Chapter-by-Chapter Sneak Peak

Chapter 1: The Hours of the Virgin

This chapter provides a history of the introduction of the practice of saying the Hours or Office of the Virgin Mary from the late tenth century through the early sixteenth century. It surveys the different groups who adopted this practice over time, beginning with Benedictine monks and nuns in the tenth and eleventh centuries and including by the end of the Middle Ages every major religious order (canons, friars, beguines) as well as the laity and their confraternities. It introduces the Book of Hours as a novel codicological development brought about by this devotional practice and situates the devotion in the history of printing. The second part of the chapter gives a history of the development of the liturgical hours of the day according to which the Hours of the Virgin were structured, along with the symbolism of the hours. It also treats the variety of Uses of the Hours of the Virgin and explains why a single version of the Office was never instituted in the Middle Ages.

Key words: Hours of the Virgin, history of the book, literacy, history and symbolism of the liturgy.

Chapter 2: “Ave Maria”

This chapter describes the practice of saying the invitatory antiphon for the Office of Matins in the Hours of the Virgin and its significance for understanding the experience of saying the Office. It draws on miracle stories, visionary accounts, devotional treatises, and scriptural commentaries in order to illustrate the responses that medieval Christians expected to have when saying the Ave Maria. It describes the educational efforts on the part of the clergy to instruct the laity in saying the Ave Maria and introduces the major commentary literature on this practice written in the thirteenth century, including the three works that are the subject of chapter 4: Richard of Saint-Laurent’s De laudibus beatae Mariae virginis, Conrad of Saxony’s Speculum beatae Mariae, and pseudo-Albert the Great’s Mariale. The second part of the chapter explores the meaning of the name by which medieval Christians saluted the Mother of the Lord: Mary. It provides a survey of the major catalogues of titles attributed to her, illustrates how they were tied to the practice of saying the psalms through a close reading of an early Mary-psalter (the prototype for the later medieval practice of saying the rosary), and raises the question of where these titles came from.

Key words: devotion, practice, religious experience, Ave Maria (Hail Mary), naming.

Chapter 3: Antiphon and Psalm

This chapter is the heart of the book. It provides a commentary on the antiphons and psalms from the Use of Rome, suggesting by way of Margaret Barker’s temple theology how a close reading of the Office of the Virgin changes our understanding of the meaning of Mary for the history of Christianity. The first part of the chapter introduces Barker’s reading of the tradition and shows how it is supported in the early history of the devotion to the Virgin, reaching its full development in the Eastern Orthodox (Byzantine) tradition. The second part of the chapter comments on each of the psalms of the Marian Office as framed by its supporting antiphon. These antiphons are some of the earliest witnesses in the Latin tradition to the way in which the Eastern emphasis on Mary as the temple of the Lord reached the West. The commentary on the psalms draws on Augustine’s and Cassiodorus’s Christological reading as a contrast to the Marian interpretation provided by the Office. The commentary is intended as suggestive rather than definitive, given the wide variety of Uses of the Office of the Virgin; it is hoped that this commentary will inspire others to take the texts of the liturgy seriously as sources for our study of medieval devotional practice.

Key words: Margaret Barker, temple theology, history of the cult of the Virgin Mary, Theotokos, Byzantine devotion to Mary, commentary on Scripture, psalms, antiphons, Augustine of Hippo, Cassiodorus, Divine Office, liturgy.

Chapter 4: Lesson and Response

This chapter offers a close reading of three of the major thirteenth-century commentaries on the Ave Maria: Richard of Saint-Laurent’s De laudibus beatae Mariae virginis, Conrad of Saxony’s Speculum beatae Mariae, and pseudo-Albert the Great’s Mariale. Its purpose is two-fold: to introduce these three works as major sources for our understanding of medieval Marian devotion, and to support the reading of the antiphons and psalms offered in chapter 3. The close readings of each work are intended to prove that medieval Christians read the Scriptures according to the themes that Barker has identified as central to the ancient temple tradition, thus the close attention in my paraphrases of the three works to the way in which each author cites Scripture. Each of the three works likewise illustrates the way in which medieval Marian devotion was anchored in an understanding of the importance of the Word as studied through the trivium or arts of language: grammar (naming things), rhetoric (persuasive speech, preaching), and dialectic (question and answer).

Key words: Richard of Saint-Laurent, Conrad of Saxony, pseudo-Albert the Great, trivium, arts of language, Scriptural commentary, names of Mary, Wisdom, creation.

Chapter 5: Prayer 

The purpose of this chapter is to illustrate the way in which the reading of Mary offered in chapters 3 and 4 changes our understanding of the significance of the medieval devotion to Mary as a practice. It draws further on Richard of Saint-Laurent’s De laudibus beatae Mariae as the single most extensive contemporary description of this practice, while situating Richard’s instructional account within the context of the stories told of Mary's miracles on behalf of her servants. Devotion to Mary is shown to have been understood above all as a kind of service offered to the Lady and her Lord. The second part of the chapter shows three of the main reasons that medieval Christians gave for their service to Mary: the expectation that she would intercede on their behalf, as with Theophilus; the joy that they took in meditating on her beauty as an example for their own life of virtue; and the model and path that she provided for contemplation of the Creator, made visible in her as his temple.

Key words: miracles of the Virgin, service, contemplation, intercession, Theophilus, courtly love, beauty, virtue, creation, prayer, vision of God.

Compline: Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda (d. 1665) and the Mystical City of God

This epilogue uses Sor María’s Mystica Ciudad de Dios to illustrate the way in which the medieval tradition of reading Mary as the temple of the Lord was known well into the seventeenth century and to suggest a reason why it was lost.

Key words: Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda, Mystica Ciudad de Dios

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