This Completes the Canticles in the Black Book

Marriage of the Lamb from wikipedia
Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Hubert & Jan Van Eyck at Ghent, from Wikipedia

Salvation belongs to the Lamb

The words

This Canticle more-or-less completes this collection’s versions of the Canticles provided in Common Worship (Black Book) for public Morning and Evening Prayer on Sundays.  It is a slightly complex selection of verses from Revelation 19, vv 1b,5b,6b,7,9b. It is the song that St John hears what sounded like a great multitude “shouting”, ‘like the roar of rushing waters and peals of thunder’ at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.  It comes at the culmination of salvific time in the Revelation of St John. The wedding is between Jesus the Lamb of God, and the church, as the bride of Christ. The picture above, which is part of a huge altarpiece at Ghent, is possibly the most famous painting of the early Flemish Renaissance.

These are the words.  The metre is 10 10 11 11.

1. Hallelujahs raise to our God in song.
Glory, salvation and power belong
To him, for his judgements are both just and true.
So praise him his servants for what he can do.

2. For our Lord God reigns. He’s ruler of all,
Sov’reign, Almighty, the thunder his caul.
Join with the great gath’ring loud his name to raise,
And give him the glory, the worship and praise.

3. For the wedding day of the Lamb is here,
Made ready his bride, with fine clothes to wear.
Blest are all invited, from greatest to least,
To enter his banquet, rejoice at his feast.

4. To the One who sits enthroned in the height
And to the Lamb be, glory, honour, might.
Let blessings and honour for evermore be
Paid to our great Saviour through eternity.

In the Black Book, this is the canticle between (or before) the readings at Evening Prayer on Sundays in Ordinary (i.e. Green) time. It is likewise the recommended canticle in the Daily Office in Common Worship Daily Prayer (CWDP) for the same position on Sunday evenings in Ordinary Time. It is also suggested as an alternative canticle for Daily Prayer on Tuesday evening and for evenings in Advent.

The text from which the last verse derives replaces the Gloria for all the Canticles taken from Revelation.

The tune

It is written to go to the well known tune, below, Laudate Dominum by Hubert Parry (1848-1918). That tune is long associated with the well known hymn O Praise ye the Lord, praise him in the height, by H. W. Baker.  It is the same metre as Old 104th and Hanover (Ps 149). All three tunes fit each of the three songs interchangeably and well. Laudate Dominum is Latin for O Praise ye the Lord. It also happens to  be the Latin headnote to the prose version of Psalm 150 in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It is in B♭ Major.

Laudate Dominum in Hymn Format

Canticles in Common Worship

If you are not Church of England, you can happily ignore most of the rest of this post.

This might be a good opportunity to say a bit about how the Canticles work in Common Worship, and particularly what the Black Book provides for public non-Eucharistic worship for Sundays. It is possible that what it actually contains and says about its contents, is not quite what many users of the service books thinks it says.

There are several things that can be confusing about Common Worship.  As a starter, there is what the term ‘Common Worship’ actually means. It is used both for the Black Book, its core volume, the original one published in 2000, and also for the entire collection of the books that contain the various authorised services, such as, Daily Prayer (2005),  Pastoral Services (the Green Book) that covers weddings and funerals, etc.

The Black Book inter alia contains the various Eucharistic orders, Morning and Evening Prayer for public worship on Sundays and a form of Night Prayer/Compline.

Something else that is confusing is that Daily Prayer (usually with a red cover) which contains the Daily Office and various other ways of saying daily prayer throughout the year, also contains forms of daily office for Sunday in Green Seasons, which are not identical to, but have some cross-fertilisation with, Morning and Evening Prayer for Sundays in the Black Book.

A further source of confusion is that both the Black Book and Daily Prayer contain a prose psalter and canticles, all pointed for chanting, but the Black Book only has a selection (28 + 2 sets of versicles) of the full set of canticles in Daily Prayer (63 + some duplicates and 18 psalm extracts). However, it also has the 1662 words for the canticles from the old Book of Common Prayer.

