23 May 2008

Canticle for Matins

"The Te Deum, Benedictus (page 300), or another canticle (Hymns 925-941) is sung." Lutheran Service Book, Altar Book, page 296

What does that mean? It means that it is in the rubrics of Matins in LSB to substitute any of the following for the Te Deum or Benedictus:

Song of Moses and Israel - Cantemus Domino - 925
Song from Deuteronomy - Audite, coeli - 926
First Song of Isaiah - Confitebor tibi, Domine - 927
Song of Hannah - Exultavit cor meum - 928
I Will Greatly Rejoice in the Lord - Gaudens gaudebo - 929
All You Works of God - Benedicte, Omnia Opera - 930
All You Works of the Lord - Benedicte, Omnia Opera - 931
Jesus Sat With His Disciples - Beatitudes - 932
My Soul Rejoices - Magnificat - 933
My Soul Now Magnifies - Magnificat - 934
Tell Out My Soul - Magnificat - 935
Sing Praise to the God of Israel - Benedictus - 936
Lord, Bid Your Servant - Nunc Dimittis - 937
In Peace and Joy I Now Depart - Nunc Dimittis - 938
You are God; We Praise You - Te Deum - 939
Holy God, We Praise Your Name - Te Deum - 940
We Praise You and Acknowledge You, O God - Te Deum - 941

What strikes me as odd about this rubric is that (aside from the hymn paraphrases of the Benedictus and Te Deum), it permits the use of canticles whose traditional spot is elsewhere. For example, Cantemus Domino was a canticle at the morning office included in the PSALMODY. Similarly with Audite Coeli and Confitemur Tibi and Exultavit cor meum and Benedicte Omnia Opera. And, of course, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis are traditionally associated in the Western use with the evening office or night office. My suggestion is that if pastors use this rubric, they restrict themselves to subbing only the rimed paraphrases of the Te Deum or Benedictus, and that they do even that sparingly.


Sean said...

i don't like this rubric at all, largely because I'm unsure what the distinction is between "canticle" and any other song, hymn, motet, etc.

the use of OT/Apocryphal biblical canticles has been the 4th "psalm" in Lauds.

It seems that the te deum and benedictus are special canticles appointed for matins and lauds respectively. (in 20th/21st century Lutheran hymnals, "matins" is more or less a conglomeration of the two) Just as the mag & nunc are proper (ordinary ;) to vespers & compline respectively.

These seem to always have been sung at these times, not as an option, but as part of the way these offices go, just as the mass uses kyrie, gloria, credo, sanctus&benedictus, and agnus dei. The changing of these ordinary *canticles* to a descriptive name of what they say (ie: hymn of praise) seems to be a higher-critical sort of approach: that we examine what is said in a canticle, provide a descriptive "genre" label to it, and then are free to substitute anything else that would lie within that *genre* that we determined it to be.

I thought the liturgy meant something already, and that's why we continue to use it. Is it the other way around, that we simply like the liturgy and we try our hardest to find meaning in it now? μα γενοιτο

I'm not sure the Te Deum is a canticle of praise. I think it's the Te Deum. I don't think the Benedictus is *a canticle*. I think it's *the canticle sung at lauds*. I don't think the Gospels are hero stories, biographies, or whatever other sorts of literary style that scholars have considered them or lumped them in with. They are the 4 Gospels, and are quite unique. No substitutes! :P

Supplanting the Te Deum or the Benedictus at our modern-day *matins* with one of the Old Testament canticles seems especially strange, considering that in former days those canticles were already being sung at the corresponding office: as part of the psalmody.

Phillip said...

Ah, the old question, "What is a canticle?" I've become convinced that the canticles are the "spiritual songs," referred to in Eph 5 and Col 3. Using the Naglelite logic that a spiritual song is a song "of the Holy Spirit," I can only conclude that when one sings the Magnificat one is singing a spiritual song because Mary's song was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Sure, at the time of Acts 2 there may have been other such songs, but we don't know what they were. We DO know that the Holy Spirit inspired the songs of the Bible. Yes, the psalms are also scripture song, but they are in their own category and already had their own tradition of use. So the Spiritual Songs needed to be overtly mentioned. Once viewed this way, one sees that the Divine Service and the daily office all provide for all three: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Accordingly, I have viewed the Te Deum more as a hymn than as a canticle over the years; however, Luther considered the Te Deum a symbol of the Church and so one can consider it a type of creedal song. I think this justifies its special place more than whether it is classified as a hymn or as a canticle. So, with that argument, one would not substitute so freely. Still, given that the Benedictus is a standard alternative and given that it IS a canticle, at the end of the day I am comfortable with the rubric so long as it is used judiciously and not as an excuse to be "creative."