TE DEUM [The Te Deum is popularly ascribed to SS. Ambrose and Augustine, but without any foundation. Hincmar, in 859, is the first to attribute it to the Saints ; whereas in the earliest MS., now at Munich (of the 8th or 9th century), it is referred to as " the hymn which St. Hilary composed." St. Benedict, in his Rule, mentions the hymn, but does not give any author's name. The earliest reference is in the Rule of St. Cesarius of Aries, written some time previous to 502. This last was a disciple of the famous monastery of Lerins ; and it is most likely to the School of Lerins that the Te Deum owes its origin. Its probable date is 400—450. The phrase, Suscipere hominem, would seem to point to an African source. Can this be Cassian, whose monastery at Marseilles was the parent of that at Lerins ?]
(1) TE DEUM laudamus: te Dominum confitemur. (Thee, God, we praise : Thee, Lord, we confess).
(2) Te aternum Patrem : omnis terra veneratur. (Thee, Eternal Father, all the earth doth worship).
This magnificent hymn comprises praise and petition, says the Carthusian :—
Deum, the Father Unbegotton, the Son the Only Begotten, the Holy Ghost the Comforter j the holy and undivided Trinity; the One, most simple and unchangeable God, living and true, blessed above all, sublime and exalted infinitely above all; most clement, most pure, most mighty, most wise, most holy, most just, most true, most merciful, most good and most patient; eternal, without length of days, the one great Cause, the one great Worker, the one great Lover. The Fount of all grace, of all glory, of all joy, of all liberality, of all magnificence, possessing the fulness of Life, in Whom we live, move and have our being [Acts xvii. 28.]. Most desirable and lovely ! before Whom all creatures, the work of Thy hands, are if as they were not. Alone, self-sufficing, most perfect being. Thee, we, Thy creatures, praise, that is, with all our strength, assiduously and fervently; with humble acknowledgment of our own insufficiency, prostrate before Thee we pay our homage, confessing that all we are, and can do, is not sufficient for praising Thee as befits Thy Majesty : How shall we be able to magnify Him f For He is great above all His works. The Lord is terrible and very great, and marvellous is His power. When ye glorify the Lord, exalt Him as much as ye can : for even yet will He far exceed ; and when ye exalt Him, put forth all your strength and be not weary, for ye can never go far enough (Eccle. xliii. 30-34.].
Dominum. Ruler of all things, Whose Word is all-powerful, Who spoke and they were made [Ps. xxxii. 9]; Who has made all things for Thine Own honour and glory, and for Thyself hast Thou made them [Prov. xvi. 4.]. Thy Lordship we creatures confess, we acknowledge Thy wisdom, For : In wisdom hast Thou made them all [Ps. ciii. 24.]. Our creation is a mere unnecessary act of Thine overflowing love ; and the universe, of which we are so small a part, is a proof of Thine Almighty power. Therefore we acknowledge Thine Infinite dominion over all, which has been for ever, and will be for ever, and beyond. We acknowledge that to Thee belongs glory and honour, worship and thanks, as the all-wise, all-powerful, and good Master of all. Were there ten thousand universes each more beautiful than another, Thou, by Thine essential Kingship, would be Lord of all; for only from Thee could they have their being.
Te aeternum Patrem. He, Whom St. Paul calls the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation [2 Cor. i. 3.], has deigned to reveal Himself to us in the tender revelation of Father, with all the love the name implies and all the privileges of sons that it gives us. In Holy Scripture we get the name of Father applied to God in many ways : Is He not thy Father that bought thee [Deut. xxxii. 6.]. Our Father Who art in heaven [Matt. vi. 9.] ; The Father of the fatherless and the Judge of the widows [Ps. Ixvii. 5.] ; The everlasting Father [Isaias ix. 6.] ; A Father to Israel [Jer. xxxi. 9.] ; Father, Lord of heaven [Matt. xi. 25.]. The Apostle speaks of Him as The Father of glory [Eph. i. 17.] ; The Father of spirits [Heb. xii. 9.] ; The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [Rom. xv. 6.]. Him, then, the All-Father, the whole earth worships, and acknowledges with thanksgiving that every good and perfect gift cometh down from Him, the Father of Lights [Jas. i. 17.]. All we are* our very existence and our preservation, is His gift; and this we testify with gratitude. And beyond these material gifts are the heavenly ones, by which we become, in a truer and deeper sense, sons of God and co-heirs with Christ [Rom. viii. 17.]. Our vocation, our sacraments, our daily grace, and the countless tokens of His Love and Mercy and patient Goodness which He showers upon us. These we confess, and for them we worship Him with the whole earth.
