The Little Office Of Our Lady – At Compline Or Night-Song, pt 3. By E. L. Taunton.


Title.A Song of Degrees. 


Tomasi : That Christ teaches us not to be lifted up in pride. The voice of Christ to the Father. This twelfth step is understood of the Blessed Virgin-mother of Christ and of every soul that rendereth not evil for evil, nor cursing for cursing, but contrariwise. The voice of the Church.

Venerable Bede : After penance comes sweetness. The whole of this Psalm concerns meekness and humility, that the sweetness of glorious devotion may refresh those whom the toil of previous confession hath wearied. In the first part the Prophet appoints a heavy punishment for himself if he does not receive God's command in all humility. In the second he bids Israel hope always in the Lord, that so we may be able to endure all the troubles of the world.

(1) Lord, my heart is not haughty : nor are mine eyes lifted up.

(2) I do not walk in great things : nor in things too wonderful for me.

In the first verse there is, says St. Bruno, a confession that only God's grace, not man's inherent strength, has enabled him to climb so far as this degree of ascent from the Valley of Weeping. Here, says Albert the Great, is a check put on inward thoughts of pride, and outward tokens of the same, such as are shown by uplifted glances and proud looks. The Pharisee looked up brazenly and boastingly; the Publican would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven [Luke xviii. 13.]. In saying My heart is not haughty, says St. Augustine, we must understand the Psalmist to say less than he means, for his intent is to declare his heart is contrite and humble, and therefore a sacrifice pleasing to God [Ps. 1. 17.].

I do not walk in great things. But while, as St. Hilary says, it is a very perilous thing to be content with walking in moderate things and not to dwell amidst wonderful things (for God's words are great and He is wonderful in the highest), we must note the words above me ; for they show how we are to understand the Psalmist. God's commandments are not beyond us, for He said : This commandment which I command thee, this day, is not above thee, nor far off from thee [Deut. xxx. II.]. The meaning is clear. We are to be contented with serving God in the Vocation He has called us to, and not waste our time in day dreams about the wonderful things of other Vocations ; as, for instance, for a Sister of Mercy to long after the silent, retired life of a Carmelite. The great art of the spiritual life is—to serve God as He wishes, not as we wish. The perfection we have to strive after is the perfection to which He calls us in our Vocation. Everything else is a wonderful thing above us. Again, we can take the verse of the homage that Reason pays to Faith. There are doctrines far above the comprehension of our Reason. They are not against it, but simply above it. Faith teaches us these doctrines; and the light of Faith enables us to believe them without doubting. These are the wonderful things that are above us, and the highest and most perfect act of our Reason is to know its own limits and to bow itself to the higher light of Faith.

(3) If I was not humbly minded: but exalted my soul.

(4) As a child that is weaned towards his mother: so be retribution upon my soul.

If I have been proud let God withdraw nourishment from my soul till it becomes weak, as an infant refused the breast, and unable to take any other food; or, as it has been taken : Let vengeance cling to me and lie as closely upon me as a babe does upon its mother's breast. But another interpretation, that of St. Bruno of Aste, is deeper and truer : God makes this world, with all its sorrows and disappointments, the training school of His servants ; so that whereas St. Paul saith to his imperfect converts : I have fed you with milk and not with meat, for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither are ye now able, for ye are yet carnal [I Cor. iii. 2.] ; Isaias, on the other hand, says : Whom shall He teach knowledge f And whom shall He make to understand doctrine ? Them that are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breasts [xxviii. 9.]. Here, says the Carmelite, we, newly born in faith, must be nourished with the Milk of Christ's Manhood before we are able to receive the Bread of His Godhead and see Him face to face.

(5) Let Israel trust in the Lord : from this time forth for evermore.

This ending of the Psalm, says Bellarmine, tells us whither true humility tends. The Psalmist, preaching the duty of holiness to the people, does not tell them to look to himself, to follow his teaching, to mould themselves to his will, but, as St. Augustine says, to trust in the Lord, and that not for a time only, nor at intervals, but through the whole of life on earth, and through the endless years of eternity.


Glory be to the Father Who is the Hope of Israel. Glory to the Son Who lay a Child on Mary's breast. Glory to the Holy Ghost in Whose grace we are humble.

With this Psalm ends the recital, in the Little Office, of the Gradual Psalms, to wit, twelve out of fifteen. And it is not without reason that a pause is made here and we rest on the step of humility; for unless we are thoroughly practised in lowliness we shall never ascend the other three which lead into the presence of the King. So the fruit of each day's office is to be more humility as the foundation of all our spiritual life.

The Hymn is Memento rerum Conditor, as at Prime.

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