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Friday, April 12, 2013
Vol. 24, no. 102

Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Part Two: MATINS - First Nocturn

by

Karl D. Keller

    There are many devotions we can practice throughout the day, but one of the most efficacious of these, besides the holy Rosary, is the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There are various versions - long ones and short ones - dedicated to Our Lady and it is the intention here to share the approved devotion with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from over a century ago with readers. After a brief introduction as to the Hours of Matins, Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline that encompass the entire day three hours apart, today is presented the First Nocturn of Matins, which is the longest and most complex of the daily cycle of prayers. They are enhanced with sources from which some of the comments are taken in an effort to encourage devout souls to intensify their spiritual exercises in this time of the Great Apostasy.

MATINS    (midnight)

   After introducing you to the importance of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary in my first installment Our Lady of the Great Event, I begin today to share the beauty of this office with the First Nocturn of Matins. I want to console Our Lady by helping to make the recitation of Her Little Office more accessible and consoling to others in the hope that more people will pray it and realize how comforting it is to know that the Mother of God Herself, hundreds of years ago, provided this means of grace to Her children. In order to do that, I have put together the following that I will present each week so that all will have access to the Little Office.

    All of the prayers of the Little Office each time will be listed here with a link to the Psalms at drbo.org for the most exact translation of the Douay-Rheims version. Each psalm will be prefaced by some thoughts from Explanation of the Psalms & Canticles in the Divine Office by none other than St. Alphonsus Liguori, translated by the Rev. T. Livius, C.SS.R., with a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from 1887. To these are added some of my thoughts on how the same psalms relate to the situation through which we are living, an age of Apostasy, which many, myself included, believe to be the Apostasy foretold by St. Paul. I have tried to organize it in such a way as to keep a smooth flow as I will treat a different nocturn each time.

The Hours

    Once all these installments are published, you'll see where one can pray the Little Office from Matins to Compline straight through in about 90 minutes. Nearly half of that is needed for Matins and Lauds. The "little hours" of Prime, Tierce, Sext, and None require only about 7 or 8 minutes each, so all four can be said in around a half hour. These are the hours and psalms for the soldiers of the Church Militant, encouragement for the soldiers of Christ. If your schedule is very crowded and your days very busy, as mine are, and you cannot pray all of the hours, my suggestion is to pray the little hours, either all together in the morning, at noon, or any time really, or at three a.m. (lauds), six a.m. (prime), nine a.m. (tierce), noon (sext), three p.m. (none), six p.m. (vespers) and compline just before going to bed or nine p.m.

The Psalms

    The following is taken from The Little Office of our Lady: A Treatise Theoretical, Practical, and Exegetical by Fr. Ethelred L.Taunton with a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from 1903, citing pages 34 - 35:

    ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PSALMS.

        Holy Scripture admits of a four-fold interpretation: the Literal, or historical sense; the Allegorical, or that which refers to faith or the Church Militant; the Anagogical, referring to the eternal life in the Church Triumphant; the Tropological, or moral sense, concerning the manner of reaching heaven. Durandus gives this example: "In like manner Jerusalem is understood literally of that earthly city whither pilgrims journey; allegorically of the Church Militant; topologically of every faithful soul; anagogically of the heavenly Jerusalem which is our country."

        But these four may be reduced to two; the literal and the mystical, and both of these may be the sense originally intended by the Holy Ghost when inspiring the writers. Our Lord Himself used the mystical interpretation when He took the case of Jonas, and applied it to His own resurrection, and when He spoke of the Temple, His Body. In the many parables He was intending a mystical sense, e.g., in the parable of the Good Samaritan, or that of the Prodigal Son. The Apostles, following His example, often give a mystical sense to the Scripture, and quote this sense as being, without controversy, the real meaning of the text. For instance, St. Paul says: Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine; for the Scripture saith: Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn [I Tim. v. 17, 18]. And again: Saith not the law the same also? For it is written the the law of Moses. Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God care for oxen? or saith He it not altogether for our sakes? For our sakes no doubt this was written. [I Cor. ix. 9, 10] Then, again, in that famous saying of Osee: When Israel was a child then I loved him and called my son out of Egypt [xi, I]; which St. Matthew unhesitatingly takes in a mystical sense and applies it to our Lord, saying distinctly that the return from the sojourn in Egypt was its fulfillment.

