At the beginning of the ordinary Office is said:
Lord, open Thou my lips:
And my mouth shall declare Thy praise.
This is adapted in the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception to:
Come, my lips, and wide proclaim
The blessed Virgin's spotless fame.
Then, in the ordinary Office there follows:
O God, come to my assistance:
O Lord, make hast to help me.
This is adapted to:
V. O Lady, make speed to befriend me:
R. From the hands of the enemy mightily defend me.
The 'enemy' is, of course, Satan, the devil, the great enemy of souls.
In all offices there follows the Gloria Patri:
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.
This gives the whole purpose of the recitation of the Office: the glory of the Blessed Trinity.
The Gloria Patri is known as the lesser doxology to distinguish it from the greater doxology, the Gloria in excelsis Deo. The first part is based on the form of baptism: 'In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,' and dates from the first centuries. The second part: 'As it was in the beginning,' etc., is at least as old as the fifth century. It is said some fifty times a day by priests reciting the Divine Office. The word 'Amen,' like the next word 'Alleluia,' is Hebrew. 'Amen' means 'truly so' or 'certainly' (less exactly, 'so be it'). At the end of a prayer it gives assent and emphasis to what has just been said. 'Alleluia' means 'Praise ye Yah' (the Lord). As it is an exclamation of joy it is omitted from Septuagesima until Easter, and in its place is recited: 'Praise be to thee, O Lord, King of everlasting glory.'
Then follows the Hymn:
Hail, Queen of the heavens!
Hail, Mistress of earth!
Hail, Virgin most pure,
Of immaculate birth!
At once the keynote of the Office is sounded. We are to praise Mary most pure in her Immaculate Conception. So we lift up our eyes and mind to her as Queen of heaven, where, as foretold in the Christ psalm: 'The Queen standeth at thy right hand in gold of Ophir.'
'Jesus, the universal King, governs His spiritual empire with a wisdom all divine, and He rules us with love and firmness, assuring us of a share in the blessings of His Kingdom. But it is fitting that at the right of the divine King there should be a Queen, full of clemency and goodness, who can intercede in our favour, make us experience the beneficent action of the sovereignty of love, and temper by her sweetness the sublime majesty of our divine Monarch. Mary is this Queen of Mercy, whom Jesus has made a partaker of His royal power, and whose tender goodness is the hope and refuge of her faithful and loving servants.'
Not only is she Queen of Heaven, but also Mistress of the earth. For were not all things that are made brought into being by the Word? And is she not the Mother of the Word made Flesh? In a special manner she is Mistress and Mother of all devout souls on earth; for when the Saviour of the world from His Cross committed her to that disciple whom He loved, John stood not for himself alone, but for every soul that should love Jesus. (John xix, 27.) Hardly surprising is it then to find that throughout the ages saint after saint has honored Mary, knowing that by honouring her they have loved her Son all the more. We might begin with St. Ignatius of Antioch, contemporary with St. John himself, and come through the Greek and Latin Church hearing her praises from the lips of martyrs, doctors, confessors and virgins. Indeed, the crowds that sing her 'Ave, Ave, Ave!' at Lourdes to-day but re-echo the saluting chant of the centuries, repeating what St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Ephrem, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Bede, St. Bernard, St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, St. John Bosco, and hosts of others have said. All generations on earth since the time of the Apostles have and shall call her Blessed.
Clear star of the morning,
In beauty enshrined!
O Lady, make speed
To the help of mankind!
The morning star heralds in the sun, and takes its reflection from it. So Mary's appearance on this earth was the sign of the coming of the Redeemer; and all her glory is a reflection of His. She ushered in the Day of the Lord on earth. Our Lord promises to give the 'morning star' to faithful Christians (Apoc. ii, 28). He Himself is that star: 'I am the root and the stock of David, the bright and morning star' (Apoc. xxii, 16). But as His association with the House of David came from His birth through Mary, she also participates in His titles. He is the morning star that gives confidence to those that behold Him, that Sun of Justice that will be their light after the night of this world. And Mary helps us to hope still more in Him. The wise men that followed the star 'found the Child with Mary His mother' (Matt. ii, II). The same star leads to both.
Thee God in the depth
Of eternity chose;
And formed thee all fair
As his glorious spouse.
To Mary the Church applies the inspired words of the Book of Proverbs describing Wisdom:
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways,
Before he made anything from the beginning.
I was set up from eternity,
And of old before the earth was made.
The depths were not as yet,
And I was already conceived:
Neither had the fountains of the waters as yet sprung out.
The mountains with their hugh bulk had not as yet been established:
Before the hills I was brought forth.
He had not yet made the earth,
Nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world.
When he prepared the heavens, I was present:
When with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths,
When he established the sky above,
And poised the fountains of waters;
When he compassed the sea with its bounds,
And set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits:
When he balanced the foundations of the earth:
I was with him, forming all things,
And was delighted every day;
Playing before him at all times, playing in the world;
And my delights were to be with the children of men.
Now, therefore, ye children, hear me:
Blessed are they that keep my ways:
Hear instruction and be wise,
And refuse it not.
Blessed is the man that heareth me,
And that watcheth daily at my gates,
And waiteth at the posts of my doors.
He that shall find me shall find life,
And shall have salvation from the Lord.
But he that shall sin against me shall hurt his own soul.
All that hate me love death.
The final stanza of the hymn reads:
And called thee his Word's
Own mother to be,
By whom he created
The earth, sky, and sea. Amen.
Our Lord is called the 'Word' by St. John in the Prologue to his Gospel. God is the supreme Mind: the mind expresses itself outwardly by words: so the Son of God who became flesh and appeared on earth is the Word of God. By the Word 'all things were made' ―the earth, sky and sea. 'And the Word was made flesh'; hence Mary is rightly called the Mother of the Word of God.
After the Hymn come versicles (V) and responses (R).
V. God elected her, and pre-elected her.
R. He made her to dwell in his tabernacle.
V. O Lady, recommend my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto thee.
Then follows the Prayer:
Let us pray.
Holy Mary, Queen of heaven, mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Mistress of the world, who forsakest no one, and despisest no one; look upon me, O Lady, with an eye of pity, and entreat for me, of thy beloved Son, the forgiveness of all my sins; that, as I now celebrate with devout affection thy holy and immaculate Conception, so, hereafter, I may receive the prize of eternal blessedness, by the grace of Him whom thou, in virginity, didst bring forth, Jesus Christ our Lord, who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, in perfect Trinity, God, world without end. Amen.
And Matins concludes with three more Versicles and Responses:
V. O Lady, recommend my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto thee.
V. Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
V. May the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.