The Little Office Of Our Lady – At Compline Or Night-Song, pt 4. By E. L. Taunton.

THE LITTLE CHAPTER [Eccle. xxiv. 24.].

I am the Mother of fair love and of fear and of knowledge and of holy hope.

Thanks be to God.

Pray for us O holy Mother of God.

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

At the end of the day, when Sleep, the image of Death, awaits us, the Little Chapter comes to complete the work the Psalms have begun in us. It directs us to Mary, who is our example of all the virtues a creature can possess. Faith, Hope, Charity, and the Fear of God are the lessons she teaches us; and in them all is summed up. She is the Mother of the Knowledge of Faith, for without her we can never understand Jesus : Whom to know is Life Eternal [Cf. John xvii. 3.]. She is the Mother of hope; for she is the Mother of Him Who is our Redemption and our Advocate with the Father. She is the Mother of fair love; for she is the Mother of the Incarnate Love of God; and she, full of the love of God, loves us as her most dear children in Him. She is also the Mother of holy fear; of reverence and awe for Him Who has done such great things for her. She therefore teaches us Whom to believe in, Whom to hope in, Whom to love, and Whom to fear. So in the Versicle and Response we pray that she, God's Own Mother, may pray for us that we may be made worthy of receiving the promises Her Son has made to those who believe, trust, love, and fear Him.


Beneath thy patronage we fly, 0 holy Mother of God: despise not our prayers in necessities, but from all dangers deliver us, O ever Virgin, glorious and blessed.

This Antiphon gives the keynote to the Song of departure, the Nunc Dimittis. It is under the safe patronage of God's Own Mother that we close our day's course of prayer and praise, and it is holding her hand we ask God to dismiss His servants in peace.

CANTICLE: NUNC DIMITTIS [Luke ii. 29-32.].

We sing the Song of Simeon, Nunc Dimittis, says Durandus, first, in order that, finding peace after his example, we may attain the true Light which is Christ; secondly, because as holy Simeon said these words, desiring to pass from this life to another, so when we are about to sleep it is as though we were to die ; for sleep is an image of death, and by the saying of this hymn we commend ourselves to the Lord. Thirdly, the Song of Simeon is sung in the seventh hour, by reason of the seventh age of the world, that is, rest. And the author of the Myroure adds another reason : " For by this Compline is betokened your death and by your going to bed your burial, as I said before ; therefore this song is said at Compline rather than at other hours, that ye should every night be ready to desire death as Simeon did." The reference to peace reminds us, too, of our Lord's visit on Easter Evening to His disciples and His gracious salutation, twice repeated : Peace be unto you [John xx. 19.].

St. Luke thus tells the history of the Canticle :—[Luke ii. 22-32.] And when the days of her purification according to the Law of Moses were accomplished, they brought Him to Jerusalem to Present Him to the Lord, (as it is written in the Law of the Lord : Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord [Exod. xiii. 2.]), and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons. And behold there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost that he should not sec death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the Temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus to do for Him after the custom of the Law, then took he Him in his arms and blessed God and said : —

(1) Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace : according to Thy Word.

Says the pious author of the Myroure : " This man was now glad to die ; for the very Peace of Mankind was come by Whom he should be brought to endless peace. Before that time all went to hell [That is to hell in the same sense as in Creed : He descended into hell, i.e., Limbo.] and knew not when they would be delivered. But this man was surer of his deliverance, for he had his Saviour in his arms, and therefore joyfully he said : Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word; to the promise that he should not see death till he had seen the Christ [pp. 170-171.]."

Or again, his departure was to be in peace according to Thy Word Who is the King of Peace, and our Peace, and Who through His death was to overcome the sharpness thereof.

(2) For mine eyes have seen : Thy salvation.

" That was the same Child that he bore in his arms, which was and is the Saviour of all His true people. Him he saw with his bodily eyes in His Manhood, and Him he saw with his ghostly eyes by faith after His Godhead" [Ibid.].

Thus were the words of the Holy Ghost fulfilled. The promise was kept, and the old man had nought else to live for. He had seen Thy salvation, that salvation in which he was to share; and he had seen Him in the arms of that Virgin-mother, whose heart he foresaw was to be riven with sorrow.

(3) Which Thou hast prepared : before the face of all people.

" He that is before a man's face may be easily seen. So the faith and knowledge of our Saviour Jesus Christ was made open to him by His Apostles before all people. And therefore at the Last Doom He shall be seen in His Manhood as a merciful Saviour to all that in faith, and in dread, and in love behold Him there before their face. And to all others that turn their backs to Him here, by misbelief or deadly sin, and so die, He shall be seen as a most fearful Judge. Thus as this holy man saith : He is made ready before the face of all people, not only of Jews, but also of heathens : And therefore he saith further [Ibid.]:—

(4) A Light to enlighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.

Compare this verse with the last verse of the Benedictus. To enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. It is the same thought, for it was said of Him Who is the Light of men, the Light shining in the darkness which did not comprehend it [John i. 5.]. "The heathen were then all in darkness of misbelief, and therefore our Lord Jesus Christ was to them Light, to bring them out of all darkness into the light of Faith and Grace, as the Apostle St. Paul said to them afterwards : Ye were sometime darkness but now are light in the Lord [Eph. v. 8.]. The Jews that were in the light of right belief had great worship of our Lord Jesus, in that He took His Manhood amongst them of their own kindred. And therefore Simeon calleth Him the Glory, that is, the joy and the worship of the people Israel. . . . . In this song our Lord Jesus Christ is called Salvation, Light and Glory. He is Salvation to sinners of mercy ; and whom He saveth from sin He enlighteneth by grace, and therefore He is called Light; and whom He enlighteneth by grace He rewardeth by endless bliss, and so He is called the Glory of His people [Myroure,]."


Glory be to the Father Who dismisses us in peace. Glory to the Son our Salvation. Glory to the Holy Ghost the Glory of Israel.

After the Kyrie and ordinary Versicles follows—

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