        This kind of interpretation the Church has always admitted; and, guided by the same Holy Spirit that inspired the writers, she has not hesitated to declare, in certain cases, that the mystical interpretation is the primary one intended by the Holy Ghost. For instance, the whole of the Canticle of Canticles, she takes as referring to the mystical Espousals of God and the soul, although the literal sense refers to an earthly bride and bridegroom. And the description of Wisdom Holy Church applies officially in the Missal and the Breviary to our Lady. We are bound to accept this interpretation, not only as lawful, but also as true, as it is given by her who is the sole interpreter of Holy Writ. This is also an application of the old principle that from the Church's prayers can be gathered the Church's belief.

        The piety of Christians has been fed on mystical interpretation for hundreds of years; and souls have grown in holiness by its means. The work has been that of God's saints and has resulted from their interior light and close union with God. It may seem to us, at first sight, that a few of the writers have gone rather wide of the mark and that their interpretations are somewhat far-fetched; but a closer attention to their meaning and to the steps by which they arrive at their conclusions will often show us that they have had a far deeper insight into the meaning of God's Word than we have who criticise them.

        Following out the theory that the Psalms all speak of Jesus, that they are His words, we get at once into the mystical sense, and such phrases as these: The righteous one; the poor man; thy servant; the Word; the good thing - will all have new depths of meaning when we apply them to Him Who was on earth the righteous man, and so poor that He had nowhere to lay His head; the faithful servant Who did his Father's will; the Eternal Word which gives us here below the Good Thing of the Blessed Sacrament and hereafter eternal life.

        Again, we may take the case, so often occurring, of the names, Jerusalem and Sion; the first, "The Vision of Peace," being interpreted of the Church Triumphant; the second "Expectation," of the Church Militant. As for example: That they may declare the name of the Lord in Sion and His worship in Jerusalem, when the people are gathered together and the kings also to serve the Lord [Ps. ci. 22]. Or another: Deal favourably, O Lord, in Thy goodwill with Sion; and then by a beautiful sequence, And the walls of Jerusalem shall be built up [Ps. l. 18], because through God's love and mercy to the Church here, those spiritual stones are prepared by which the walls of the Eternal Temple are to be built on high [Neale, vol. i., p. 451]. And once more: May the Lord from out of Sion bless thee that thou mayest see the good things of Jerusalem all the days of thy Life [Ps. cxxvi. 5], that is, by the means of grace stirred up in the Church we may attain the good things of life eternal. It is seldom in Scripture that these two words, either used separately or in contrast, cannot be thus explained in the mystical sense. The same applies to Jacob and Israel. The supplanter, he that has a hard struggle to attain his inheritance, is a figure of the Church on earth, while Israel, He that sees God, at once suggests the Church in Heaven.

        This brief note will be enough to give us a warrant for a solid ground for interpreting the Psalms in a mystical sense...

    I will now share with you the First Nocturn prayed normally at midnight at Matins, which is the first prayer of the Little Office. It begins thusly:

    Hail Mary, secretly, which is said always at the beginning of all the Hours.

    V. Thou + shalt open my lips, O Lord.
    R. And my mouth shall shew forth Thy praise.
    V. Come + unto my help, O God.
    R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
    V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
    R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Alleluia.

(Thus is said Alleluia at all the Hours throughout the year, except from Septuagesima to Holy Saturday; for then is said: Praise be to Thee, O Lord, King of everlasting glory.)

Psalm 94
Venite, exsultemus Domino.
An invitation to praise God, and to obey Him.

    Psalm XCIV (94), as St. Paul declares (Hebrews, iii. 7, iv, 7) directly refers to Jesus Christ, Who in it is set forth as God, Creator, and Savior of the world: hence we are exhorted to praise Him, and to hearken to Him as our Supreme Pastor.

    O come, let us rejoice in the Lord, and sing with jubilee the praises of God our Saviour. Before the rising of the sun let us be found in His presence, praising Him and confessing our faults: let us rejoice exceedingly as we sing to His glory.

    God is here speaking to the Hebrews, and He says to them: Harden not your hearts, as you did of old time, by provoking Me to anger in the wilderness, where your fathers willed to tempt Me, to see if I were the true God, when in that place of barrenness and utter destitution they sought for water, bread, and flesh: and they found by experience, at the sight of My wondrous works, that I can do all things according as it pleaseth Me.

    Have we not often become discouraged when thinking about the present situation in the Church and asked ourselves, why is God allowing this? What did we do to deserve this? Here is the answer. Just as the Hebrews tested God in the wilderness and tried His patience, so have we done in our day. God was offended with that generation that had seen all of His wonders. But what wonders have we seen? We have had Christ with us, the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament, the Blessed Virgin Mary, popes, bishops and priests in a word, we have had infinitely more graces bestowed upon us and yet, we hardened our hearts! And we have lost almost all.

