Virgin annunciate. Fra Angelico. 1431-33. Institute of Arts, Detroit. The annunciation, Limbourg Brothers, The Belles Heures of Jean of France, Duke of Berry*. Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on vellum; The Cloisters Collection. Metropolitan Museum of Art. ca. 1406-09. *Item, une belles Heures, tres bien et richement historiees (Item, a beautiful hours, very well and richly illuminated). In the Middle Ages books were usually displayed on ornate stands [detail from The Belles Heures]. Since books were scarce and quite valuable it was not unusual for books to be chained to their stands as a measure against theft.
MODERN DEVELOPMENTS IN MARIOLOGY
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 little office of the blessed Virgin Mary was and 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 mid-twentieth century when 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.
After the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, the Little Office endured in print and practice as an alternative to The Divine Hours. This option accommodated those who simply preferred the Little Office over the Hours and also those who choose to center their daily spiritual practice around the Virgin Mary.
Marian devotion also found expression outside the liturgical hours. During the twentieth century, for the first time, the Roman Catholic Church recognized two Marian years. The first was in 1954 and celebrated the 100th anniversary of the of the proclamation of the dogma of the immaculate conception.