The Little Office Of Our Lady – At Vespers or Evensong, pt 4. By E. L. Taunton.

LITTLE CHAPTER [Eccl. xxiv. 14.].

From the beginning and before the ages was I created; and for all eternity I shall never cease : and in the holy dwelling have I ministered before Him.

Thanks be to God.

These words apply in the first place to the Eternal Wisdom of God, the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity. But Holy Church, the only Mistress and Explainer of Scripture, also applies them to her who is the " Seat of Wisdom," and whose holiness is a mark of the great work which the Divine Wisdom has done. As in the five Antiphons and Psalms we have had our Lady in her five relations with God, so here we have her as for ever pre-ordained, the Mother of the Living ; God having decreed Creation, in the same decree were pre-ordained Jesus and Mary: He as the Head of Creation, she as the way by which He was to enter it. He is therefore the real Adam, and she the real Eve. Our first parents according to the flesh were created on the model of Jesus and Mary : For Whom all things were made, that He might have in all things the principality [Cf. Colos. i. 16, 18.] ; and as these models existed in the mind of God before the Fall was discerned, it follows that they were not included in it; Jesus on account of His Godhead, Mary on account of her Motherhood. We may believe that Jesus would have come in any case, so as to be able to give His Father that worship which Creation could not. But when the Fall was foreseen then did the Incarnation take its remedial character, and show us depths upon depths of God's infinite love. Without the Fall we might have had Jesus Incarnate, but not the infinite pathos of the Crucifix. We should not have known the Man of Sorrows, nor the Mother thereof. This is the teaching of Scotus on the Incarnation, and in it the dogma of the Immaculate Conception seems to find its natural place. The Myroure explains this Little Chapter : " The Chapter is said in the person of our Lady thus : ab initio. This is thus to mean: Endlessly, before all time, I was foreknown and ordained of God to be made. . . . And I shall never fail, neither in soul by any sin, nor in body by any corruption. For our Lady's holy body is not turned to corruption in earth, but taken up and knit with the soul in the glory of heaven. . . . Was it not a holy dwelling when our Lord Jesus Christ dwelt in His Mother's womb, where she ministered to Him the matter of His holy Body ? Was it not also a holy dwelling where our Lord Jesus Christ and our Lady, His Mother, and Joseph dwelt together in one house, where our Lady served her blessed Son Jesus Christ with meat and drink and clothes ? Full pleasant was that service before Him and before all the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It is also a holy dwelling where God's servants dwell together in one congregation and in one charity; for there is our Lord Jesus Christ in the midst among them, as He Himself says in His Gospel [Matt, xviii. 20.] ; and there our Lady ministered her help and grace full busily that they may serve her Son to His pleasure" [pp. 141-2.].


Gentle star of ocean,
Portal of the sky,
Ever Virgin-mother
Of the Lord most high.

O by Gabriel's Ave,
Uttered long ago,
Eva's name reversing
'Stablish peace below !

Break the captives fetters,
Light on blindness pour;
All our ills expelling.
Every bliss implore.

Show thyself a Mother ;
Offer Him our sighs,
Who for us incarnate
Did not thee despise.

Virgin of all Virgins !
To thy shelter take us ;
Gentlest of the gentle!
Chaste and gentle make us.

Still, as on our journey,
Help our weak endeavour;
Till with thee and Jesus,
We rejoice for ever.

Through the highest heavens,
To the Almighty Three,
Father, Son, and Spirit,
One same glory be.


Grace is poured forth on thy lips. Wherefore hath God blessed thee for ever. 