(3) Tibi omnes Angeli; tibi Caeli et universae Potestates; (To Thee, all angels, To Thee, the heavens and all powers).
(4) Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim incessabili voce proclamant: (To Thee, Cherubim and Seraphim proclaim with voice that never ends).
(5) Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth. (Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, God of Hosts).
(6) Pleni sunt caeli et terra maiestatis gloriae tuae. (Full are the heavens and earth of the Majesty of Thy Glory.)
Feeling our own insufficiency to praise and worship God, we go up in spirit to heaven, there to join the worship of the angelic choirs. The visions of Isaias and of St. John are before our eyes. And the angels first, those morning stars that sang together; Those sons of God that shouted for joy [Job xxxviii. 7.] : to whom, when He brought the first-begotten into the world, He saith ; And let all the angels of God worship Him [Heb. i. 6.]. They stand in their choirs before the Ancient of Days, as Daniel, that man of desires, saw them in the first year of Baltassar, king of Babylon ; Thousands of thousands ministered unto Him and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him [Dan. vii. 10.].
Tibi caeli. The place where God's glory is manifested. Or it may be taken for all the inhabitants of heaven, the angelic and the human ; for as St. John has told us there is but one voice in all that heavenly throng [See p. 12.].
Potestates may be taken either for the choir of the Powers, or for all those who by grace have become princes, the princes of His people [Ps. cxii. 7.].
Having now seen the whole of heaven worshipping God, we call to mind the two greatest choirs as typical of the rest : Cherubim et Seraphim. The Cherubim are, perhaps, the highest of all for they are full of knowledge. When Adam ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil [Gen. ii. 17.] Cherubim with flaming sword, which turned every way, were set to keep the way to the Tree of Life [Ibid. iii. 24.]. Man had abused his reason and had sinned ; and the mighty intelligences called Cherubim were set as wards over the knowledge he had abused. In the work of reparation they also had their part. Figures of these spirits, made in pure gold, were set upon the cover of the Ark; and with outspread wings overshadowed the Mercy Seat, whence God spoke to His people [See Exod. xxv. 18, 22.] ; that God Whom the Psalmist invokes : O Thou that sitteth upon the Cherubim [Ixxix. 2, and xcviii. i.]. They, too, were the guards over the sacred Fire which Ezekiel saw in his vision [x. 2, 6.]. So does knowledge precede love, which has the Seraphim as types ; spirits of fire burning with love. It was one of the Seraphim who brought the burning coal of Knowledge from the Altar and touched the polluted lips of the Prophets [Isa. vi. 6.] ; teaching us that true knowledge must purify and turn into love ; it must show itself by deeds. Therefore it was that the same Prophet heard the Seraphim lead the hymn of worship : And one cried unto another and said: Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory [Ibid., 3].
Incessabili voce, that is, with a wonder that never ends ; for the more we know of God, the more worthy is He of love.
One of the saints used to sigh for three eternities : an eternity to know God, an eternity to love Him, and an eternity to worship Him.
Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus. A three-fold ascription of praise to the Eternal Father Unbegotten, to the Consubstantial Son the Only-begotten, to the Co-equal Spirit the Comforter. This is the height of the joy of heaven; the all-sufficing Vision of the Blessed Three in One. Why do the angels say holy and not just or wise, or other of the divine attributes ? Holiness includes all. The Carthusian says in his commentary on the Te Deum [Ed. 1892, vol. ii. p. 602.], that as holiness consists in the act of the intellect, and of the will, and as of the Divine Wisdom there is no limit, nor of the Divine Love any bound, so there is no end to the Divine Holiness. It is a holiness above comprehension, above all splendour, and infinite : since the Divine Essence is Light immeasurable, most pure, intellectual, and the fountain-head of all created brightness. Therefore the Lord, our God, is holy, and in comparison all created righteousness appears as but filthy rags [Isa. Ixiv. 6.].