For the magnificence of David's words in Psalm 94, pray fervently the following:

    Invit. Hail Mary, full of grace, * the Lord is with thee.
    1 Come let us praise the Lord with joy: let us joyfully sing to God our Savior.
    Invit. Hail Mary, full of grace, * the Lord is with thee.
    2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; and make a joyful noise to him with psalms.
    Invit. The Lord is with thee.
    3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
    Invit. The Lord is with thee.
    4 For in his hand are all the ends of the earth: and the heights of the mountains are His.
    Invit. The Lord is with thee.
    5 For the sea is His, and He made it: and His hands formed the dry land.
    Invit. The Lord is with thee. 6 Come let us adore and fall down:
    (genuflect)
    and weep before the Lord that made us.
    Invit. Hail Mary, full of grace, * the Lord is with thee.
    7 For he is the Lord our God: and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.
    Invit. Hail Mary, full of grace, * the Lord is with thee.
    8 Today if you shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts:
    Invit. Hail Mary, full of grace, * the Lord is with thee.
    9 As in the provocation, according to the day of temptation in the wilderness: where your fathers tempted me, they proved me, and saw my works.
    Invit. The Lord is with thee.
    10 Forty years long was I offended with that generation, and I said: These always err in heart.
    Invit. The Lord is with thee.
    11 And these men have not known my ways: so I swore in my wrath that they shall not enter into my rest.
    Invit. Hail Mary, full of grace, * the Lord is with thee.
    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, * and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

        Note: Henceforth, to save space, the respective psalms will be be linked in the Douay-Rheims version.

    But in His mercy, He will restore His Church. We are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. He will not forsake us forever - even though that is what we deserve! But what will get us through this terrible time? Recourse to Our Lady! Just as the Angelic salutation is returned to repeatedly during the psalm, we must constantly return to her for succor. We must begin and end all our activities with her and constantly stay by her side. If we keep under her mantle, we cannot be lost!

    After the Invitatory, the Hymn provides us with the general idea that we should have in mind throughout Matins and Lauds: To give glory to God for the glory that is shown forth in His creation. Notice: the earth, the sea, the sky, the moon, the sun; that is, all of creation, was brought into existence by Almighty God. This infinite God, this Artificer Divine, became Man; He took our human nature, so save me? He did not just humble himself to save some great and holy person who deserved it - He did so for me! The Creator of all things made Himself so small and humble as to be able to fit in the Virgin's womb, and He did all this for the love of each one of us. This thought should never leave our minds as we read the psalms, hymns, and canticles of Matins and Lauds. As we contemplate His grandeur and praise Him for it, let it never leave our mind that He became a baby so that He could live and die for our salvation, and He came to us through the Blessed Virgin Mary. He placed Himself in her care, hiding himself under her heart, in the crossing of her arms, in the folds of her mantle. If we place ourselves there and remain there, we cannot be lost.

    What better way to repair the pride and vanity that caused our exile than to imitate Our Lord in His humility, that is, by becoming small and insignificant and hiding in Our Lady's arms. To confirm us in the confidence we have in the intercession and protection of the Mother of God, we recite said hymn:

    THE God whom earth, and sea, and sky
    Adore, and laud, and magnify,
    Who o'er their threefold fabric reigns,
    The Virgin Mary's womb contains.

    The God whose will by moon, and sun,
    And all things in due course is done,
    Is borne upon a Maiden's breast,
    By fullest heavenly grace possessed.

    How blest that Mother, in whose shrine
    The great Artificer Divine,
    Whose hand contains the earth and sky,
    Vouchsafed, as in His ark, to lie.

    Blest, in the message Gabriel brought;
    Blest, by the work the Spirit wrought;
    From whom the great Desire of earth
    Took human flesh and human birth.

    To Thee be sung eternal praise,
    O Virgin-born, through endless days;
    Whom with the Father we adore,
    And Holy Ghost forevermore. Amen.


First Nocturn of Matins (On Sunday, Monday and Thursday)

Psalm 8
Dómine, Dóminus noster
God is wonderful in His works; especially in mankind, singularly exalted by the Incarnation of Christ.

    Psalm VIII. The argument of Psalm 8 is praise to God for His power, wisdom, and goodness; especially for the goodness He has shown to man. [we may also] apply it to Jesus Christ, on the authority of St. Paul (Heb. ii. 9).

    Even babes and sucklings at the breast praise Thee perfectly, to the confusion of Thy enemies; and thus dost Thou overthrow Satan, Thy chief enemy, and the avenger.

    When I consider all these marvels and other beautiful things which Thou hast created in favor of man, how can I refrain from praising Thee and from crying out: What then is this creature man for whom Thou hast so great mindfulness, and whom Thou deignest to favor with Thy visit? - This accords with what is said in the Canticle of Zachary: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: because He hath visited and wrought the redemption of His people. The Son of God comes Himself to visit man, to take human flesh, and to redeem him from the slavery of the devil.

