Thursday, August 13, 2009

Te Deum

Unlike other curmudgeons, I do not miss much from TLH (The Lutheran Hymnal 1941 to those not yet acquainted with the jargon of Lutherland). There are some things I miss from LW (Lutheran Worship 1982, a revision of Lutheran Book of Worship 1978). One thing I do not miss from LW is the messing with the Te Deum that rendered it a great disappointment and the one thing I do miss most from TLH is that Te Deum. There are okay settings of the Te Deum in other hymnals and I sing them with gusto as well... but the Te Deum screams King James language (as old friend Paul Petersen used to insist when the 23rd Psalm was read).

We praise thee, O God : we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee :
the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud :

the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.

To thee Cherubim and Seraphim : continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy :
Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty :
of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.

The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.

The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.

The holy Church throughout all the world :

doth acknowledge thee;

The Father : of an infinite Majesty;

Thine adorable, true : and only Son;

Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.

Thou art the King of Glory : O Christ.

Thou art the everlasting Son : of the Father.

When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man :

thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.

When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death :

thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God :
n the glory of the Father.

We believe that thou shalt come : to be our Judge.

We therefore pray thee, help thy servants :

whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints : in glory everlasting.

O Lord, save thy people :
and bless thine heritage.
Govern them : and lift them up for ever.

Day by day : we magnify thee;

And we worship thy Name : ever world without end.

Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.

O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.

O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us :
as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted :
let me never be confounded.

The Te Deum was for me the highlight of Matins. I still pray it daily whether I pray/sing Matins or not. Its words have become a central part of its piety and its music as well.

Ascribed to Saints Ambrose and Augustine, on the occasion of the latter's baptism by the former in AD 387, these words have a long history as an Early Christian hymn of praise associated with the traditional Office. The Te Deum is sung at the end of Matins on all days when the Gloria is said at Mass. It is also used together with the standard canticles in Morning Prayer as prescribed in the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, in Matins for Lutherans. It is also used by the Eastern Orthodox Churches in the Paraklesis (Moleben) of Thanksgiving.

The musical settings of the Te Deum are many. The Healy Willan setting is a particular favorite of my wife and me. Among larger versions are these beautiful settings by Rutter, by Rachmaninoff, by Haydn, by Berlioz, by Purcell, by Britten, by Dettingen, and for my daughter, by Dvorak, etc... (Thanks to YouTube for the examples...)

I suggest that first you commit the text to memory and let it accompany your daily prayers... perhaps as the chief morning prayer. It is a powerful text and when I sing/pray it I am drawn to the rich memories of those who in so many generations have gathered for the hours and for prayer around these words.

Te Deum has become shorthand for an announcement of praise at the end of something grand or at the hearing of good news. See the earlier post on Henry V and the singing of Te Deum and Non Nobis.

Some of the great hymns of the faith are metrical settings of the Te Deum: Holy God, We Praise Thy Name being perhaps the most popular, and my favorite modern version, set to Holst marvelous tune Thaxted, is by Lutheran hymnwriter Stephen Starke is LSB 941 - We Praise You and Acknowledge You.

So sing a Te Deum... Sing it today... Sing it with gusto...

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