July - August 2019
I grew up in a Morning Prayer parish where we had Eucharist only once a month. I am happy the church has moved to celebrating Eucharist most Sundays. But I do miss singing the canticles.
Canticles are hymns or poetic pieces taken mostly from scripture, although several were composed early in the life of the church. You will find them on pages 47-53 (traditional language) and 85-96 (modern language) in The Book of Common Prayer. Perhaps the best known is the Magnificat, or Song of Mary. In Morning Prayer we sing or recite two or three. The Communion service only calls for the Gloria, although any hymn of praise may be used at that spot.
The canticles are all devoted to praising God. Some of my favorites are:
Canticle 2, A Song of Praise which begins
“Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers, praised and highly exalted for ever.”
We sang this nearly every week when I was growing up, and I still can't read it without hearing the tune we used.
Canticle 12, A Song of Creation:
“Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise him and highly exalt him for ever.”
Canticle 1 is the older version of the same song. This is one of those rare cases where the modern translation is better for singing.
Canticle 9, The First Song of Isaiah:
“Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid” and “Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing from the springs of salvation.”
I like the setting we used a lot, and the words are good too.
When you are struck with awe at the beauty of creation or the glorious acts of God, and aren't sure how to put your wonderment into words, turn to the canticles.
The Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Harries
P.S. If you don't have a 1979 Book of Common Prayer at home, you can easily find the whole thing online.