Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Te Deum Laudamus

It is quite rare to hear the Te Deum Laudamus sung in churches in Metro Manila these days. However the singing of the Te Deum figures in the history of the Filipino nation. When the Protestant Dutch ships were defeated by the few Spanish-Filipino galleons in La Naval in Manila Bay in 1646, a solemn Te Deum was sung in the Cathedral and the churches of Intramuros. When news of the martyrdom of Lorenzo Ruiz and companions reached Manila, the Te Deum was sung in the Cathedral. If the Dutch succeeded in conquering the Philippines, there wouldn't have been a Filipino nation. The Te Deum was sung not just for the defeat but for the salvation of the Philippines. The Te Deum is sung in thanksgiving for the consecration of bishops, ordination of priests, the election of the Pontiff, saint's feast days or the consecration of a church.  In the Roman Rite's Liturgy of the Hours the Te Deum is sung at the end of the Office of Readings. But in the Roman Church, the Office is mainly recited by the clergy and the religious and has fallen out of use by the laity.  However recent Popes beginning with Paul VI have encouraged the laity to say it especially in a parish setting. In the Anglican Communion, the Divine Office remains said by the laity in parish and private devotion. This preserved the monastic character of Anglican prayers.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear the Te Deum sung at Solemn Evensong at St Andrew's Seminary Chapel in Cathedral Heights to cap St Andrew's Day. Unfortunately I got stuck in traffic on the way to Cathedral Heights and I just barely made it to the singing of the Te Deum.

The Te Deum is a Latin Hymn attributed to St Ambrose and is part of the Anglican tradition in Church music and is in the Book of Common Prayer. In the Anglican Church the hymn is sung so often at Morning Prayer or Evensong that many Anglicans know it by heart. In the 19th Century there was a ship that floundered in the Atlantic during a storm and miraculously the passengers and crew were all saved. The Anglicans broke into the singing of the Te Deum but the Roman Catholics were hard pressed to find a hymn they knew. This was unfortunate because the Te Deum is a Catholic hymn!

Part of the things Anglican that can be brought back to the Roman Church is the Te Deum. If this is sung often at Church services then Catholics will have recovered a hymn that best celebrates salvation and deliverance. The Te Deum is another beautiful Roman and Anglican patrimony as they say! The Te Deum YouTube clip in this post is an early Anglican version by Orlando Gibbons.

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