Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Te Deum Laudamus

Of all the great hymns of the Church, none is as profound or as beloved as the Te Deum.  Te Deum laudamus, (Latin: “God, We Praise You” ), is a hymn to God the Father and to His son Jesus Christ.  It was for a very long time familiar through its place as the primary canticle of Matins.  It is a universal hymn well known to Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and especially, Lutherans.   It has been attributed to various authors, perhaps St. Ambrose, St. Augustine (some have suggested on the occasion of his baptism), and Nicetas, early 5th century bishop of Remesiana.  It is not as random as some might think.  There are equal sections devoted to the Father and Son, a sentence  to the Holy Spirit, followed by a prayer.  It is not quite poetry ant not quite prose.  It is doctrinal (especially in response to the Arian controversy so close to the time of its composition.  And it is almost creedal in the way it confesses the Trinitarian faith.

Composers and hymn writers have found the Te Deum irresistible.  From Purcell to Charpantier to Vaughan Williams to Britten to Handel to Berlioz to Kodály to Bruckner, to Willan to Dvořák to Pärt, among others, these words have lent themselves to song and instrumental praise.  Sir William Walton's Coronation Te Deum was written for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and it has been a favorite of British composers.  The 18th-century German hymn Großer Gott, wir loben dich is a somewhat free translation of the Te Deum, which we know in English as "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name." More recently, Lutherans have warmed to the paraphrase by Stephen Sarke published in Lutheran Service Book at "We Praise You and Acknowledge You, O God" and matched to the matchless tune by Holst, Thaxted.

I must admit I am still partial to the traditional words and much less so to the ICEL texts that seem rather banal and ordinary in comparison to the older words.

You can listen to them here.

Lutheran Service Book modernized them slightly.  

And the Starke Hymn:

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 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 humble thyself to be born of a Virgin.
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:
In 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 thy heritage.
Govern them and lift them up forever.
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 be upon us
As our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted:
Let me never be confounded.

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