30 Jun 2023

Isaiah, Mighty Seer, in Days of Old

Singing the Psalms is an integral part of Christian worship. But we do well to sing other parts of the Bible in our liturgies too. Indeed, there is an ancient tradition of doing so, and some have claimed that the entire Hebrew text of the Old Testament contains musical notations for chanting. In 1526, nine years after he nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Martin Luther published his Deutsche Messe, or German Mass, which was a reworking of the Latin rite in the German language. Rather than translating directly from Latin, Luther saw fit to elaborate on the songs in the ordinary of the mass, including the Sanctus. In its traditional form, the Sanctus runs as follows:

16 Jun 2023

Psalm 148 and the Benedicite omnia opera

The Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint (LXX), varies from the Hebrew in several respects, including entire books absent from the latter. These are known as Deuterocanonical by Roman Catholics and Apocrypha by Protestants. Included are additions to two books within the undisputed canon, namely, Esther and Daniel. One of the additions to Daniel comes in the third chapter, which recounts the episode in which the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar consigns three Hebrew young men, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, to the fiery furnace for not bowing down to the golden image that the king had set up. In the Hebrew version, the three young men simply emerge from the ordeal unscathed, much to the king's astonishment, but with little fanfare. In the Greek version, the author ascribes an entire canticle to the three youths which they sing during the ordeal. It is generally known by its first words in Latin, Benedicite omnia opera, about which I wrote 16 years ago, and in English as the Song of the Three Youths or the Song of the Three Holy Children.