Te Deum Laudamus
Te Deum Laudamus (i.e. "We praise thee, 0 God"). This hymn, which is written in honorem Sanctissinim Trinitatis, commonly called Hymnus SS. Ambrosii et A ugeusfini, and known as the Ambrosian Hymn, is erroneously ascribed to Ambrose. In a manuscript chronicle preserved at Milan, and erroneously ascribed to Decius (d. 553), bishop of Milan, we are told that at the baptism of Augustine, which Ambrose performed in the year 387, both the Baptist and the candidate spontaneously, as if inspired by the Holy Ghost, intoned this hymn. This tradition would seem to have been corroborated by a passage of a spurious (the 92d) sermon of Ambrose which treats of the baptism of Augustine. But, in truth, the tradition owes its origin to this passage. Augustine himself, who speaks, in his Confessions, of his conversion and baptism, does not mention anything of the kind. Some have ascribed this hymn to Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria; others to Nicetius, about' the year 535; and a third class to Hilary of Poitiers. The whole tenor of this hymn proves its Eastern origin, and at a very early time. Indeed, the Codex Alexandrinus contains a morning hymn commencing Καθ᾿ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν εὐλογήσω σε καὶ αἰνήσω τὸ ὄνομά σου εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα; and this circumstance, together with the fact of its great resemblance with the Te Deum, induced Daniel (Thesaur. Hymnol. 2, 289 sq.) to say, "The Te Deum is based upon an ancient Greek hymn which, extensively known in the East, has found many translators, which fact not only accounts for the variety-of readings, but also for the various authors to whom it is ascribed. Of these versions, the one which Ambrose made for' the service of the Milan Church met with the most approval and was finally adopted, and this explains why it was commonly called the Ambrosian Hymn."
Even before the time of Charlemagne, this hymn was sung on special occasions in both churches of the East. The Roman Breviary uses it as one of the morning hymns to be sung throughout the year, with the exception of the Sundays in Advent, Lent, and the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Long before the Reformation, it was known in a German translation. In 1533 it was translated by Luther, "Herr Gött, dich loben wir," and since that time it has been translated into German and English by different authors. We subjoin a few lines of the original:
"Te Deum landamus, te Dominum confitemur. Te seternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur. Tibi omnes angeli, tibi caeli et universae potestates, Tibi Chertubim et Seraphim incessabili voce proclamant: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Plenli Sunt celi et terra majestatis glorise tuae." This beautiful and inspiring composition is read or chanted at the morning service of the Church of England after the reading of the first lesson. The rubric enjoins that it shall be said or sung daily throughout the year in the vernacular language. The ancient offices of the English Church gave this hymn the title of the "Psalm Te Deum" or the "Song of Ambrose and Augustine" indifferently. As used it may be considered as a responsory psalm, since it follows a lesson; and here the practice of the Church of England resembles that directed by the Council of Laodicea, which decreed that the psalms and lessons should be read alternately. The hymn consists of three equal parts-praise, confession of belief, and supplication. See Rambach, Anthologie christlichen Gesänge, 1, 87 sq.; Bassler, Auswahl altchristlicher Lieder, p. 44 sq.; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 1, 275 sq. (2d ed. p. 328 sq.); Tentzel, Exercitationes X de hymno Te Deun Laudamus (Lips.
1692); Bingham, Christ. Antiq. bk. 14:ch. 11:§ 9; and the monographs cited by Volbeding, Index Programmatum, p. 134. (B. P.)