The Black Book and its Canticles

The rest of this post concentrates on the Black Book, not Daily Prayer.

I know that a lot of churches sit loosely on Common Worship.  In many situations there are good missional reasons for doing so, but for some, the instructions are just too difficult to follow. Others think that they know best, or that the congregation wants ‘liturgy-lite’, or that the book gets in the way of how they want to do things, or that because the book is intended to be a flexible resource, that means they don’t really need to take any notice of it unless it suits them. Some perhaps simply resent being told what to do. Nevertheless, it is put together with the intention that it will make it easier and more likely that clergy, lay ministers and musicians will craft services that enable congregations to worship God in a way that will edify them and glorify him. It is a valuable resource, not a nuisance. The instructions are there for a reason. The distinctions between what is required and what is allowed or even encouraged are important. They are there to ensure congregations worship in ways that correspond to the difference between eating a good, healthy, balanced diet, and eating a poor one.  There is nothing missional about being inept, lightweight, facile, sentimental or trivial.

Morning and Evening Prayer on Sunday

Psalms and Canticles appear in Morning and Evening Prayer in the Black Book. It provides two complete forms of service, one for each. Whether people are following this instructions is another matter, but the instruction on Psalms is quite clear, “The appointed psalmody is said or sung.” That “is means it must happen. A “may means it is optional. So there must be at least one psalm. It is also compulsory to have a canticle, “A suitable canticle is said or sung (see Note 5 on page 57)” . That canticle may come before or between the readings

At Morning Prayer, the Canticle comes from the Old Testament.  At Evening Prayer, it comes from the New Testament. On a Sunday, the Benedictus is also compulsory at Morning Prayer and the Magnificat at Evening Prayer. The alternatives to the Benedictus and the Magnificat in the Daily Prayer book only apply to Daily Prayer. They do not apply to Morning or Evening Prayer as a main Sunday Service.

The lectionary tells one which psalm to use when. It also indicates where there are choices.

A psalm or canticle should also come between the other readings and the gospel at Holy Communion in Order 1. Again, the lectionary says what one should use.

The instruction on the ‘page 57’ in the quotation above suggests the following as seasonally suitable canticles. I read that as meaning that these are strong recommendations rather than compulsory, so that, although there must be a canticle, it is permissible to use a different canticle if there is a good reason for doing so.  I also read that as allowing other canticles from the full Daily Prayer collection.

With their titles as used in this collection, the recommended ones are,:-

Table of Canticles in Black Book

In contrast with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the Nunc Dimittis now belongs to Night Prayer/Compline. It also, as I think I have mentioned elsewhere, is very appropriate for funerals.

Service of the Word

There is then, also, a completely different permitted option for non-Eucharistic worship on Sunday.  This is yet another reason why a lot of people find Common Worship confusing. This is what is described as ‘A Service of the Word’. That can be much more flexible, but it is NOT Morning or Evening Prayer. It should not really be described as such, not even if it draws quite a lot – as is often the case – on the full versions of these services. It is not an alternative version of Morning or Evening Prayer, nor a ‘lite’ alternative to them. It is something quite different. The explanation of the philosophy that underlies it and the instructions for it are on p21-23 in the Black Book.  The core structure set out on p24.

One of the requirements for a Service of the Word is that there must be “a psalm, or, if occasion demands, a scriptural song”. The presumption is a psalm, with a canticle as a permissible alternative. For this purpose, only canticles which are actually scripture meet the requirement. There can be more than one.

As an enthusiast for psalms and canticles, the more people sing them in stead of some of the familiar hymns and choruses, the happier I shall be. As I’ve said before, there is something special about singing scripture that is different from singing someone else’s work, however worthy, even if  inspired by scripture.

One, though, is the absolute minimum. It is NOT optional.


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