The Little Office Of Our Lady – At Compline Or Night-Song, pt 1. By E. L. Taunton.


The end of our day has arrived, and before seeking rest we come once more for our Father's blessing, and to pay the last tribute of love to our Mother. This Office, says the Myroure, " is the seventh and the last hour of Divine Service, and it is as much as to say, a ' fulfilling'; for in the end thereof the seven hours of Divine service are fulfilled ; and therewith also is ended and fulfilled speaking, eating, and drinking, and labouring, and all bodily business. So that after that time ought to be great stillness and strict silence, not only from words, but also from all noises and deeds save only quiet and private prayer, and holy thinking and bodily sleep. For Compline betokens the end of Man's life, or the end of the world when the chosen of our Lord shall be delivered from all travail and woe and be brought to endless quiet and rest. And therefore each person ought to dispose himself to bedward as if his bed were his grave. For as a man dieth or he be born to his grave and buried, right so at Compline tyme ye should be disposed as if ye were dying. And keep ye so sober and still afterwards as if ye were dead for all bodily deeds and words " [Pp. 164-5.].

The Office of Compline is due to St. Benedict, who made it the night prayer for his monks. The present office, however, dispenses with the monastic introduction of conference and mutual confession. Like the old English use of Sarum, it starts at once after a preparatory Ave with the following Versicles:—

Turn us 0 God our Salvation.

And turn away Thine anger from us.

O God come to my assistance, &c.

This Office, says Durandus, begins contrary to the manner of the other hours; for, because as we have been, as it were, singing Psalms all day, and it is well-nigh impossible but that we should have contracted some dust of pride, therefore we humble ourselves, saying : Turn us 0 God our Salvation; for, says the Apostle : If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves [I John i. 8.]. . . . We then proceed to call on the Divine help, saying : 0 God come to my assistance. Turn us refers to the taking away of past sins; 0 God come to the doing of future good works . . . And because all is done in praise of the Blessed Trinity, therefore follows the Gloria [See also the explanation of this verse in the second Psalm at Prime, p. 322.].

This is followed by three more of the " Gradual Psalms," which we may say in honour of the Blessed Trinity and of our Lady's relationship to the Divine Persons.


Title.A Song of Degrees.


Tomasi: That Christ routs those who fight against us, lest we should be hurt by them. The voice of the Church. This tenth step contains the voice of Christ against the Jews who, fighting against Him on the Cross, are shown to have done Him no hurt, because it proved that He rose again from the dead.

Venerable Bede : Endurance in suffering is counselled in this tenth step. In the first paragraph the Prophet counsels Jerusalem to say what conflicts and fights she has endured from her enemies, lest any of the faithful should despair because of his own troubles. In the second he prays in parables against the enemies of the Church that there may come upon them that which he knows will happen in the future Judgment.

(1) Many a time have they fought against me from my youth up : may Israel now say.

(2) Yea, many a time have they vexed me from my youth up but they have not prevailed against me.

St. Augustine applies these words to the true Israel, the Church, in her struggles against sin from the Fall of Man, yet in his early youth ; from the days of the righteous Abel, and in the early days of the Christian Dispensation. And it is true of the Head as it was of His members ; for He was sought after as the King of Israel, by Herod to slay Him in the Cradle; driven by necessity into Egypt; harassed by the incessant plots of His enemies; and, finally, was put to death. It holds good, says St. Bruno, of every saint who, having put off the Old Man with his works and put on the New, has begun in this wise a spiritual youth ; for at once he becomes the mark for the hatred of the doer of iniquity.

Many a time; for, adds St. Hilary, when once the Tempter is overcome he does not therefore leave us, but returns and tries again and again to conquer.

But they have not prevailed against me; for, says St. Peter : Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good [I Peter iii. 13.] ; and St. Paul adds : If God be for us who can be against us? [Rom. viii. 31.].

(3) Sinners have wrought upon my back : they have prolonged their iniquity.

The figure which commentators have seen in the words is a mass of precious metal lying on the anvil and beaten out into greater breadth and length by the hammers of the smith until a costly vessel is produced by their labour. Some have it that the mention of the back implies what does not show itself before the face; and thus secret injury, calumny, and detraction ; but St. Augustine's view, that it is the sense of meekly bearing a burthen, seems to suit better with the mention of open violence in the preceding verses.

(4) But the righteous Lord hath broken the neck's of the ungodly: let them be confounded and turned backward, all they who hate Sion.

St. Augustine sees here the punishment of the proud and stiff-necked enemies of God's Church who refuse to bear His easy yoke, and loudly proclaim that they have done no wrong. The latter clause admits of a twofold interpretation : the one stern and literal, of a sense of punishment in this world and in the next; and in the other more gentle, which hints at repentance, reclaiming the sinner, and withdrawing him from the broad road leading to destruction, thus changing him from a rebel into a servant.

(5) Let them be even as the grass drum: upon the house-tops : which withereth away afore it be plucked up.

(6) Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand : nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom.

St. Gregory the Great says : That as grass growing on the roof has no firm root, so a hypocrite while making a show of doing great things is not established; for his heart is not sincere. And as grass on the roof withers before it can be rooted up, so, when a hypocrite undertakes any good work, without first making his conscience right, he loses all the merit thereof, and shows he was flourishing without a root. Upon which St. Augustine remarks it were wiser to grow lower down and thrive better. Such as these, proud, violent, hypocrites, unlike those sheaves the angel-mowers carry back rejoicing

from the field of this world, shall be left in the field, as they have borne no fruit and are fit for nothing but to be burnt. But, says Haymo, those who have passed their life in good deeds shall be led by the hands of the Mower, and those who have served God in contemplation shall be carried in angels' bosoms to their heavenly rest.

(7) And they that passed by have not said, The blessing of the Lord be upon you : we have blessed you in the Name of the Lord.

That is, remarks St. Augustine, as the mowers will take no heed of the worthless grass on the house-tops, there will be nothing to attract the passers-by, or draw from them a blessing. They that pass by are our fellow-pilgrims in this world who bless by their prayers those who help them along the way by giving a good example. It is especially here taken of the Prophets and Apostles who do not bless those whom they see striving after worldly honours and lacking the love of God which is the root of all real good. So, says the Carthusian, the teachers of the Old Law have no blessings, but only warnings and threats for their people if they refuse to hear their King and reject Sion, His new Covenant. Perez takes the whole Psalm as a prophecy of the rejection of the Synagogue, and compares its ceremonial law, bearing no fruit of itself, to grass on the house-top, withering away from want of grace and not being planted in the rich soil of the foundation which is our Lord. St. Hilary ends up his commentary on this Psalm with this advice: Let us, then, sow profitably, that we may make our labours ready for filling both hands and bosom and become sharers of that blessing of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Glory be to the Father Who ever protects Israel. Glory to the Son, the Mower Who bears us in His bosom. Glory to the Holy Ghost Who blesseth His people.

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