The Hour of Prime
No one can start a child’s day off on the right foot like a mother. And no one can better help us prayerfully welcome the daylight in preparation for the joys and sufferings of the day ahead like our Blessed Mother.
In Officium Parvum Beatæ Mariæ Virginis – The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, praying the hour of Prime, or the first hour ante meridiem, which is six o’clock in the morning, according to the ancient way of telling time, is a wonderful way to begin one’s day. It doesn’t have to be 6 a.m. literally; some of the Religious Orders who still pray the hour of Prime begin at 6:30, 7 or even as late as 8:30.
The rising sun of the new day should turn one’s heart and mind to the Resurrection. And through our Lady’s liturgical Office at the first hour, one’s attention is also given to the fact that she brought into the world for humanity’s redemption, the Sun of Righteousness.
Calling Upon the Lord for Help
Most hours of Our Lady’s Office and the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours begin by calling upon our Lord for help, which is taken from Psalm 69 :
O God, come to my assistance.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
This is followed by the doxology or short verse in praise of God:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Memento, rerum Conditor,
Nostri quod olim corporis
Sacrata ab alvo Virginis
Nascendo formam sumpseris.
Maria, Mater gratiæ,
Dulcis parens clementiæ,
Tu nos ab hoste protege,
Et mortis hora suscipe.
Iesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui natus es de Virgine,
Cum Patre, et almo Spiritu
In sempiterna sæcula. Amen.
It’s a hymn which in the beginning asks God to remember that He was born of the Virgin Mary. While it may seem strange to ask God, who knows everything, to remember, really what we are doing is offering our prayer to the Lord through the intercession of our Blessed Mother as our Lord Himself taught us, by coming to us through her. She is the Mother of grace, the Mother of mercy, who protects us from the enemy, and who will support us at the hour of death.
An antiphon is a verse which is designed to paste on our minds and hearts the focus or theme of our prayer as we recite, chant or sing the psalms. For this particular blog post, we’ll focus on the hour of Prime of our Lady as it usually is prayed. There are some changes to this hour in Our Lady’s Office during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
Assumpta est Maria in cælum; gaudent angeli, laudantes benedicunt Dominum.Mary was taken up into heaven; the angels rejoice, and with praises bless the Lord.
Thus, it is our Lady’s Assumption into heaven which is to be our focus. She enters into heaven, body and soul, and is welcomed by rejoicing angels who honor her and worship God for the masterpiece He created in her.
First is Psalm 53  which is a prayer for help in times of distress. Prophetically it points towards the sufferings of Christ and we hear His Voice in this psalm calling out to the Father. Jesus also continues to suffer in His mystical body, and so, we the members of His mystical body also call out to the Father but in this liturgical Office of Our Lady we call upon her intercession asking God to hear the prayers we cry out through her, to grant us grace and strength as the enemy and our own passions rise up against us. In the final verse of this psalm is the victory, the deliverance from all trouble and the ability to look down upon the enemy. The doxology, of course, must follow after such a glorious destiny is revealed.
Next is Psalm 84  which prophetically announces the peace and salvation that will come to humanity because of the Incarnation. It begins by praising God for turning away the captivity of Jacob. This points to Christ’s work of redemption which has turned away our captivity to sin and death. Now that Jesus has saved us, the psalmist understands the role we must play as we ask God to convert us. Indeed, our hearts and souls must be eternally grateful what Jesus did and we must daily seek conversion, a closer union with our Lord. Through all of this we cannot forget in this particular format that it was our Lady’s fiat which enabled God to clothe Himself in flesh and enter into our existence. It was her trust in God and her holy submission to His will that permitted her who is full of grace to watch in sorrow the sufferings of her Son as well as her own soul being pierced with a sword. It was her mysterious, unconditional love at the foot of the Cross which moved her to accept the role as Mother of those who were responsible for her Son’s sufferings – we of sinful humanity.
The final psalm is the very short Psalm 116 . It is a call for all nations to praise the Lord for His mercy is confirmed upon us and His Truth remains forever. Redemption has been architected for all of Adam’s posterity. Let us learn from our Lady who is in her heavenly homeland how to live the Truth. Let us ask her to help us do some housecleaning by emptying ourselves of all that displeases our Lord, in order that He may fully occupy our souls.
The Reading or Little Chapter
This short Reading from the Song of Songs asks the question: Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon and bright as the sun? This might turn your thoughts to the woman in Revelation 12:1 who was clothed with the sun and the moon was under her feet and on her head was a crown of twelve stars. This is a figure of our Lady and the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to Mary as the exemplary realization of the Church. The sun, the brightest light, is Christ in which our Lady is clothed. The moon is the lesser light representing persecution and the ever-changing world which has not come to full glory. Our Lady who is in heaven wears the full brightness of glory but she also lived in this world of persecution. The Church likewise, is Triumphant with the sun in heaven and Militant with the moon on earth.
In the closing prayer we ask God that since He chose Mary as His dwelling-place, may we be fortified by her defense and find joy in taking part in her commemoration.
Finally we pray that the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. We should pray for our departed brothers and sisters as someday we will need their prayers.