The Little Office Of Our Lady – At Vespers or Evensong, pt 5. By E. L. Taunton.


Blessed Mother and Maiden undefiled, Glorious Queen of the world, intercede for us to the Lord.

We now reach the culminating point of Vespers. The Myroure gives us the following reasons for the Magnificat at Vespers : " One for in the Evensong time of the world our

Lady, by her singular assent, brought health to mankind. Another cause is that we should daily have in mind the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was wrought in the eventide of the world, for joy of which this song is made. The third cause is for our Lord is likened to appear in the eventide. The fourth cause is that the minds that have been laboured and wearied in the day with many thoughts and businesses should then be comforted with the song of joy of our Lady and be helped by her prayers against temptations of the night."

Explaining some of the ceremonial observances connected with this hour, Durandus says : To represent the rejoicing expressed in this Canticle, lights are lit at Vespers ; either because the Canticle is of the Gospel, or that we, being of the number of the wise virgins, may run with the lamp of good works in the odour of the ointment of the Blessed Virgin, entering with her into the joy of our Lord. And because our works are not radiant in lamps, except they be moulded by love, therefore the Canticle closes with the Antiphon whereby love is signified.

Incense is offered at the Magnificat [The solemn incensing of the altar, which typifies our Lord, is reserved to the priest when officiating at the Office. But there is nothing to prevent incense being burnt at the Magnificat in a choir of nuns. The smoking thurible set in the midst
of the choir at the Magnificat would preserve the symbolism of the " Hour of
Incense."]; and Origen thus explains its use : Behold how our High Priest standeth and offereth Himself, to separate the living from the dead. Rise to the loftier heights of His Word, and behold how the very High Priest, Jesus Christ, having assumed the censer of human flesh and set therein the fire of the Altar, that is, the glorious Soul wherewith He was born according to His Human Nature, and adding thereunto the incense, which is His Immaculate Spirit, stood between the living and the dead and suffered death to rule us no longer.

The preliminary Antiphon directs our minds towards her whose song we are about to sing, so that we may enter into all her dispositions. Our ever dear and blessed Lady ever kept singing in her heart the Magnificat. Even in the hour of her deepest sorrow she was magnifying the Lord Who had done great things for her. And we, with our Magnificat, in days of trial, sorrow and gloom, must never forget His mercy towards us, or lose that inward joy which inspired this heavenly Canticle. Let us therefore apply the words to ourselves and sing it with the love, gratitude and humility our Lady had, when at the Visitation she was greeted by St. Elizabeth as, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb [Luke i. 42], and accepted the blessing but referred it all to her Maker. Let us read the Gospel narrative of the Visitation :— And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda ; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass that, when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me ? For lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the babe leapt in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed : for there shall be fulfilled those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said [Luke i. 39-46.];—

(1) My soul doth magnify the: Lord:

(2) And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

" Here," says the Myroure, " we may learn of our Lady to forsake all vain joy. For after the Angel had been with her from heaven, after she had conceived the Son of God, and after Elizabeth had blessed her and praised her as most worthy Mother of God, in all this she was moved to no vanity, or to no presumption in herself, but to more meekness and to praising and rejoicing in God. And that not feignedly, only with the tongue, but of all the inwardness of soul. And therefore she saith not my mouth, but my soul praiseth and my spirit rejoiceth. And that not in herself but in God Who is Maker of all things and now is become Man and so Saviour of mankind, and also that of our Lady. And therefore He is specially and singularly her Saviour [on account of the preeminent grace of the Immaculate Conception], and none other in that wise. For by her health and salvation are come to Man. Therefore she saith my spirit, that is, my soul, hath joyed in God my Saviour : Here saith St. Bede, we note that his spirit joyeth in God his Saviour who delighteth in nothing that is on earth, neither is pleased with plenty of goods or of worship, nor is broken with grudging or impatience in any tribulation or disease, but only delighteth and joyeth in mind of his Maker, of Whom he hopeth to have endless health."

