LIFE AS MYTH

Index

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JOURNAL

Index

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JOURNAL 2014

The poetics of grace

On shells and nests

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SPRING 2014

A little book of hours

Index 2014

The messenger

A mystical conversation

The golden hour

A nest for the word

The gifts of wonder

The ninth hour

The miracle of the palm trees

The sun, the moon, and the stars

A little book of hours

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LIFEWORKS

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SPRING 2014
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A LITTLE BOOK OF HOURS

The annunciation, artist and date unknown.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; (below) The virgin annunciate, Antonella da Messina. 1476. Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo.

The book of hours is a Christian devotional of writings, psalms and prayers, popular in the Middle Ages and intended for the laity. The books were usually in Latin though vernacular forms were not uncommon. The practice of reciting the hours was meant to provide the individual with a more immediate relationship with God and the Virgin Mary. The standard components included a calendar of church feasts, the Hours of the Virgin, the Hours of the Cross, the Hours of the Holy Spirit, the Office for the Dead, and the Suffrages.

The books varied in decorative content. Simpler versions contained only ornamental letters. More lavish versions, commissioned by wealthy patrons, featured richly executed full page illustrations or miniatures. One such example, Les Très Riches Heures (The very rich hours of the Duke of Berry), is possibly the single most valuable book in the world.

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THE LITTLE OFFICE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

The little office of the blessed Virgin Mary is a weekly devotional cycle consisting of psalms, hymns and sacred readings. It began in the eighth century as a monastic spiritual practice. By the tenth century it was in widespread use as a standard text in the book of hours. By the fourteenth century it was obligatory practice for all clergy.

 

This ritual remained common practice until Pope Paul VI recommended that practitioners use the Divine Office in lieu of The little office of the blessed Virgin Mary. This decision by the Pope was consistent with other changes in the church calendar during the Second Vatican Council. Seen in the overall context of Pope Paul's many teachings on Mariology, the shift away from the Little office of the blessed Virgin Mary was an attempt to consolidate ritual practice rather than devalue the integral status of Mary within the Roman Catholic Church.

Since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, the little office has endured in print and practice as an alternative to The Divine Hours. This option accommodates those who simply prefer the Little Office over the Hours and also those who choose to center their daily spiritual practice around the Virgin Mary.

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