Dominus Deus Sabaoth, that is, as the "ecstatic doctor" goes on to explain the words, God of the heavenly powers, Omnipotent Ruler, Prince of the heavenly army, great and everlastingly to be praised; nay, beyond all power of praise, of glory, being lifted up for ever, Whom no created intellect can grasp, no heart love as He deserves, Whom no creature can properly honour; for He is all beauty, and to those who gaze on Him, sweet and pleasant beyond all compare.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra maiestatis gloriae tuae. God dwells in Light inaccessible, which no creature can fathom; but He enlightens every one that cometh into this world with a ray of this Light, of which He is the Father. Our reason is purified, and ennobled and strengthened by His gift of Faith. Fidelity to this Light, or, in other words, to our Conscience^ leads us to that heavenly City where His Light is in its fulness, to that City which hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it; for the Glory of God hath enlightened it and the Lamb is the Light thereof [Apoc. xxi. 23.]. There Faith is changed into Vision, and we see the Majesty of His glory filling all things ; for we see Him face to face. Says the author of the Myroure : " Think over this verse. Think inwardly thereon and let it never out of your mind. Heaven and earth are full of the glory of Thy Majesty. A thing that is full hath no place void. There is then no place on earth, nor above earth, nor beneath it, no land, no country, no place within us, without us, above us, beneath us, but all is full of the glory of the Majesty of God. O God of pity, and Father of mercies, lighten our dark souls that we may see and continually behold the presence of Thy goodly Majesty. O ! with what reverence, with what dread, with what inward devotion, and with what busy keeping of ourselves in thought, in word, and in deed, ought we to behave ourselves in every place, and in every time, and in everything that ever are in presence of Thy glorious Majesty " [P. 119.].
(7) Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus, (Thee, the glorious choir of Apostles),
(8) Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus, (Thee, the praisable number of Prophets).
(9) Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus. (Thee, the white-robed army of Martyrs, praise).
Having united with the Angels, we now join ourselves on to that body of the Ransomed who have returned [Is. xxxv. 10.] from the Captivity of Sin and Death. And first to the choir of Apostles, that is to say, of "the envoys," upon whom the Church is built. These are they who have left all things and followed Christ, and now sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, that is, all God's chosen people [Cf. Matt. xix. 28.], We unite with the joy which no man shall take from them [John xvi. 22.], their reward exceeding great. They behold that Humanity which on earth they saw hungry, thirsty, weary and suffering, now crowned with glory and honour, having all things under foot, outshining the sun in the beauty of the Divine Effulgence. And, O joy, they are made sharers therein. His fellow-toilers and carrying on His work, now they shine as so many stars in heaven [Dan. xii. 3.], with a glory and magnificence which is reflected from Him. They are called a choir on account of the harmony of their teaching.
The Prophets, or those who speak in the name of God : Thus saith the Lord. God revealed to them on earth His mysteries; and now, face to face, they see and exult in what they had seen before, but in a dark manner [i Cor. xiii. 12.] They now rejoice to see the fulfilment of what they had foretold. By their faithfulness they were found true prophets, and by their words they were known to be faithful in vision [Eccle. xlvi. 15.], and therefore they are praisable. There is a number of them ; for all who speak in God's name are prophets in the real sense of the word.
With them are joined the white-robed army of Martyrs together with the Apostolic choir, in the one voice (laudat} of praise. But why are Martyrs called a white-robed army ? A martyr is one who is a witness for the truth. Truth is light, pure and clear; and those who follow Jesus in truth and simplicity are said by Him, to the Angel of Sardis, to walk in white with Christ, for they are worthy [Apoc. iii. 4.].
These three— Apostles, Prophets and Martyrs —are types of all the Redeemed : the words should be taken in a wide sense. We are all sent by God into this world to labour, to speak for Him, and to bear witness to His Truth. From our ever dear and blessed Lady, the Queen of the saints, down to the last in heaven, all have fulfilled, according to their degree, the threefold office which bears the impression of the Blessed Trinity. They have all been envoys of Almighty Power, the teachers of the Word, and witnesses of Truth.
(10) Te per orbem terrarum sancta confitetur Ecclesia. (Thee, throughout the whole world, Holy Church doth acknowledge).
From the Church Triumphant in heaven, to the Church Militant on earth, or Passive in purgatory, but one cry goes up; for all the members of the Mystical Body are united under their One Head, Jesus Christ, through Whom and by Whom and in Whom is all honour and glory to God. Our Office, whether the greater or the lesser, is the prayer of the whole Church; not the prayer of any one person, or place, or country, but of the Church throughout the world. Its power is commensurate with the Church's limits and can penetrate anywhere. Holy Church by it doth acknowledge God, as in the following verses, to be :—
(11) Patrem immensae maiestatis: (Father of immense majesty),
(12) Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium; (Thy worshipful, true and only Son).