    Although, O Lord, Thou has made him a little less than the Angels, yet Thou hast crowned him with glory and with honour, and hast set him over all the rest of Thy creatures.

    This passage has a two-fold signification. In the literal sense it is applicable to men, whom God has made masters over all earthly things: "The Heaven of heavens is the Lord's, but the earth hath He given to the children of men" (Ps. cxiii. 16) But in the figurative sense it applies to Jesus Christ, as St. Paul attests (Heb,ii. 6). God deigned to visit the human race by the Incarnation of the Word, Who appeared then in some sort inferior to the Angels, especially in His Passion, but who afterwards was crowned with glory in His Resurrection and Ascension, when were submitted to His dominion all things - Angels, men, and devils, who, according to Sts. Augustine and Bellarmine, are figured by the animals which people the air, the earth, and the sea. "Knowing that the Father had given Him all things into His hands.(John xiii. 3). For He hath put all things under His feet" (1 Cor. xv. 26).

    Thus an honor is given to men which was not given to the angels. As saith St. Paul: "For God hath not subjected to the angels the world." (Heb. ii. 5)

    We see then how God destroys the haughtiness of His enemy: by the humility of His only Son, Who, although He created all things, became a Man. If we would be good soldiers of Christ then, what should we do? We must become as little children; infants and sucklings we must become. If we become proud and vain, we ally ourselves with God's enemies.

    Who led the armies of France in the restoration of the rightful King to the throne of France? A brave fighting man, giant of stature and strength? A young virgin led the army to victory! The humble maid of Orleans - St. Joan of Arc! Who will lead the infants and sucklings who form the army of Christ in the battle to restore all things in Christ and the Reign of Christ the King? That humblest of Virgins, the Ever-Virgin Mother of God, Mary most holy!

    Ant. Blessed art thou.
    Then go to Psalm 8.
    Complete the Psalm with Glory Be... and then:
    Ant. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb.


Psalm 18
Cæli enarrant
The works of God show forth His glory: His law is greatly to be esteemed and loved.

    Psalm XVIII. Praise of God's perfections, of His holy law, and of His admirable works. In the spiritual sense, this Psalm is applicable to Jesus Christ and to His Apostles; and is in this way applied by Sts. Augustine, Bellarmine...

    The heavens proclaim the glory of God; He is made manifest in the marvelous works of His hands. - By the word Heavens, the above mentioned Commentators understand the Apostles, by whose preaching of the Gospel, and miracles, the faith of Jesus Christ was propagated throughout the earth. Each day uttereth, that is, communicates to the following day, the praises of God: and night announces to succeeding night the science of how to praise Him: so that the heavens are unceasingly publishing the glory of the Most High.

    There is no nation, whatsoever its language, which does not hear these voices of the heavens; that is, of the Apostles: Their sound, that is, their voice, has made itself heard over the whole earth, even unto its farthest limits. - This accords with the command which our Lord gave to His Apostles: Going, therefore, teach ye all nations" (Matt., xxvii. 19).

    And St. Paul, speaking of the preaching of the New Law by means of the Apostles refers to this verse of the Psalm, saying: "Have they not heard? Yea, verily: their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the whole world." (Rom. x. 18)

    The Lord has placed His Tabernacle in the sun, as being the principal site in the hea ens. From the east the sun goes forth resplendent with light as a spouse from his nuptial chamber. The sun goes forth meanwhile to make his rapid course; taking his departure from one end of heaven, that is, the east, he reaches even to its other furthest bound, so that there is no one hidden from his heat.

    The law of the Lord is beautiful, fair without flaw, converting, that is, freeing the soul from evil and from error. It is His testimony, that is to say, it testifies to us what is the Divine will; it is faithful in its promises, and gives wisdom to little children, that is, to those who are docile and submit themselves willingly to its precepts. The commandments of the Lord are right and rejoice the hearts of the faithful: they are full of light, of divine light, and enlighten the mind. For the mind is the eye of the soul.

    The fear of the Lord is holy and endures forever, the divine law which teaches holy fear is enduring, in regard to the eternal reward, which it promises to those that keep it. By holy souls they are held more precious than gold or costly gems, and sweeter far than honey.

    But what man is there who knows all the sins or errors into which he may perchance fall, so as to be able to avoid them? Wherefore, O Lord, purify me from those stains of mine that are hidden from me, and spare Thy servant, that is, suffer me not to join the company of those who are of strange manners, that is to say, the wicked. According to St. Jerome, From the proud, deliver Thy servant.

