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Title: Canticle  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Vespers, Anglican chant, Antoine de Bertrand, Utrecht Psalter, Liturgy of the Hours
Collection: Canticles, Eastern Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Genres of Byzantine Music, Liturgy of the Hours
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A canticle (from the Latin canticulum, a diminutive of canticum, "song") is a hymn, psalm or other song of praise taken from biblical texts other than the Psalms.


  • Roman Catholic Church 1
  • Anglican 2
  • Eastern Christian 3
  • Armenian Liturgy 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6

Roman Catholic Church

The Liturgy of the Hours use one Canticle from the Old Testament each day at Lauds, "each weekday of the four-week cycle [has] its own proper canticle and on Sunday the two sections of the Canticle of the Three Children may be alternated".[1] The liturgy previous to the reform after the II Vatican Council used only 7 canticles, having a one-week cycle. At Vespers, a canticle from the New Testament is used. These follow a weekly cycle, with some exceptions.[1]

Additionally, the following Canticles from the Gospel of Luke (also called Evangelical Canticles) occur each day:


In the Church of England, Morning and Evening Prayer according to the Book of Common Prayer makes extensive use of canticles.

Eastern Christian

In the Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches there are nine Biblical Canticles (or Odes) that are chanted at Matins. These form the basis of the Canon, a major component of Matins.

The nine Canticles are as follows:

  • Canticle One — The (First) Song of Moses ( Exodus 15:1-19)
  • Canticle Two — The (Second) Song of Moses ( Deuteronomy 32:1-43)[2]
  • Canticle Three — The Prayer of Hannah ( 1 Samuel 2:1-10)
  • Canticle Four — The Prayer of Habakkuk ( Habakkuk 3:1-19)
  • Canticle Five — The Prayer of Isaiah ( Isaiah 26:9-20)
  • Canticle Six — The Prayer of Jonah ( Jonah 2:2-9)
  • Canticle Seven — The Prayer of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:26-56)[3]
  • Canticle Eight — The Song of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:57-88)[3]
  • Canticle Nine — The Song of the Theotokos (the Magnificat: Luke 1:46-55); the Song of Zacharias (the Benedictus Luke 1:68-79)

Originally, these Canticles were chanted in their entirety every day, with a short refrain inserted between each verse. Eventually, short verses (troparia) were composed to replace these refrains, a process traditionally inaugurated by Saint Andrew of Crete.[4] Gradually over the centuries, the verses of the Biblical Canticles were omitted (except for the Magnificat) and only the composed troparia were read, linked to the original canticles by an Irmos. During Great Lent however, the original Biblical Canticles are still read.

Another Biblical Canticle, the Nunc Dimittis ( Luke 2:29-32), is either read or sung at Vespers.

Armenian Liturgy

At Matins (or Midnight Hour; Armenian: Ի մէջ Գիշերի i mej gisheri), one canticle from the Old Testament is sung, associated with a reading from the Psalter, followed by hymns according to tone, season, and feast. There are eight such canticles which are determined by the musical tone of the day. These are, along with their respective portions of the Psalter and their tones:

  • Tone Eight — The (First) Song of Moses ( Exodus 15:1-19)— Psalms 1-17
  • Tone One — The (Second) Song of Moses ( Deuteronomy 32:1-21) — Psalms 18-35
  • Tone Two — The (Second) Song of Moses ( Deuteronomy 32:22-28, Deuteronomy 32:39-43) — Psalms 36-54
  • Tone Three — The Prayer of Hannah ( 1 Samuel 2:1-10) — Psalms 55-71
  • Tone Four — The Prayer of Isaiah ( Isaiah 26:9-20) — Psalms 72-88
  • Tone Five — The Prayer of Hezekiah ( Isaiah 38:10-20) — Psalms 89-105
  • Tone Six — The Prayer of Jonah with material from Isaiah ( Isaiah 42:10-13, Isaiah 45:6, Jonah 2:2-10) — Psalms 106-118
  • Tone Seven — The Prayer of Habakkuk ( Habakkuk 3:1-19) — Psalms 119-147

Note that Psalms 148-150 and Psalm 151 are not part of this system because they are read every day at the Morning Hour, following the canticles presented below.

At the Morning Hour (Armenian: Յառաւուտու Ժամ haṟavoutou zham), corresponding to Lauds, the following canticles are fixed parts of the service each day:

  • The Prayer of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:26-88)
  • The Song of the Theotokos (the Magnificat: Luke 1:46-55);
  • The Song of Zacharias (the Benedictus Luke 1:68-79)
  • The Prayer of Simeon (Nunc Dimittis Luke 2:29-32)

Following the Song of the Three Youths and the Prayer of Simeon there are sets of hymns as well as other texts which are proper to the commemoration of the day or of the liturgical season.

In the other hours, sections of these and other canticles are included in fixed material, consisting of amalgams of verse material from the Old Testament: Ninth Hour: a citation of Daniel 3:35; Peace Hour (after Vespers): Isaiah 8:9-10, Isaiah 9:26; Rest Hour (after the Peace Hour): Daniel 3:29-34, Luke 2:29-32, Luke 1:16-55.

This list does not take into account citations of these texts in the Divine Liturgy (Armenian: Պատարագ patarag) or in the movable Old Testament verse material or in hymnody.

See also


  1. ^ a b General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, No. 136
  2. ^ Canticle Two is normally only said on Tuesdays of Great Lent.
  3. ^ a b In many Protestant versions of the Bible, this is found separately in the Apocrypha.
  4. ^  
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