The Diurnal as edited by St. John Mason Neale has some remarkable deviations from the Office as we know it from the Anglican Breviary. Comparing the two, as we did with Vespers, may enrich our understanding of what it is we are celebrating today:
V. The Lord shall come down like the rain into a fleece of wool. R. Even as the drops that water the earth.
Many Medieval uses began Lauds by adding a V. & R. before the opening versicles. The Versiculus Sacerdotalis serves a similar function to the Invitatory verse at Matins: to set the tone of the Office to follow.
- Who is she that looketh forth as the morning: fair as the moon, clear as the sun?
- My dove, my undefiled is but one: she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her.
- The daughters saw her and blessed her: yea, the queens, and they praised her.
- Arise, and come away, O my dove: let me see thy countenance.
- How fair and how pleasant art thou: O love, for delights.
Chapter Baruch v
For God will shew thy brightness unto every country under heaven. For thy name shall be called of God for ever, the peace of righteousness, and the true glory of God’s worship.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee.
The antiphons on the Psalms again identify the Blessed Virgin Mary (as at Vespers last night) by making scriptural allusions. In Neale’s Diurnal it is a ery beautiful feature that for the Psalter of last night the Psalms used for the Vespers of Christmas Day was used. Thereby making a liturgical connection between the Blessed Virgin and her Son. The Virgin’s privilege is rooted in Him whose Mother she is. She therefore derives “her” Palms from her Son (Christmas ranks as a higher feast than the Nativity of the BVM ! ).
Likewise, at the second antiphon, when the BVM is names as “undefiled” such a privilege is derived from her Son. Those following the dogmatic definition proclaimed in the Roman Church concerning the immaculate conception of the BVM will, perhaps, find a connection between the new dogma and this antiphon here. Such a privilege is also derived from her Son. It seems that even the commemoration of today, St. Hadrian and his wife Natalie give symbolical expression of the Blessed Virgin’s loyalty to her Son as He hung dying on the Cross (like holy Natalie stayed by her husband’s side as he suffered his martyrdom). But there is more! Lesson ix, for St. Hadrian, tells us that because of “[Natalie’s] share in his sufferings, she also is accounted as a Martyr, and was buried amongst the relics of those who were martyred at this time, albeit she herself died not the martyr’s death of violence.” Prefiguring, perhaps, the “piercing of Mary’s heart” as she co-suffered with her Son.
Much to meditatively chew on!
Fr. Gregory Wassen