Friday, October 30, 2009

Luther’s Te Deum

Martin Luther considered the Te Deum to be one of the most important creeds of the Church, eclipsed only by the Apostles’ Creed and the Athanasian Creed.

The introduction in Luther’s Works has this to say of his Te Deum:

But here as elsewhere Luther proved more original and creative than any of his predecessors. Instead of clinging slavishly to the expressions of the Latin text, he recast the substance of the original in the new mold of a rimed chant for the people. Luther also recast the music. Doubtlessly the syllabic simplification of a florid Latin chant is Luther’s own work, and the bold steps of the strongly Phrygian melody give almost more forceful expression to the archaic grandeur of the ancient canticle than the original plain-chant melody.

Here is the text of Luther’s Te Deum, written some time around 1529:

Lord God, thy praise we sing: Lord God, our thanks we bring.
Father in eternity: all the world worships thee.
Angels and all heav’nly host: of thy glory loudly boast.
Both cherubim and seraphim: sing ever with loud voice this hymn:
Holy art thou, our God: holy art thou, our God,
Holy art thou, our God, the Lord of Sabaoth.

Thy god-like might and lordship go: wide over heav’n and earth below.
The twelve apostles join in song: with the dear prophets’ goodly throng.
The martyrs’ noble army raise: their voice to thee in hymns of praise.
All Christendom with one accord: exalt and praise their common Lord.
Thee, God Father in heaven’s throne: and thine only begotten Son,
Also the Holy Paraclete: we ever laud with praises meet.

O King of Glory, thee we own: thou art the Father’s only Son.
Thou didst not spurn the virgin’s womb: to save mankind from sin and doom.
Thou on the might of death didst tread: and Christians all to heav’n hast led.
Thou sittest at thy Father’s right: equal to him in pow’r and might.
To earth thou shalt return again: in majesty to judge all men.

Now come, Lord, to thy servants’ aid: who by thy blood thine own were made.
Let us in heaven have our dole: and with the holy e’er be whole.
Thy folk, Lord Jesus Christ, advance: and bless thine own inheritance.
Them watch and ward, Lord, ev’ry day: eternally them raise, we pray.
Daily, Lord God, we honor thee: and praise thy name continually.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, we humbly pray: to keep us safe from sin this day.
O Lord, have mercy on us all: have mercy on us when we call.
Let shine on us, O God, thy face: our only hope is in thy grace.
Our trust, O Lord, is all in thee: O let us ne’er confounded be.

Martin Luther, Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann. vol. 53, Liturgy and Hymns, CD-ROM (Saint Louis: CPH, 1999).

1 comment:

Robert Shipe said...

Thanks for posting this, Mr. Diekmann. These are indeed such wonderful words! It's really amazing just how much doctrine is taught in the Te Deum. A prime, yet wonderful, example of speaking back to Him what he first spoke to us through His inerrant WORD.

It's been some time since we have chanted this beautiful life saving and Gospel giving part of the liturgy at my home congregation. I really enjoyed reading a different, yet every bit as life saving and Gospel giving, version.