The Little Office of Our Lady Instituted, Pope Urban II (1095)
The Little Office of Our Lady also known as Hours of the Virgin is a liturgical devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, in imitation of, and usually in addition to, the Divine Office. It is a cycle of psalms, hymns, scripture and other readings. All of the daily variation occurs in Matins. The text of the other offices remains the same from day to day in the Roman rite and most other rites. In the Roman rite there are seasonal variations in Advent and Christmastide. The Gospel antiphons also change in Eastertide, although there are no other changes during that season. The Little Office was a core text of the medieval book of hours.
The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary probably originated as a monastic devotion around the middle of the eighth century. Peter the Deacon reports that at the Benedictine Monastery of Monte Cassino there was, in addition to the Divine Office, another office “which it is customary to perform in honour of the Holy Mother of God, which Zachary the Pope commanded under strict precept to the Cassinese Monastery.”
The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a variation of the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office). It may have originally been put together to be prayed in connection with the Votive Masses of Our Lady on Saturday, which were written by Alcuin, the liturgical master of Charlemagne’s court.
The Little Office did not come into general use before the tenth century. Peter Damian states that it was already commonly recited amongst the secular clergy of Italy and France, and through his influence the practice of reciting it in choir after the Monastic Office, was introduced into several Italian houses. In the eleventh century there were at least two versions the Little Office extant in England. Pre-English Reformation versions varied considerably, and in England in medieval times the main differences were between the Sarum and York uses. Several early printed versions of the English uses of the Little Office survive in the Primers.
In a spirit of piety and gratitude to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Urban II ordained in the Council of Clermont, over which he presided in person in the year 1095, that the clergy should say the little office of the Blessed Virgin, already introduced among the monks by St. Peter Damian; and that thrice a day, morning, noon, and evening, the great bell of the Church should be struck three times, to warn the faithful to say the Angelas, or the triple salutation to the Blessed Virgin, which begins with the word Angelus. This salutation is sometimes called the pardon, because Pope JohnXXII.,CalixtusIII., Paul III., Alexander VII, Clement X., and other Sovereign Pontiffs have granted great indulgences, to all those who shall devoutly recite this prayer three times a day. It was revised by by Pope Pius V. 1571.