Monday, December 14, 2009


Have you ever noticed that the Book of Common Prayer provides texts for a number of poems that don't look like hymns, and yet they also aren't psalms? These are called canticles. A canticle is a biblical song other than the psalms. The term also sometimes refers to a well known hymns of the early church.

We sang several of them set to metrical tunes in Sunday's worship. We'll be singing more on Christmas Eve. Here are the biblical references for the BCP canticles:
Canticles mandated for Daily Prayer
Canticle of Zechariah or Benedictus (Luke 1.68-79): Morning Prayer
Canticle of Mary or Magnificat (Luke 1.46-55): Evening Prayer
Canticle of Simeon or Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2.29-32): Close of Day

Other Canticles / Biblical Songs
Glory to God or Gloria in Excelsis (Luke 2.14, with additional material)
Canticle of Miriam and Moses (Exod. 15.1-2, 11, 13, 17-18)
God’s Chosen One (Isa. 1.1-4, 6, 9)
The Desert Shall Blossom (Isa. 35.1-2, 5-6, 10)
Canticle of Thanksgiving or First Song of Isaiah (Isa. 12.2-6)
Seek the Lord or Second Song of Isaiah (Isa. 55.6-11)
The New Jerusalem or Third Song of Isaiah (Isa. 60.1-3, 18-19)
The Spirit of the Lord (Isa. 61.1-3, 10-11)
Canticle of Hannah (1 Sam. 2.1-4, 7-8; cf. Magnificat)
Canticle of David (1 Chr. 29.10-13)
The Steadfast Love of the Lord (Lam. 3.22-26)
A Canticle to the Lamb (Rev. 4.11, 5.9-10, 12-13)
Canticle of the Redeemed (Rev. 15.3-4)
A Canticle for Pentecost (John 14.16, 16.13a, 14.26; Acts 2.2, 4a; Rom. 8.26; Joel 2.28)
A Canticle of Love (1 John 4.7, 8; 1 Cor. 13.4-10, 12-13)
Christ, the Head of Creation (Col. 1.15-20)
Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2.5c-11)

Deuterocanonical Songs from Scripture
Canticle of Judith (Judith 16.13-15)
A Canticle of Creation (Song of Three Young Men 35-65, 34)
A Canticle of Penitence (Manasseh 1-2, 4, 6-7a, 11, 13c-15)

Other Ancient Hymns, Not From Scripture
Hymn to Christ the Light or Phos Hilaron: Evening Prayer
We Praise You, O God or Te Deum Laudamus

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