Sunday, 4 August 2013

Latin Prayer of the week: Te Deum

Today in this Year of Faith series on prayers we should know in Latin, which is particularly focusing on the Common Prayers contained in the Compendium to the Catechism), I want to take a look at the Te Deum.

This is one of those prayers that it is perhaps more important to be able to sing than say, for you want to be able to break it out when something positive happens to give thanks for, such as at an ordination, or on the news of the appointment of a good bishop.

But it is appropriate in other contexts as well, and in the middle ages was also sung in times of calamity, a custom we might usefully revive.

In that vein I want particularly to draw your attention to the final section of the hymn, which the  paraphrase in the familiar hymn Holy God We Praise Thy Name gives a good flavour of:

SPARE Thy people, Lord, we pray,
by a thousand snares surrounded:
keep us without sin today,
never let us be confounded.
Lo, I put my trust in Thee;
never, Lord, abandon me (trans. Walworth)


The Te Deum Laudamus (We praise You O God, or under the more prosaic translation given in the current Handbook of Indulgences, You are God: We Praise You) is referred to in the Rule of St Benedict and other places as 'the Ambrosian Hymn', and was long attributed to St Ambrose.  There is a nice tradition that it was composed on the night of the baptism of St Augustine.

Alas, these days that view of its origins is now disputed and the most favoured theory appears to be that it was written by the fourth century Bishop Nicetas of Remesiana.

The last section (from Salvum Fac), which consists of verses from a number of psalms, was probably a later addition but fits particularly well.

In the Roman Office, the Te Deum  is sung at Matins (aka the Office of Readings) on Sundays (and on major feasts) but is omitted during penitential seasons.  But this is not a universal custom.  St Benedict instructed that it be sung on every Sunday at Matins, and in the Sarum Rite Office of Our Lady it was said daily throughout the year.

It is also used outside the liturgy on great occasions.  Said in thanksgiving, it comes with a partial indulgence; said publicly on New Year's Eve it has a plenary indulgence attached.

The text

Here is the version of the text given in the Compendium to the Catechism:

Te Deum laudámus:
te Dóminum confitémur.
Te ætérnum Patrem,
omnis terra venerátur.
tibi omnes ángeli,
tibi cæli et univérsæ potestátes:
tibi chérubim et séraphim
incessábili voce proclámant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dóminus Deus Sábaoth.
Pleni sunt cæli et terra
maiestátis glóriæ tuæ.

Te gloriósus
apostolórum chorus,
te prophetárum
laudábilis númerus,
te mártyrum candidátus
laudat exércitus.
Te per orbem terrárum
sancta confitétur Ecclésia,
Patrem imménsæ maiestátis;
venerándum tuum verum
et únicum Fílium;
Sanctum quoque
Paráclitum Spíritum.

Tu rex glóriæ, Christe.
Tu Patris sempitérnus es Fílius.
Tu, ad liberándum susceptúrus
non horruísti Vírginis úterum.
Tu, devícto mortis acúleo,
aperuísti credéntibus regna cælórum.

Tu ad déxteram Dei sedes,
in glória Patris.
Iudex créderis esse ventúrus.
Te ergo quæsumus,
tuis fámulis súbveni,
quos pretióso sánguine redemísti.
Ætérna fac cum sanctis tuis
in glória numerári.

Salvum fac pópulum tuum, Dómine,
et bénedic hereditáti tuæ.
Et rege eos, et extólle illos
usque in ætérnum.
Per síngulos dies benedícimus te;
et laudámus nomen tuum
in sæculum, et in sæculum sæculi.

Dignáre, Dómine,
die isto sine peccáto nos custodíre.
Miserére nostri, Dómine, miserére nostri.
Fiat misericórdia tua,
Dómine, super nos,
quemádmodum sperávimus in te.
In te, Dómine, sperávi:
non confúndar in ætérnum.

You can hear it read aloud in Latin (helpfully broken down in small chunks) here.

The Compendium gives two alternate translations one for the US, one for the UK.  Here is the UK version:

We praise you, O God:
We acclaim you as Lord.
Everlasting Father,
All the world bows down before you.
All the angels sing your praise,
The hosts of heaven and all the angelic powers,
All the cherubim and seraphim
Call out to you in unending song:
Holy, Holy, Holy,
Is the Lord God of angel hosts!
The heavens and the earth are filled
With your majesty and glory.
The glorious band of apostles,
The noble company of prophets,
The white-robed army who shed their blood for Christ,
All sing your praise.
And to the ends of the earth
Your holy Church proclaims her faith in you:
Father, whose majesty is boundless,
Your true and only son, who is to be adored,
The Holy Spirit sent to be our Advocate.
You, Christ, are the king of glory,
Son of the eternal Father.
When you took our nature to save mankind
You did not shrink from birth in the Virgin’s womb.
You overcame the power of death
Opening the Father’s kingdom to all who believe in you.
Enthroned at God’s right hand in the glory of the Father,
You will come in judgement according to your promise.
You redeemed your people by your precious blood.
Coe, we implore you, to our aid.
Grant us with the saints
a place in eternal glory.
Lord, save your people
And bless your inheritance.
Rule them and uphold them
For ever and ever.
Day by day we praise you:
We acclaim you now and to all eternity.
In your goodness, Lord, keep us free from sin.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
May your mercy always be with us, Lord,
For we have hoped in you.
In you, Lord, we put our trust:
We shall not be put to shame.

Looking at the Latin

I thought I would just provide notes on the final section of the hymn, so here is a word by word, literal translation:

Salvum (Safe/saved) fac (make) pópulum (people) tuum (your), Dómine (O Lord), et (and) bénedic (bless) hereditáti (the inheritance) tuæ (of you).

Et (and) rege (rule/be a shepherd/govern) eos (them), et (and) extólle (lift up/raise up/uphold) illos (them) usque (to/til) in ætérnum (forever).

Per síngulos (every) dies (day) benedícimus (we bless) te (you); et (and) laudámus (we praise) nomen (the name) tuum (yours) in sæculum (forever), et in sæculum sæculi (and forever).

Dignáre (Deign/vouchsafe), Dómine (O Lord), die (the day) isto (thither/therein) sine (without) peccáto (sin) nos (us) custodíre (to keep).

Miserére (have mercy) nostri (on us), Dómine (O Lord), miserére (have mercy) nostri (on us).

Fiat (Let it be done) misericórdia (mercy) tua (your), Dómine (O Lord), super (over/upon/with) nos (us), quemádmodum (in what manner/how) sperávimus (we have hoped) in (in) te (you).

In (in) te (you), Dómine (Lord), sperávi (I have hoped): non (not)confúndar (let me be put to shame/confounded) in ætérnum (forever).

1 comment:

A Canberra Observer said...

Thanks for this.

It is ironic that Shakespeare, in protestant England, has Henry V commanding Te Deum and Non nobis after Agincourt. Yet in the ever so highly educated and evolved Catholic Church of the later 20th century, and despite 12 years of Catholic schooling, I never came to know of the glorious Te Deum until I was over 30 years old.