2007June4, Monday

An Oft-Overlooked Creedal Formula: Te Deum

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:33 by Trey Austin

One creedal affirmation (that is very hymnic in its composition; it is actually sung in many contexts) that is often overlooked in Protestant circles, especially, is the Te Deum Laudamus, or “You, O God, We Praise,” often abbreviated simply, Te Deum.  It’s a rather lengthy affirmation of faith as creedal statements go (though, it is shorter than the Athanasian Creed), so its lack of use is probably owing more than anything to its unweildiness in abbreviated services of worship (aren’t all Evangelical services short, except for the sermon?), where the Apostles’ Creed, with its short and pithy means of expression, is more convenient and easy to memorize (who memorizes anything anymore?).

However, i was going through some things, and i saw the sheet that i used in my ordination service where we spoke together the Te Deum, so i decided i’d post it here for any of you who haven’t seen it (or haven’t seen it lately). Consider including it in your worship service sometime (maybe on a special occasion, like Reformation Sunday, where its use would be very appropriate).

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 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 Spirit, 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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3 Comments »

  1. Fr. Bill said,

    Hello Pr. Trey,

    This is a standard canticle in every Book of Common Prayer I’ve consulted, and is included in the worship canticles in the service book of our parish (St. Athananasius Anglican Church), pointed for chanting to Anglican chants. We sing it every three or four weeks (alternating it with several other canticles in our worship). I include in three times weekly in my observance of the daily office.

    Of all the usual canticles, this is one of the most “creedal” in its affirmations. Other canticles are adapted from the Psalter or from hymnic portions of other portions of Scripture (the songs of Moses, Isaiah, Zechariah; the Magnificat; etc.).

    For a fascinating discussion of dating and authorship, see here: http://www.katapi.org.uk/CreedsIntro/xi.htm .

    I’m not competent to express an opinion on the different ideas of authorship. I would say this, however … the fact that it is referred to by its name — Te Deum Laudamus — at the beginning of the Sixth Century is pretty good evidence that it was, at that time, a well established hymn in circulation throughout the Christian West. That would likely push its origin to at least a century earlier, making entirely possible one of the proposals of authorship — namely St. Ambrose of Milan on the occasion of St. Augustine’s baptism.

    In any event, it makes for a very stirring hymn, especiall when chanted by a large chorus of men. It’s guaranteed to curl hair and raise goosebumps.

  2. Trey Austin said,

    I can see that it’d be a very moving canticle to sing (or chant). I just never learned to chant any kind of canticle or psalm. Any suggestions on where to learn?

    Thanks for the link on authorship info.

  3. Fr. Bill said,

    Any suggestions on where to learn?

    A staple of English devotional literature is William Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. It is available online, and I first direct your attion to chapter 15 of that work, which you may read here:

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/law/serious_call.xvi.html

    In this chapter, Law raises all the good reasons for chanting Psalms from the Psalter, and explodes all the reasons some offer for not doing so. Honestly, it was this chapter, all by itself, that got me off my duffer to learn how to chant. Regrettably (for me) I had no one who knew how to do it to teach me. But, once I learned, I discovered it was like riding a bike — really easy when you get the knack, and tremendous fun too!

    An overview of chant and how to do it is here:

    http://www.jackspipe.com/2007/01/03/anglican-chant-and-the-psalms/

    If you have any questions about what you read there, ask me. I think I can answer the questions you’d have.

    Finally, as to the chants themselves, I can also supply you some answers there too. You can find many classical Anglican chants in any copy of the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal. There are other sources as well, harder to come by, but I have one of them — the American Oxford Psalter (out of print since the Thirties. Contact me offline and I’ll send you photocopies of as many chants as you please.

    A word here about the word “chant.” It’s unfortunate that this is the standard term of art for this kind of singing, for the term itself suggests a quality about Anglican chant that is simply false — namely, that it is “chanting.” Anglican chants can be as melodic as anything you ever heard from Mozart. One of my favorites is the chant form of Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress which I first learned in order to chant Psalm 46, which is the Psalm that inspired Luther to compose the standard hymn we sing today.

    The point: chanting is really a simple way of non-rhythmic singing. And, once you get the knack of it (and, it’s not hard to do), it’s one of the most powerful ways of worshiping God with God’s own words from the Psalter (and other parts of the Bible) that I know of.

    Let me know how it goes.


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