Canticles

‘Canticles’ is a word used to label portions of the Bible which are traditionally used in prayer together in daily offices. These ‘little songs’ (which is what the word roughly means) are often presented as songs or poetry in scripture. Sometimes the term is used of poems or prose pieces which are like the scriptural canticles but not actually found in the Bible or the Apocrypha.

This collection is gathered in this place to make it easier for you to find other canticles if you want to use them instead of ones set within the texts of the offices in the book. Some of those in this section are not found in the daily or seasonal prayer-forms. To get back to where you were, it is probably easiest to use the ‘back’ button on your e-reader.

The following are all in bold to remind us that the default for group-prayer is to say them together. However, they could be said back and forth using alternate lines or each person taking a line or in some other way.

Each of these can be followed by this form of words:

Hallowed be your name Father, 
through the Son, 
in the Holy Spirit: 
As in the beginning; 
so now; and forever. Amen.

That is a version of a traditional doxology:
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to The Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be forever. Amen.

The “Hallowed be…” version is an attempt to present it in a way that preserves the Father-centred focus of the Lord’s prayer. It is not meant in any way to indicate a disagreement with the doctrine of the Trinity.

The Benedictus, “The Song of Zechariah”

“Benedictus” is from the Latin word for ‘blessed’ which is the first word in the canticle. This version has been changed slightly from the contemporary English one most contemporary prayer books would use. It has been change in form so as to directly address God as ‘you’ rather than referring to God less directly as ‘he’ and ‘him’. A couple of lines which are an aside to the Christ Child in the original text in Luke chapter 2, have also been omitted.

Blessed are you, Lord God of Israel;
you have come to your people and set us free.
You have raised up for us a mighty Saviour,
born of the house of your servant David.
Through your holy prophets you promised of old
to save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us;
to show mercy to our forebears
and to remember your holy covenant.
This was the oath you swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship you without fear,
holy and righteous before you, all the days of our life.
In your tender compassion, O God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Based on the English translation of the Benedictus copyright © 1988, by the English Language Liturgical Consultation..

The Magnificat: “The Song of Mary”

“Magnificat” is the first word in the Latin version of this canticle and means ‘magnifies’ or ‘proclaims the greatness of’. This version of the canticle has been changed slightly from the contemporary English one most contemporary prayer books would use. It has been change in form so as to directly address God as ‘you’ rather than as ‘he’ and ‘him’.

My soul proclaims your greatness O Lord;
my spirit rejoices in you O God our Saviour,
You have looked with favour on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call us blessed:
Almighty, you have done great things for us,
and holy is your name.
You have mercy on those who fear you
from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm
and scattered the proud in their conceit,
casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the help of your servant Israel,
remembering your promise of mercy,
the promise made to our forebears,
to Abraham and his children forever.

Based on the English translation of the Magnificat -The Song of Mary, Luke 1:46-55- copyright © 1988, by the English Language Liturgical Consultation.

 

The Song of Simeon:.”Nunc Dimittis”

“Nunc Dimittis” comes from the first two words in the Latin version of this canticle and means, roughly, ‘Now let leave’. Traditionally it is used in Night prayer and on the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple (“Candlemas”) when Simeon’s prophecy over the infant Christ is recalled.

Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace:
your word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people;
A light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

English translation of the Nunc Dimittis, Luke 2:29-32, copyright © 1988, by the English Language Liturgical Consultation. Used within terms of licence

The Message of the Cross

This is not a traditional canticle, but it has some of the character of one and some may like to use it at various times.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom,
God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation,
to save those who believe.
For some demand signs and others desire wisdom,
but we proclaim Christ crucified,
a stumbling-block to some and foolishness to others.
But to those who are the called,
Christ is the power of God
and the wisdom of God.
For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom,
and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

                                               From 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

What we have received

What we have received
is not the spirit of the world,
but the Spirit who is from God,
so that we may understand
what God has freely given us.
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,”
except by the Holy Spirit.

                                             1 Corinthians 12:3b

The Song of Christ’s Glory

Though in the form of God,
Christ did not regard equality with God as something to be held.
He emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave.
Jesus was born in human likeness;
and found in human form.
He humbled himself
and was obedient into death
even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly exalted Christ
giving the name above every name.
So at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

                                             from Philippians 2

A Song of the Cosmic Christ

Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For in Christ all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things have been created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

                                              From Colossians 1:16ff

You are Worthy

You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you made all things,
by your will everything persists
and was created

                                                Revelation 4:11

 

Great and Wonderful

Great and Wonderful are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty.
Just and true are your ways, O ruler of the nations.
Who shall not revere and praise your name, O Lord?
For you alone are holy.
All nations shall come and worship in your presence:
for your just dealings have been revealed.
To the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might, for ever and ever.
Amen.

                                                       Revelation 15.3,4

Canticle of Solomon

Blessed are you,
O God of our ancestor Israel
for ever and ever.
Yours, O Lord, are the greatness,
the power, the glory,
the victory, and the majesty;
for all that is in the heavens
and on the earth is yours;
yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
and you are exalted as head above all.

                                                 1 Chronicles 29:10-11

A Canticle of Salvation

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased its joy.
The people have rejoiced before You
as they rejoice at harvest time
For You have shattered their burdensome yoke
and the rod on their shoulders,
the staff of their oppressor,
For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counsellor,
Mighty God,
Eternal Father,
Prince of Peace.
The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness
from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.

                                                   Excerpted from Isaiah 9.2-7

A Canticle of God’s Word.

O God, Your thoughts are not our thoughts,
nor are our ways your ways, O Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are your ways higher than our ways
and your thoughts than our thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall your word be that goes out from your mouth;
it shall not return to you empty,
it shall accomplish what you purpose,
and succeed in what you sent it for.
For we shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

                                               see Isaiah 55.8-12

A Song of Ezekiel

You take us from the nations,
you gather us from every land,
You sprinkle clean water upon us,
and wash us from all our uncleannesses,
as from all our idols you cleanse us.
A new heart you give us,
a new spirit you put within us.
You remove from our body the heart of stone
and give a heart of flesh.
we are your people,
and you are our God.

                                        based on Ezekiel 36.24-26,28b

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