One of my favourite classical composers is the French musician Hector Berlioz (1803-1869). He is perhaps most famous for his “Symphonie Fantastique” (Fantastic Symphony), his “Requiem” (Mass for the Dead) and for “L'Enfance du Christ” (The Childhood of Christ) - from which comes a quite famous song called “The Shepherds’ Farewell.”
However, before the COVID-19 outbreak, I had been listening a lot to Berlioz’ orchestral version of the “Te Deum”. It’s in Latin, of course, and that set me thinking about the English translation of it that we in the Church of England used to say (or chant) week after week in ‘Morning Prayer’ - and which many older folk in church will know off by heart.
I dug out the old words from the internet, complete with ‘thee-s” and “thou-s”, and I realised just how rich it is. It’s an old Christian ‘hymn’, written in the late 300s, and has been used in the liturgy of most churches ever since, that is until recent years when it disappeared (unless one counts some modern hymns that have paraphrased little bits of it).
Although the ‘Te Deum’ does have some quotes in it from parts of the Bible (from the Psalms), I think it’s mainly a set of statements and prayers which have come from the ‘heart’ of early Christians. Those proclamations about God come together in an explosion of praise - and prayer for his people, which are particularly relevant at this time.
Since rediscovering it, I have read it again and again - and used it often as a basis for daily devotions, and I’m sure I will continue to do so. In that sense, I recommend it to others, and reproduce it below.
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 godly 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 honourable, 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 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 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. 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.