    If I do not let my sins get the mastery over me, then I shall be free from all fault, and pure, especially from grievous sins. Then the words of my mouth, my prayers, will be pleasing to Thy heart, as well as my meditations, which I shall ever make in Thy presence.

    Let us pray to Our Lady, whose every thought, word, and deed yields an odor of sweetness, that we may be given the grace that we need to imitate her.

      Ant. Like the choicest myrrh.
      Then go to Psalm 18.
      Complete the Psalm with Glory Be... and then:
      Ant.
      Like the choicest myrrh, thou hast yielded an odor of sweetness, O holy Mother of God


    Psalm 23
    Domini est terra
    A song of triumph for the translation of the Ark to Mount Sion.

    Psalm XXIII. David predicts in the Psalm 23, according to the literal sense, the principal mysteries of the New Law: he foretells the vocation of the Gentiles; he describes the character of the predestined; he foresees the interior justice which the faithful will receive through the grace of Jesus Christ, Whose divinity he declares; in fine, he prophesies of the victories of our Savior, and His glorious Ascension into Heaven.

    In creating it from nothing, He founded it upon the seas and on the rivers, and prepared it to be the habitation of man. Heaven is called a mountain, by reason of its elevation; and it is the holy place or sanctuary of God, where He has His throne.

    He shall ascend thither who has not sinned in his works, and has kept his heart pure, that is, detached from creatures; who has not received his life in vain, that is, who has not only avoided evil, but has also fulfilled what God has enjoined on him; he who loves truth, and has not sworn falsely to deceive his neighbour.

    This is the happy generation of those who seek God by being attentive here on earth to serve Him, and who long to go to see in heaven the God of Jacob.

    O Angels, Princes of the heavenly city, lift up, open the gates which have been given you to guard; and yourselves O eternal gates, that is, you who have been shut from all eternity, be ye lifted up, be ye opened, and the King of Glory shall enter in. [Who] in the battle with His enemies, whom He has conquered and discomfited.

    King David wrote this Psalm and sang it as the Ark of the Covenant was being returned from its exile to Mount Sion. The Ark was symbolic of the presence of God among His people. What generation of the sons of Abraham were deemed worthy to be receive the Ark on its return? Those who had persevered; who had suffered through the years of captivity and had come through it with a clean conscience. The generation that sought God the Savior! What was their reward? The coming of the King of Glory! Lift up your gates...and the King of Glory shall enter in!

    Who then is the Ark of the New Covenant? None other than Our Blessed Lady, who carried the King of Glory in her sacred womb. She crossed the hills of Judea just as the Ark of the Old covenant had done. The child John the Baptist in the womb of St. Elizabeth danced when he heard the voice of Our Lady just as David danced before the Ark on its way to Jerusalem. St. John, the precursor, danced in the womb of his mother because he knew that the Saviour, the King of Glory had come.

    Now, Our Lady Herself is the precursor of the Second Coming of Christ. She has been preparing the way of the Lord, making straight His paths for us: Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, 1531 AD; Our Lady of the Great Event in Quito in the 1600s AD; Mary, Conceived without sin, Paris, 1831 AD; Our Lady weeping at La Salette, France, 1846; The Immaculate Conception at Lourdes, 1854 AD; Our Lady of the Rosary, Fatima, Portugal, 1917 AD. What more could She have done that She has not done?

    Ant. Before the couch.
    Then go to Psalm 23.
    Complete the Psalm with Glory Be... and then:
    Ant. Before the couch of this Virgin sing often unto us sweet chants with solemnity.

    In the next installment we will treat the Second and Third Nocturns. I encourage you to allot time in the future to include this meaningful practice in your life for saying the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I know She'll greatly appreciate it and respond with many graces.

Karl D. Keller


      Karl D. Keller is a Catholic trying to live and die as a loyal son of Holy Mother Church. A father of nine, grandfather of five (so far!), he believes all things revealed by God through His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. He rejects anything else, even if it comes from men who do not keep the Catholic Faith and pretend that they can change it. Only Catholics can hold office in the Church. His goal is to encourage others who are trying to keep the Faith not to despair, but to persevere, with the help of The Mother of God, by promoting the recitation of Her Little Office, and the apparitions in Quito, Ecuador in the 1600s, where she described herself as, Nuestra Señora del Buen Suceso, which does not mean Our Lady of Good Success, but rather, Our Lady of the Good/Great Event, referring to the Triumph of Her Immaculate Heart and the Reign of Christ the King. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!



Treasures of Tradition
Friday, April 12, 2013
Vol. 24, no. 102