I came across the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception while researching Chasing the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They have a lot in common. They’re both medieval developments – BVM being the older. They both serve as shorter, more manageable versions of the Divine Office. They both follow the Canonical Hours, though the Immaculate Conception misses Lauds, but that’s kinda part of Matins anyway.
The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary is much like the Office for Saturdays of Our Lady from the Divine Office. It is not very much shorter, but it is simpler in that it changes much less from day to day.
However, the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception is drastically shorter. There are no Psalms. Each hour has a hymn, which may have made up one long hymn as they all share a similar meter. Being so simple, it seemed tantalisingly close to be able to sing this, but I couldn’t find a hymn meter to fit.
Turns out, the wonderful Brebeuf Hymnal contains 5 tunes for this hymn! They are all good settings, but none of them is a chant tune. Then I found two recordings of a sung Little Office of the Immaculate Conception on the internet with strikingly similar tunes. So I transcribed them. I go into more meandering details on my own blog, but you can get the highlights in this video:
So, now I had all the pieces. I settled on one tune and spent half an hour singing through the seven hours with my son. We were both pleasantly surprised by how quick the whole thing was. The collect is really the most tricky part, being a rather long prayer compared to other collects.
Many people approach the Divine Office with no idea of what to expect. They can be overwhelmed by the time it takes and the complexity of finding the right part for the day. In this age of mobile devices, we often turn to computer aided navigation, but these open up more possibilities for distraction. Maybe even in our modern world, there is a place for devotions like the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception which can be printed as a 12 page booklet.
Of course, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Angelus are all even simpler and accessible. And there are of saints who could spend a whole night in meditation on a single phrase of the Our Father. It is good to keep these in mind too. But if you are interested in discovering the Divine Office, this Little Office could be a gentle introduction.