The Te Deum (also known as Te Deum Laudamus, Ambrosian Hymn or A Song of the Church) is an Early Christian hymn of praise. The title reflects the opening Latin words, "Tē Deum (laudāmus)", rendered literally as "You, God, (we praise)".
The hymn remains in regular use in the Catholic Church in the Office of Readings found in the Liturgy of the Hours, and in thanksgiving to God for a special blessing (e.g. the election of a pope, the consecration of a bishop, the canonization of a saint, the profession of a religious, the publication of a treaty of peace, a royal coronation, etc.) either after Mass or Divine Office or as a separate religious ceremony. The hymn also remains in use in the Anglican Communion and some Lutheran Churches in similar settings.
In the traditional Office, the Te Deum is sung at the end of Matins on all days when the Gloria is said at Mass; those days are all Sundays outside Advent, Septuagesima, Lent, and Passiontide; on all Feasts except Maundy Thursday and the Holy Innocents unless it should fall on Sunday; and on all Ferias during Eastertide. In the Liturgy of the Hours of Paul VI, the Te Deum is sung at the end of the Office of Readings on days when the Gloria is sung (in this case Sundays outside Lent and all solemnities, including the octaves of Easter and Christmas, and all feasts) and also on the Sundays of Advent. It is also used together with the standard canticles in Morning Prayer as prescribed in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, in Matins for Lutherans, is retained by many other churches of the Reformed tradition. It is also used by the Eastern Orthodox Churches in the Paraklesis (Moleben) of Thanksgiving.
Authorship is traditionally ascribed to Saints Ambrose and Augustine, on the occasion of the latter's baptism by the former in AD 338. The petitions at the end of the hymn (beginning Salvum fac populum tuum) are a selection of verses from the book of Psalms, appended subsequently to the original hymn.
The hymn follows the outline of the Apostles' Creed, mixing a poetic vision of the heavenly liturgy with its declaration of faith. Naming God immediately, the hymn proceeds to name all those who praise and venerate God, from the hierarchy of heavenly creatures to those Christian faithful already in heaven to the Church spread throughout the world. The hymn then returns to its creedal formula, naming Christ and recalling his birth, suffering, and glorification. At this point the hymn turns to the subjects declaiming the praise, both the Church in general and the singer in particular, asking for mercy on past sins, protection from future sin, and the hoped-for reunification with the elect.
The text has been set to music by many composers, with settings by Haydn, Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi, Bruckner, Dvořák, Britten, and Pärt among the better known. Antonio Vivaldi also wrote a setting of the Te Deum (RV 622), but this composition is now lost. The prelude to Charpentier's setting (H.146 in Hugh Wiley Hitchcock's catalogue) is well known in Europe on account of its being used as the theme music for some broadcasts of the European Broadcasting Union, most notably the Eurovision Song Contest. Sir William Walton's Coronation Te Deum was written for the coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1952. Other English settings include those by William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Henry Purcell, three versions by George Frideric Handel (Utrecht Te Deum, Dettingen Te Deum and Queen's Te Deum), and that of Edward Elgar, his Op. 34. Charles Villiers Stanford also wrote three settings: Te Deum in B flat, Op. 10; Te Deum in C, Op. 115; and Te Deum in A.
A version by Father Michael Keating is popular in some Charismatic circles. Mark Hayes is the composer of a recent setting of this text, and British composer John Rutter has composed two, one of which is entitled Te Deum, and the other Winchester Te Deum. Igor Stravinsky set the first 12 lines of the text as part of The Flood in 1962.
Latin and English text
|Latin text||Translation from the Book of Common Prayer|
Te Deum laudamus:
We praise thee, O God :
In the Book of Common Prayer, verse is written in half-lines, at which reading pauses, indicated by colons in the text.
- "The Te Deum (cont.)". Musical Musings: Prayers and Liturgical Texts — The Te Deum. CanticaNOVA Publications. http://www.canticanova.com/articles/hymns/artd42.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-07.
- "General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours". http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdwgilh.htm#Ch%20II-III. Retrieved 2007-12-02.
- Texts on Wikisource:
- Te Deum (original Latin)
- Te Deum (English translation)
- Catholic Encyclopedia entry
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