Section 1

Matins: Annunciation to the Virgin

The Virgin Mary devoutly kneels with her prayer book open. The Angel Gabriel, who brings the good news, holds a scroll upon which is written the beginning of Luke 1:28 -- “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” Between Mary and Gabriel stands a white lily, which is commonly pictured with Mary to symbolize her purity. God the Father appears in the upper-left corner, with rays of splendor emanating from his mouth. The Holy Spirit, represented by a dove, descends from God to Mary.

Lauds: Visitation

Who is greeting whom? In the visitation scene, Elizabeth, the future mother of John the Baptist, meets Mary, the future mother of Christ. Behind them is the house of Zacharias, Elizabeth's husband. As the illustration seems to reflect, it is unclear whether Elizabeth greets Mary, or Mary greets Elizabeth. Latin texts have Elizabeth proclaiming what would become the popular Magnificat hymn ( Magnificat anima mea Dominum ). Greek texts (though unavailable to illustrators before 1516) present Mary as the speaker.

Prime: Nativity

In this depiction of the Nativity, we see Mary and Joseph beholding the infant Christ, upon whom shines the star of Bethlehem; a donkey and a bull participate in the adoration. Shepherds, identified by their characteristic bagpipe and staff, come to worship the Infant. Behind them is the town of Bethlehem.

Terce: The Annunciation to the Shepherds

An angel announces the birth of Christ to the shepherds and holds a scroll that reads Gloria in Excelsis Deo, “glory to God in the highest.” The shepherds are easily identified by the sheep, their staves, and pastoral bagpipe.