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Expofition of the Primer or Office




HE Office of our B. Lady, is of great antiquity, and was compofed by the Church, directed by the Holy Ghoft: This Book is called the Primer, from the Latin word PRIMO, which fignifies, first of all, to teach us, that prayer fhould be the first work of the day. The Office is divided into Pfalms, Hymns, Canticles, Anthems, Verficles, Refponfories, and Prayers, for order, beauty, and variety-fake, and warranted by Scriptures, (Col. 3. 16.) Sing you in your hearts to our Lord, in fpiritual pfalms, 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 likewife, to reprefent a daily memorial of the feven principal parts, and of the feven hours of our Saviour's Paffion. For our Saviour hung three hours living on the Crofs, other three hours he hung dead on the Crofs, and the feventh hour was spent in nailing him to, and taking him from the Crofs. By the Matins and Lauds, we commemorate his agony and binding in the garden; by the

Prime, his fcoffs and falfe accufations; by the third Hour, his cloathing with purple and crowning with thorns; by the fixth Hour, his condemning and nailing to the cross; by the ninth Hour, his yielding up the ghoft, and the opening of his fide; by the Evenfong, his taking from the Crofs: and by the Complin, his burial.

Note, that the Matins (according to the precife 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 thefe umes are not punctually obferved, unless in religious houses.

The Doxology, or Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghoft, &c. is faid at the beginning of every hour, and at the end of every pfalm, to fhew that the intention of the office is, in the first place, to give one equal glory to the moft bleffed Trinity, and to invite all creatures to do the like.

Alleluia is a Hebrew word, and fignifies Praife ye our Lord with joy and exultation of heart, and is the language of the bleffed in Heaven, according to Apoc. 8. 6. Therefore the Church has forbidden it to be tranflated into any other language: It is used a great part of the year, efpecially betwixt Eafter and Whitfuntide, because that is a time of joy for our Saviour's Refurrection and Afcenfion.

But from Septuagefima 'till Eafter, instead of Alleluia, is faid, 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 thee, is to congratulate and renew the memory of our bleffed 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 verfes which follow the Invitatory, and begin Come let us rejoice, &c. fignify the five wounds of Chrift, from which all our prayers have their force and merit, and in honour of which thefe five Verficles are faid.

The Hymns are poetical expreffions of the prerogatives and praises of God, and our bleffed Lady, and were compofed, for the moft part by St. Hilary, St. Ambrofe, and St. Thomas of Aquine; and the ufe of them is warranted by Scripture (Matt. 26.) where it is faid, That our Saviour and his Difciples, after they had recited an Hymn, and weni forth.

The three Pfalms, in moft of the hours, and the three hours allotted to every Canonical hour, are in honour of the bleffed Trinity, to whom chiefly the whole Office is directed. The Abfolutions and Benedictions, before the leffons, are thort afpirations to beg Divine Affiftance, that we may worthily read the leffons following: and the first Benediction is in honour of the Father, the fecond in honour of the Son, the third in honour of the Holy Ghoft. The leftons and chapters

are taken out of Holy Writ, and contain the myftical praise of Chrift, and our bleffed Lady.

The Refponfories or Anfwers, are fo called, because one alone having fung a lesson, all the Choir answers, and fings the Refponfory, which ufually is taken out of the fame part of Scripture, as the leffon, or otherwife is compofed of certain pious affections towards God, and of fentences correfpondent to the nature of that day's office. The letter R, usually denotes a Refponfory, or Answer, as the letter V. doth a Verficle.

An Anthem or Antiphona, fignifies a Reciprocal Voice, that is, a voice which one wing of the Choir returns to the other, whence it comes; finging it in an exchanged order. Before and after moft of the Pfalms, is placed an Anthem, which Anthem is faid, both before and after the Pfalm on a double feaft-day; and only after on a fingle feaft. St. Ifidore faith, Thefe Anthems were first used in the Greek Church, and afterwards introduced into the Latin Church, by St. Ambrose.

We rife up and ftand, whilft we fay or fing the Canticles or Songs: My Soul magnifies our Lord. &c. Bleffed be the Lord God of Ifrael, &c. And, now Lord, let thy Servant depart, &c. to fignify our reverence to the Gofpel, out of which thofe are taken. The Collect is the Prayer fo called, because it collects and gathers together, the fum of all petitions and fupplications of the whole Office, and is always ended with these words:

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