(13) Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum. (Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter).
Patrem. How solemn these words. As the Latin marches along, the dignity and weight of the syllables give us a sense of awe and of majesty without limit.
Venerandum. There is much in this word. The Second Person is especially called worshipful, on account of the Incarnation ; and because all our worship must be in and by Him, for He is our Advocate with the Father [I John ii. I.]. This is the reason why the Church, after acknowledging the Blessed Trinity, goes on presently to direct her praise and worship to her Divine Head, Jesus Christ.
Paraclitum. Our Lord's Own name for the Holy Ghost: But He shall give you another Paraclete (Comforter), the Holy Ghost [John xiv. 16.] ; the consubstantial Love of Father and Son, the Lord and Life-Giver, Who, with Them, is to be adored and glorified.
(14) Tu Rex Gloriae, Christe. (Thou, 0 Christ, art King of Glory).
(15) Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius. (Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father).
He, then, our Head, is worthy of all praise; and to Him we now direct our worship. Rex Gloria?. For Jesus, as Man, is crowned with honour and glory, and is Head of the whole Race. This is His glory of Headship. And et, as we gaze at His glorified Humanity in the midst of the Godhead, we remember and adore His Divinity, as,
Everlasting Son of the Father. He is the King of Glory in a far higher way; His glory is uncreated. And to Him belongs that ascription of praise which St. Paul makes when writing to Timothy : Now unto the King of ages, Immortal, Invisible, the Only God; be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen [I Tim. i. 17.].
(16) Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, non horruisti Virginis uterum. (Thou, taking upon Thee to deliver man, didst not abhor the Virgin's womb).
(17) Tu, devicto mortis aculeo, aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum. (Thou, having overcome the sharpness of death, hast opened the kingdom of heaven to believers).
(18) Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris. (Thou, at the right hand of God, dost sit in the glory of the Father).
(19) Iudex crederis esse venturus. (We believe Thou art the Judge to come).
We now regard our Divine Head in His Manhood, and praise Him for four things. First, for His Incarnation ; then for His Passion ; then for His Ascension ; and lastly, for His coming to Judgment. It is to be noticed in this act of Praise that the all-holy One Who did not abhor the Virgin's womb is the Judge that is to come. Then, Who shall stand when He appeareth ? [Mal. iii. 2.]. But lest we should be terrified too much at this, we have here thoughts of His bitter Passion, of the gates of heaven opened to those who believe, and of Him ever at the Right Hand of the Father, making intercession and preparing a place for us with His God and our God. A thought, too, of hope and great joy to us, that the Virgin who shared so much in the work of the Redemption is our Mother also. At this verse it was the custom, so says the author of the Myroure, to bow " both in token and in reverence of our Lord's meek coming down for to be Man, and also in worship of that most pure and holy Virgin's womb, wherein Almighty God joyed for to dwell" [p. 120]. We should at least increase our reverence and attention at this verse.
(20) Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni: quos pretioso sanguine redemisti. (Thee, therefore, pray we, help Thy servants, whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy precious Blood).
(21) Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari. (Make us to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting).
(22) Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae. (O Lord save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance).
(23) Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum. (And govern them and lift them up for ever).
Having praised Jesus, we now begin to pray, following in this the Divine example of the Pater Noster. At verse 20 we kneel. " One reason, for here ye begin first in this hymn to pray ; another cause is in worship of that most rich liquor, that most precious price of souls, the reverent and holy Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ" [Myroure, p. 121]. Some say this verse prostrate with Magdalen at the foot of the Cross, and in spirit letting the Blood fall on them; others hear at this place an echo of that Song of praise to the Lamb: Thou hast redeemed us to God in Thine own Blood [Apoc. v. 9.]; others, again, dwell on the word servants, and recall St. Paul's words : Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price [i Cor. vi. 19.], even with the precious Blood of Christ as of a Lamb [I Peter i. 19.]; and as servants they bow before their Master, in token of their readiness to fulfil His will. The thought of the precious Blood reminds us of not be shed for us in vain, but that we, too, may be counted the reason It was shed ; and this inspires us to pray that It may among that great flock of God, which no man can number. And that it may be so, we pray that here on earth, as the Lord's heritage (For the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof) [Ps. xxiii. i.], we may be ruled and lifted up above our sinfulness by His grace, and, as the fruit of the precious Blood, be set among the saved.