(3) For He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden : for lo! from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

" Here our Lady telleth why she praised, why she joyed in God, why God was so singularly hers. For He beheld her meekness, whereby you may see that meekness was the cause why God chose her to be His mother. And therefore, says St. Jerome, what is more noble and worthy than to be the Mother of God ? What is more bright and worshipful than she whom the brightness of the Father's glory chose to Himself ? What is more chaste than she that bore in her body the Body of Christ ? And yet she saith that God beheld only her meekness that is the keeper of all virtues. And what follows thereupon : Lo ! from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. All generations of heaven and of earth, of Christians and of heathen, of Jews and of Saracens, of men and of women, of poor and of rich, of men and of angels, of right-wise and of sinners, of wedded and of single, of sovereigns and of subjects ; all shall say me blessed, all shall praise the blessedness that God, my Saviour, hath wrought with me and hath given to them by me. For of every nation and people some are turned to the faith of Christ, [and] praise His holy Mother."

(4) For He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His Name.

" What be these great things that He did to her ? That He kept her clean from all sin. That He hallowed her and endowed her with gifts of the Holy Ghost; that He took His body from her. That she a creature brought forth her Maker ; she His servant bore her Lord; that she a Virgin is Mother of God. That by her He purchased mankind and brought His chosen to endless life. These great things did He that is mighty to reward above all that any man may deserve. And as He is mighty He hath done mighty and great things, and Holy is His Name; for He is more good and holy than may be thought or spoken. And for His holy Name, not for man's merits, hath He done great things for the health of man."

(5) And His mercy is from generation unto generation : to them that fear Him.

"This is that mercy that He hath wrought by our Lady and by His Incarnation and Passion to mankind. The mercy of salvation that David asked after when he said : Lord show us Thy mercy [Ps. Ixxxiv. 8.] ; as if he said : Thou hast shown Thy power in making all things out of nothing ; Thou hast shown us Thy wisdom in marvellously governing all things; Thou hast shown us Thy righteousness in punishing sinners both in angels and] in men; and therefore show us now Thy mercy, by the Incarnation of Thy Son for the Salvation of mankind. This mercy bringeth our Lady forth and saith : His mercy is from generation unto generation. From one kindred unto kindred, from the kindred of the Jews unto all kindreds of the world. For amongst the Jews Thy mercy was wrought, and afterwards spread abroad unto all people. But all take not profit and salvation by this mercy; for though it be more sufficient that all men needeth, yet it availeth not but to them that dispose themselves thereto. And what is that disposition ? The fear of God; for without that fear none may be saved. Not the fear of pain, but the fear of God; as our Lady saith : His mercy is to them that fear Him."

(6) He hath done might in His arm : He hath scattered the proud in will of His heart. [This is the old pre-reformation English translation of the Vulgate. Both St.Augustine and the Carthusian follow this reading instead of the more usual their hearts.]

"That is to say, His Son. For as the arm cometh from the body and the hand from both arm and body, so the Son hath His being from the Father, and the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son. In this arm, that is, His Son, He hath done might; for by Him He hath made all things, and by Him He hath saved mankind, and by Him He hath thrown down the power of fiends. And therefore saith our Lady : He hath scattered the proud in the will of His heart. These proud are fiends, and Jews are all proud people. For as a host that is dispersed is not mighty to fight, right so the proud fiends are dispersed by the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and not mighty to war against Man as they were before. The proud Jews also that would not humble themselves to the faith of Jesus Christ are dispersed abroad in the world, so much that they have neither land nor country, nor city, nor town to dwell in all the earth. But some dwell in one land and some in another, and some in one city and some in another, under tribute and thraldom of Christian people. Thus are these fiends and Jews dispersed by our Lord in the will of His heart, that is to say, in the rightful judgment of His privy Doom. All proud people also are dispersed in the mind of their own heart; for as meek people live in unity and rest, right so proud people are both scattered in their own hearts by many vanities and unlawful desires, and also they are divided against others by trouble and envy and debate."

(7) He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the lowly.

"These mighty are they that have great power, temporal or spiritual, and misuse it against the Will of God, and against their fellow Christians, and against their own soul's health. And these mighty God throweth down from the seat of Grace; for by grace God should have His seat in their hearts ; and from the seat of dignity and power which they misuse ; and from the seat of knowledge and wisdom, for they are blinded in their own malice ; and at last from the seat of Doom where the apostolic power shall sit and judge with Christ them that shall be judged at the end of the world [Cf. Matt. xix. 28.]. From that seat shall such mighty be thrown down, and to that seat shall the lowly be lifted up. For He hath lifted up the meek here in grace and afterwards to bliss everlasting. These words our Lady spoke as prophecy of things to come, and yet she saith as if the fulfilling were passed ; for it was as sure to be fulfilled in time to come as if it had been already past. And for that cause prophets used often such manner of speaking."

