Secundum Verbum Tuum

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For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne. (Wisdom 18:14-15)

The Word in the Night

The nocturnal or pre-dawn Office of Vigils (or Matins) is, without any doubt, the Hour most expressive of the mystery of Advent. The Word arrives enveloped in a deep silence and, in that silence, visits the hearts that await His coming.

The Church's Blanket of Prayer

It is comforting to recall that the Church in her wisdom has woven a blanket of prayer that covers all the hours of the night. The great Orders of the Church relay each other in keeping watch for the coming of the Bridegroom. Should the Night Office ever cease being celebrated in monasteries, which God forbid, the world that night will die of the cold. The repartition of the nightwatch is, more or less approximately, as follows. In some instances, individuals may prolong the Night Office in solitary prayer.

From 9:00 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. -- Carmelites and some Benedictines
From 11:30 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. -- Carthusians
From 12:00 midnight until 1:30 a.m. -- Poor Clares, Dominican Nuns, Franciscan Friars of certain reforms, and some Passionists in Greater Solitude
From 2:00 a.m. until 3:15 a.m. -- Benedictines of the Primitive Observance
From 3:00 a.m. until 4:30 a.m. -- Trappists
From 4:00 a.m. until 5:30 a.m. -- Cistercians
From 5:00 a.m. until 6:30 a.m. -- Benedictines

Today's Night Office

This morning's Office of Vigils contained two jewels the first was the responsory Annuntiatum est per Gabrielem after the Third Lesson of the First Nocturn:

He Entered Through the Virgin's Ear

The Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary the entrance of the King. * And He entered into a splendid region, through the Virgin's ear, so to visit the palace of her womb, whence He came forth through a golden door. V. Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. R. And He entered into a splendid region, through the Virgin's ear, so to visit the palace of her womb, whence He came forth through a golden door. V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. R. And He entered into a splendid region, through the Virgin's ear, so to visit the palace of her womb, whence He came forth through a golden door.

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The Reading at the Second Nocturn was taken from Saint Bernard's stupendous homily Super Missus Est:

By the Virtue of the Holy Ghost

You have heard, O Virgin, that you are to conceive and bring forth a Son, and that it will not be through the power of man, but by the virtue of the Holy Ghost.

Waiting for a Word of Mercy

The angel awaits your reply, for it is time that he should return to God, Who sent him. We, too, are waiting, O Lady, for a word of mercy we, who are groaning under the sentence of condemnation. See, the price of our salvation is offered to you ; if you consent, we shall at once be delivered. By the Eternal Word of God we were all created, and behold we die. By your short answer we shall be refreshed and recalled to life. Adam, with all his race Adam, a weeping exile from Paradise, implores it of you. Abraham entreats you, David beseeches you. This is the object of the burning desires of the holy fathers, of your fathers, who are still dwelling in the region of the shades of death. Behold the entire human race prostrate at your feet in expectation.

Hasten, O Lady

And rightly, for on your word depend the consolation of the wretched, the redemption of the captive, the freedom of the condemned, the salvation of your entire race, of all the children of Adam. Hasten, then, O Lady, to give your answer; hasten to speak the word so longed for by all on earth, in limbo, and in heaven. Yea, the King and Lord of all things, Who has greatly desired your beauty, desires as eagerly your word of consent, by which He has purposed to save the world. He whom you have pleased by your silence will now be more gratified by your reply.

Mary, the Much-Longed-For-Virgin

Hark ! He calls to you from heaven: "most beautiful among women, give me to hear your voice." If you let Him hear your voice, He will enable you to see our salvation. And is not this what you have sought for, what you have prayed for night and day with sighs and tears? Why, then, delay? Are you the happy one to whom it has been promised, or "look we for another "? Yes, you indeed are that most fortunate one. You are the promised virgin, the expected virgin, the much-longed-for virgin, through whom your holy father Jacob, when about to die, rested his hope of eternal life, saying : " I will look for thy salvation, O Lord."

Answer the Word, Receive the Word

You, O Mary, are that virgin in whom and by whom God Himself, our King before all ages, determined to operate our salvation in the midst of the earth. Why do you humbly expect from another what is offered to you, and will soon be manifested through yourself if you will but yield your consent and speak the word ? Answer, then, quickly to the angel yes, through the angel give your consent to your God. Answer the word, receive the Word. Utter yours, conceive the Divine. Speak the word that is transitory, and embrace the Word that is everlasting. Why do you delay? Why are you fearful?

Courage and Confidence

Believe confess receive. Let humility put on courage, and timidity confidence. It is certainly by no means fitting that virginal simplicity should forget prudence. Yet in this one case only the prudent virgin need not fear presumption, because, though modesty shone forth in her silence, it is now more necessary that her devotion and obedience should be revealed by her speech.

He Stands at the Gate and Knocks

Open, Blessed Virgin, your heart to faith, your lips to compliance, your bosom to your Creator. Behold, the desired of all nations stands at the gate and knocks. Oh, suppose He were to pass by while you delay ! How would you begin again with sorrow to seek Him whom your soul loveth ! Arise run open ! Arise by faith, run by devotion, open by acceptance. Mary speaks. " Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done unto me according to thy word."

2 Comments

"¿No estoy aqui
que soy tu Madre?

Am I not here
who am your Mother?"

(Our Lady of Guadalupe
to St. Juan Diego)

A simple reminder of our Mother's presence.

"The blanket of prayer" - how comforting to know of the prayers soaring heavenward during the night hours when I am called upon to care for patients, some of whom are in extreme circumstances!

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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