the Blessed Sacrament is meant. Its only home, according to the intention of God, is the Catholic Church. He who eats the Lamb outside the House is profane, says one of the Fathers. And observe how by these words peace and wheat we are taught, says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, how truly the Sacrament of the Altar is the bond of union and mutual charity among the children of Sion. The word satisfieth belongs, says Bellarmine, to Jerusalem above, not Sion below. Here we are indeed fed with the fat of wheat, but we feed on the Word of God under the Sacramental veils; we drink the water of wisdom, but only from the droppings of the Holy Writ; therefore we are not yet satisfied, nay, our very blessedness consists in hungering and thirsting after righteousness [Cf. Matt. v. 6.]. But there the saints shall know the sweetness of the Eternal Word with no type nor veil between them; there they shall put their lips to the very Source of wisdom, and no longer drink of the mere rills of droppings which come down to water the earth.

(4) Qui emittit eloquium He sendeth forth His com-

Suum terra : velociter currit mandment upon the earth : sermo Ejus. His Word runneth swiftly.

The commandment of the New Law of His kingdom upon earth was sent when He ordered it to be preached to every nation : His Word ran swiftly, rejoicing as a giant to run his course [Ps. xix. 5.], when the Only Begotten, the Almighty Word, leaped down from heaven out of the regal throne [Wisdom xviii. 15.], to be born of our ever dear and Blessed Lady, to show Himself for a brief time on earth, to renew the world by His Death, and to carry, by means of His Apostles, the glad tidings into all lands. His Word runneth swiftly in him who is free from sin and, giving himself up to God, widens his heart : I  have run in Thy commandments when Thou didst enlarge my heart [Mark ix. 3.].

(5) He giveth snow like wool: and scattereth hoar-frost like ashes.

The snow God sends is not merely like wool in its whiteness, but because it serves, in spite of its coldness, as a coverlet to keep the earth sheltered and warm from the keen blasts of winter. The hoar-frost, powdered lightly over the ground everywhere like ashes, also penetrates below the surface of the earth, and, expanding as it does so, breaks up the soil, making it friable and easier for plants to shoot upwards through ; it also kills most of the insect life that would destroy the vegetation if unchecked. St. Augustine points out that God takes sinners, cold and lifeless, with neither spiritual fervour nor practical activity and so transfigures them that, as Christ's raiment when He flashed forth His radiance for a moment on earth, they became shining, exceeding white as the snow [Ps. cxviii. 32.]. Conversely this chill snow becomes the raiment of Christ, without spot or wrinkle, and keeps His members warm in new-found charity. The frost which breaks up the hard ground, and the deeper it goes does more good, what is it save those salutary afflictions which God sends to soften sinners, and make them fit to receive the seed of His Word ; till they themselves are colder than the snow itself, but now kindled through and through with the fervour of Divine love, become like ashes, tokens alike of fire and repentance, the relics of a whole burnt offering upon the altar of God ?

(6) He casteth forth His ice like morsels : who is able to abide His frost ?

St. Augustine explains that ice, more solid and cold than snow or frost, denotes the most hardened sinners, not so much coarse and depraved ones, as hard, keen, clear enemies of truth, who are not ignorant of it, but deliberately resist it, like Saul of Tarsus; yet he, in God's providence, was cast forth to feed the Gentiles hungering for the Bread of Life ; himself, as a member of Christ, being a morsel of that Bread. And when God did so send forth the mighty preacher, who was able to abide His frost ? Another interpreter has it that as ice is pure and transparent, so that pure and crystalline substance which is sent forth as morsels of bread is the Blessed Sacrament of Christ's Body. Again, ice in its stern rigidity and coldness is an emblem of the Mosaic Law broken up by God's grace, since who could abide that frost ?

Who can abide His frost f Who is really in love with sin ? Who can bear to be cold and hard, unwarmed by the genial rays of the Sun of Righteousness ? Does any despair because he is snow and ice when he fain would be fire and heat ? Let him be of good cheer, for—

(7) He will send forth His Word and will melt them : His Spirit will blow and the waters will flow.

The remedy for sin is at hand, the prison of winter is unlocked by the bright sun, and warm breezes, by the Incarnation of Jesus and the sending of the Holy Ghost, the Southern Wind which blows through the garden of God and the perfume of its spices flows out [Cant. iv. 16.]. The waters will flow when the hard heart melts into tears of repentance; the waters flow when all the mighty powers of heart and head, but lately frozen up in unbelief, melt and come down in eloquent torrents of doctrine, and irrigate the fields below ; as they did when the Word, with His one cry of Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me ? [Acts ix. 4.] melted that persecutor; as they did when the Holy Ghost set him apart for the work of preaching to the Gentiles. Wherefore it follows :—

(8) He showeth His Word unto  Jacob: His statutes and judgments unto Israel.

(9) He hath not dealt so with any nation ; neither hath He  manifested His judgments to them.

The younger people, the Gentile Church, has had the Word manifested to it before its eyes : Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth [Gal. iii. I.]. The Word came first to the Jews, the literal but carnal Jacob : He came unto His own, and His own received Him not [John i. II.]. The new Jacob has supplanted his elder brother : For blindness in part is happened unto Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles is come in [Rom. xi. 25.]. St. Bruno remarks, the first part of God's grace is showing His Word, that we may embrace Him by faith while we are still struggling as Jacob; the next is the process of sanctification through obedience, when, after promising allegiance to our King, He explains to us the laws of His kingdom and makes us Israel, that is, princes of God.

He hath not dealt so with any nation; as in spite of their privileges, the Jews would not listen to the Word, these have been taken away and applied to the Christian Church gathered out of those very heathen to whom He had not manifested His judgments, but now are favoured by His grace ; while the carnal Israel is rejected even as they rejected Him.


Glory be to the Father Who sendeth forth His Word; Glory to the Son Himself the Word that melteth sinners; Glory to the Holy Ghost the Spirit Who maketh the waters flow.

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