(8) The hungry He hath filled with good things: and the rich He hath sent empty away.

" Bodily hunger is an appetite for meat, so ghostly hunger is a desire of grace and of virtue. He that is hungry hath need of meat; so he that is spiritually hungry thinketh that he hath nought that is good, namely, not of himself nor by his own merits. And because he feeleth himself needy of all goods, therefore he seeketh and desireth and laboureth fast to get them. And such hungry (ones) God filleth with goods spiritual in grace and endless in bliss. But the rich are they that presume of themselves and think themselves to be better than they are, and to have more than they have, or to know more than they can. And what they have, or can, or may, they count it to their own merits and worthiness as though it all came from themselves. These rich (ones) God leaveth empty of grace and glory. For they that are here wilfully poor of worldly wealth and comfort, and hunger and desire God's grace and heavenly comforts, their desire shall be fulfilled; but they that have here riches, and worldly property and take their joyous comforts therein and seek after none other, they shall be left void from all goods temporal and everlasting."

(9) He hath taken Israel His servant: being mindful of His mercy.

" Israel was one of the patriarchs that was called Jacob, of whose lineage our Lady came. And therefore she saith that God hath taken Israel, that is to say, a Body of mankind, of the lineage of Israel; which Israel is called God's child for He was meek and obedient to God as a child to His father. And in this deed God hath been mindful of His mercy, by which He promised to the patriarchs and prophets that He would become Man. And therefore saith our Lady further :—

(10) As He spoke to our fathers : to Abraham and to his seed forever.

"That is, to Abraham and to the people that came from Abraham by bodily generation, of whom came our Lady, and from her our Lord Jesus Christ, not only to the help of that people, but of all that truly follow the faith and living of Abraham unto the end of the world. For they are properly called the seed and the children of Abraham with whom they should be partners of the fruit of our Lord's coming endlessly in joy and bliss. Amen." [Myroure, pp. 157-163.].


Glory be to the Father Who regardeth the lowliness of His handmaiden. Glory to the Son Who is God her Saviour. Glory to the Holy Ghost Who hath done great things to her.

The Kyrie and Versicle as at Lauds (see page 303).


Grant us Thy servants, we beseech, 0 Lord God, to rejoice in perpetual health in soul and body : and, by the glorious intercession of the Blessed Mary ever a Virgin, to be delivered from present sorrow and to attain eternal glory. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Perpetual health of soul and body. That is all we need for keeping our soul in God's favour, and our body fit to do the work He allots us. It is the same idea as the words in the Hymn, Bona cuncta posce : Ask for us all good things. Present sorrow is the need of this health of soul and body, sin and the various ills of life which impede us from serving God with a pure heart. Eternal joy is that state when our joy shall be made full and no man can take it from us ; the joy which here below was intermittent, which never ends or fades; the joy which the God of all joy has prepared for them that love Him.

Vespers, like Lauds, ends with the Commemoration of the Saints and the Versicles (see page 304).

During Advent.

The Antiphons for the Psalms are the same as at Lauds for this season. Also the Little Chapter. The Hymn and Versicle is as above. The Collect is that of Lauds, and the Commemoration of the Saints follows the same (see page 308).

During Christmas-tide.

The Antiphons for the Psalms are as at Lauds during this season. The Little Chapter is from the Common. The Hymn and Versicle are from the Common, but the Antiphon at the Magnificat is proper (see page 311).

A great mystery of inheritance : the womb of one not knowing man becomes the temple of God : taking flesh from her He is not defiled. All the Gentiles shall come, saying : Glory be to Thee, 0 Lord.

God's inheritance is the hearts of His people ; and in order to win it unto Himself He wrought the great mystery of the Incarnation. The Jews and Gentiles form the inhabitants of this inheritance and they all came testifying to the new-born King. The shepherds first, led on by the angels' song of Gloria in excelsis Deo; and the three Wise Men who came from afar to worship, with mystic gifts, Him Who was born King of the Jews.

The prayer is from Lauds and the Commemoration of the Saints that of the Common.

During Paschal Time.

The Antiphon at the Magnificat is Regina caeli, for which see after Compline.

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