On this Hymn the pious author of the Myroure thus comments :—

" In the first verse you praise our Lady for four things. One is that she is called ' star of the sea'; for as that is comfortable to ship-men, so is our Lady comfort to all that are in bitterness of tribulation or temptation in the sea of this world [Says St. Bernard: "O whoever thou art, who knows that thou art tossed in the flood of this world amidst its storms and tempests, turn not thine eyes away from the shining of this Star, unless thou wishest to be overwhelmed in the storms. If the waves of temptation rise up, if thou founder on the rock of temptation, look up at the Star, call upon Mary. If thou struggle with the waves of pride, ambition, distraction, envy, look at the Star, call upon Mary. If wrath or avarice, or sensuality, shake the boat of thy mind, look to Mary. If terrified at the enormity of thy crimes and confused at the filth of thy conscience, thou art struck with fear of the Judge, and begin to sink into the depths of sorrow and slough of despond, think of Mary. In perils, in difficulties, in doubts, think of Mary, call upon Mary."-Hom. 2, super Missus est.]. And therefore her name, Maria, is as much as to say, 'star of the sea.' And so Ave Maria and Ave Marts stella is all one sentence. The second is that she is the Mother of God. The third is that she is everlasting Virgin. The fourth is that she is the gate of heaven. Her Son called Himself in His Gospel, the Door [John x. 9.] ; for as a man may not well come into a house but by the door, nor to the door but by the gate, so may there none come in to heaven but by our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, the Door; nor to our Lord Jesus Christ but by our Lady, that is, the Gate. Therefore you say thus to her, Ave Marts stella —Hail star of the sea, holy Mother of God, and always Virgin, the blessed Gate of heaven.

"In the second verse ye praise our Lady for two things, and one thing ye ask of her. For ye thank her that she assented to the greeting of Gabriel, for thereby began our salvation ; like as our perdition began by the assent of Eve to the fiend. . . . The second, for she hath turned that woe that Eve brought us into joy. And so she hath changed her name Eva into Ave; for Eva spelt backwards maketh Ave, and Eva is as much as to say, Woe, and Ave is a word of joy. Then ye ask of her stability of peace, and say thus : Taking that Ave of the mouth of Gabriel, ground us in peace, changing the name of Eve.

" In the third verse ye ask of her four things that man needeth to have help in, after he has fallen into sin. For by sin he falleth into four great mischiefs, one is that he is so bound therein that he may not of himself come out thereof. And as a man may yield himself bound to a lord, but he may not be free again when he will, right so is it of a man that maketh himself thrall to the fiend by deadly sin. And therefore ye pray our Lady that she will loose the bonds of sinners and make them free. Another mischief is that when a man is fallen into deadly sin, the fiend blindeth him so in his sight that he can neither see the peril in which he standeth in nor how to get him help of deliverance. And therefore in this ye ask our Lady's help. The third mischief is the great vengeance that man deserveth by sin, both temporal and everlasting. And the fourth is the loss of all goods of grace and glory. And therefore against all these four mischiefs ye pray to our Lady and say : Loose thou the bands of them that are guilty, for the first Give them light to them that are blind, for the second. Do away our evils, for the third. And ask all goods, for the fourth.

" In the fourth verse ye pray her to show herself a Mother to God and to the wretched. As a mother tendeth her child in all manner of perils and diseases that he is in, so she vouchsafes to show motherly tenderness to us in all our needs, bodily and ghostly. And as a mother may get of her son what she will reasonably desire of him, so she vouchsafed to speed our errands before God that it may appear well that that she is His Mother. Therefore ye say thus to her : Show thyself to be a Mother, and He must take prayers by thee That vouchsafed to be thy Son for us.

" In the fifth verse ye praise her in two virtues, that is, maidenhood and mildness; and ye ask of her three virtues according to the same, that is, deliverance from sin, meekness and chastity. Therefore ye say thus: Singular and mild Virgin amongst all, make us loosed from sin, and mild and chaste.

"In the sixth verse ye ask of her three things. The first is clean life. The second is true continuance therein unto the end that you may then have true passage. And the third is endless joy in the sight and beholding of God. Therefore you say : Grant us clean life, make ready a true way, that we, seeing Jesus, may evermore be glad.

"In the seventh verse ye praise the Blessed Trinity and say : Praising be to God the Father; to highest Christ be glory ; and to the Holy Ghost; One honour to the Three [The Doxology given here is a translation of the one used in the Office. The
one given in the Myroure varies somewhat from the Roman use.]. Amen."

The Versicle and Response are these favourite words so often repeated in this office. See the Versicle at the end of each of the three Nocturns, and Psalm xliv. 3 in the second Nocturn.

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