(24) Per singulos dies benedicimus te. (Throughout each day we bless Thee).
(25) Et laudamus nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi. (And we laud Thy name for ever and for ever and for ages of ages).
We cannot think of the Blood and of all that It means without bursting out again into thanksgiving. It meets us with its potent effects all day long. We live and move in an atmosphere tinged with the Blood of Calvary. What are Holy Church and all the things of Holy Church but great reservoirs of the Precious Blood, ready for us at every moment, throughout each day ? And all things of Nature, besides, have been touched by It and made heavenly; so that by them we can ascend to that God Whose Blood It is. Therefore we laud for endless ages the Name of Him Whose Blood cleanseth us from all sin [i John i. 7.].
(26) Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire. (Be pleased, O Lord, this day to keep us without sin).
(27) Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri. (Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us).
(28) Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te. (Let thy mercy, 0 Lord, be upon us as we have hoped in Thee).
If, on the one hand, we have the power of the precious Blood for all our needs, we cannot forget, by our own bitter experience in the past, how weak we are, and how easily we fall. Happy we, if we have secured that experience and know that there is no use in striving after anything else but to serve God now, at the present moment. All sanctity consists in knowing, loving and serving God. This is the end of our creation. Now all these three are present participles and imply actions done at the present moment. The past is not ours, it is in God's hand ; the future is His also : only the present is ours, and it slips away even while we have it. This is the meaning of the verse : Be pleased, O Lord, this day to keep us without sin. Our resolutions are so feeble that we can only hope to avoid sin day by day : and this only, too, by the help of God's grace. Therefore, they have to be renewed again and again, and humbly, too, not trusting much in ourselves ; but just as, day by day, we ask for the food of our bodies so should we likewise petition for freedom from sin. Then, the thought of failures in the past bids us ask for the mercy of God, that mercy which we have abused, and unless we are humble, we shall abuse again. But we may securely hope for His mercy ; for He has said : Everyone that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out [John vi. 37.]. Fired, then, by this gracious promise, this Song of heavenly praise and prayer of the Church throughout the world changes into a concluding strain of Hope, firm and unconquerable, as a song of wayfarers on the road to their City of Repose, or of warrior-pilgrims undismayed at all obstacles.
(29) In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum. (In Thee, 0 Lord, I have hoped. I shall never be confounded).
Not in my merits, says the Carthusian, but in Thy deep Wounds, in which is my safe and firm rest. Secure there will I dwell, for they are open to me by Thy tender mercy, in which Thou, the Orient from on high, hath visited us [Luke i. 78.]. For Thy Wounds are full of mercy, full of pity, full of sweetness. They have dug Thy hands, 0 Lord, and Thy feet. [Ps. xxi. 17.], and with a lance have they pierced Thy side. By these openings I can taste how sweet Thou art, O Lord, my God ; for, indeed, Thou art sweet, and mild, and of much mercy, to all who call on Thee in truth, to all who seek for Thee, and especially to all who love Thee. Most abundant redemption is given by those blood-stained Wounds, a great multitude of sweetness, a fulness of grace, a perfection of virtue. And therefore I shall never be confounded, for I know in Whom I have believed [2 Tim. i. 12.] ; because by Thee in love I have been adopted a son, because Thou art faithful to Thy promises, and Almighty in execution thereof. The multitude of my sins cannot terrify me when I think of Thy bitter Passion, for my sins cannot overcome that. The Lance and the Nails cry out to me that I am in very truth reconciled, provided that I love Thee. Thou didst extend those Arms upon the Cross and didst open Thy Hands ready to embrace sinners, of whom I am the first [I Tim. i. 15.]. I do not despair, I desire to live and die in Thine arms. Therefore, securely will I say : I will exalt Thee, O Lord, because Thou hast upheld me and hast not suffered mine enemies to rejoice over me [Ps. xxix. 2, 10.]. Therefore shall my song be : In Thee, 0 Lord, have I trusted, I shall never be confounded, nevei be put to shame by having been deceived in Thee; for the Truth of the Lord abidethfor ever [Ps. cxvi. 2.].
N.B. —During Advent the Lessons are from St. Luke's Gospel, i. 26 [In the Monastic Breviary these lessons are said only on Wednesdays and Saturdays in Advent, instead of every day, as in the Roman Breviary].
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907