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Exposition of the Primer or Office
BLESSED VIRGIN MARY.
WE Office of our B. Lady, is of great
Church, directed by the Holy Ghost : This Book is called the Primer, from the Latin word PRIMO, which fignifies, first of all, to teach us, that prayer Thould be the first work of the day. The Office is divided into Pfulms, Hymns, Canticles, Anthems, Versicles, Responsories, and Prayers, for order, beauty, and variety-sake, and warranted by Scripturés, (Col. 3. 16.) Sing you in your hearts to our Lord, in spiritual psalms, hymns, and canticles.
The Office is divided into seven several hours, according to that of the Prophet ; seven times in the day I have praised thee : And likewise, to represent a daily memorial of the seven principal parts, and of the seven hours of our Saviour's Passion.
For our Saviour hung three hours living on the Cross, other three hours he hung dead on the Cross, and the seventh hour was spent in nailing him to, and taking him from the Cross. By the Matins and Lauds, we commemorate his agony and binding in the garden ; by the Prime, his scoffs and false accusations ; by the third Hour, his cloathing with purple and crowning with thotns ; by the fixth Hour, his condemning and nailing to the cross; by the ninth Hour, his yielding up the ghost, and the opening of his side ; by the Evenfong, his taking from the Cross : and by the Complin, his burial.
Note, that the Marins (according to the precise canonical time) ' begin at midnight, and the Lauds are but, as it were, an appendix to the Matins ; the Prime begins at fix of the clock in the morning, &c. but these unies are not punctually cbferved, unless in religious houses.
The Doxology, or Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghof, &c. is faid at the beginning of every hour, and at the end of every psalm, to Thew that the intention of the office is, in the first place, to give one equal glory to the most blessed Trinity, and to invite all creatures to do the like.
Alleluia is a Hebrew word, and signifies Praise ye our Lord with joy and exultation of heart, and is the language of the blessed in Heaven, according to Apoc. 8. 6. Therefore the Church has forbidden it to be translated into any other language : It is Ņsed a great part of the year, especially betwixt Easter and W'hilfuntide, because that is a time of joy for our Saviour's Resurrection and Afcenfion.
But from Septuagesima 'till Eafter, instead of Alleluia, is said, Praise be to thee, O Lord;
King of Eternal Glory, because that is a time of penance, therefore God must be praised, rather with tears than exultation.
The Invitatory, Hail Mary full of Grace, our Lord is with ibee, is to congratulate and renew the memory of our blessed Lady's joy, conceived at the Conception of her Son JESUS; and to invite all the communion of the faithful to do the like. And the five verses which follow the Invitatory, and begin Come let us rejoice, &c. signify the five wounds of Christ, from which all our prayers have their force and merit, and in honour of which these five Versicles are said.
The Hymns are poetical expressions of the prerogatives and praises of God, and our blessed Lady, and were composed, for the most part by St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, and Sri Thomas of Aquine ; and the use of them is warranted by Scripture (Matt. 26.) where it is said, That our Saviour and his Disciples, after they had recited an Hymn, and weni forth.
The three Psalms, in most of the hours, and the three hours allotted to every Canonical hour, are in honour of the blessed Trinity, to whom chiefly the whole Office is directed. The Alfolutions and Benedictions, before the lessons, are short aspirations to beg Divine Affistance, that we may worthily read the lessons following : and the first Benediction is in honour of the Father, the second in honour of the Son, the third in honour of the Holy Ghost. The 'leffons and chapters
are taken out of Holy Writ, and contain the mystical praise of Christ, and our blessed Lady.
The Responsories or Answers, are so called, because one alone having sung a leffon, all the Choir answers, and fings the Responsory, which usually is taken out of the same part of Scripture, as the lesson, or otherwise is composed of certain pious affections towards God, and of sentences correspondent to the nature of that day's office. The letter R, usually denotes a Responsory, or Answer, as the letter V. doth a Versicle.
An Anthem or Antiphona, signifies a Reciprocal Voice, that is, a voice which one wing of the Choir returns to the other, whence it comes ; singing it in an exchanged order. Before and after most of the Psalms, is placed an Anthem, which Anthem is said, both before and after the Psalm on a double feast-day; and only after on a single feast. St. Ifidore faith, These Anthems were first used in the Greek Church, and afterwards introduced into the Latin Church, by St. Ambrose.
We rise up and stand, whilst we say or sing the Canticles or Songs : My Soul magnifies our Lord. &c. Blesed be the Lord God of Ifrael, &c. And, now Lord, let thy Servant depart, &c. to fignify our reverence to the Gospel, out of which those are taken. The Colle&t is the Prayer so called, because it collects and gathers together, the sum of all petitions and supplications of the whole Office, and is always ended with these words: