Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sing the Lord's Prayer in Latin

This is a familiar tune for men who attended Concordia Theological Seminary while I was there (2000-2003) - as we chanted the Lord's Prayer in English to this haunting ancient melody (Gregorian plainsong, mode VII) in our chapel Matins services. I don't know if the practice continues or not (I hope so!), as some students complained about it. But you can still find the sung Lord's Prayer in LSB on page 957. Here is how it has been prayed for centuries...


Peperkorn said...

We sing it at our Academy on a regular basis. I like it with the voices of children even more than seminarians.

Father Hollywood said...


Great idea. Now that we have a music teacher (an outstanding one at that!), we can teach it to our children as well. Wouldn't it be nice to have a whole generation singing the Lord's Prayer again?

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

It is certainly pretty. I am exposing our kids to Vater Unsere (in English), but this might be something cool too.

My chief preference for singing the Lord's Prayer? Get the chant from p.15/DS3 and teach it to everyone. :)

Christopher D. Hall said...

I hesitate to ask, guessing the answer, but why, pray tell, should people complain about singing the Lord's prayer in Latin?

Father Hollywood said...



They were complaining about the chant in *English* - not because of the language, but because we were *chanting* it. It sounds "too catholic" when it is chanted. You know, too menacingly medieval. So much for Lutherans being the *singing* church.

Kyrie eleison, if we sang it *in Latin* at Kramer Chapel, someone would complain that it made them itch and gave them diarrhea (which is what happened when incense was used).

Of course, the devil hates Latin (and incense) too. ;-)

Father Hollywood said...

Of course, they could sing the Pasternoster in Latin and just tell the guys from the midwest that it's Spanish, and they're just being "missional..." :-)

Brian P Westgate said...

Yep, we still sing it from time to time, recently with the Litany in Lent. By the way, isn't that tune traditionally only used at Holy Mass?

Father Hollywood said...


I don't know about it *only* being used at Mass. It was in LW at the conclusion of the Litany. I would assume that reflects earlier practice - but you know what happens when you *assume.*

Calling Latif Gaba. Come in Latif Gaba. Whenever I need to know anything about the liturgy, I summons Br. Latif. I would ask a professor, but in the same way that we pray directly to God instead of praying through the saints, when I want to know something about liturgy, I don't mess around with the middlemen, I go right to the top of the totem pole. ;-)

Paul T. McCain said...

I was at the seminary for five years and after chanting the Lord's Prayer through my time there I can't help but want to chant it during Matins. It flows so naturally, so having to speak it after just chanting the Kyrie is, frankly, a major let down.

Anyone who has never had the privilege of hearing hundreds of male voices chanting the Lord's Prayer to this tune really has missed something quite other-worldly!

Love it.

I even think the English words fit the tone better.

Father Hollywood said...


I'm with you. It just never sounded right to speak the Lord's Prayer after the Kyrie again. And I think you're right about the English words (which is really unusual for it to fit the chant tone better). Then again, it is an "unusual" prayer.

Past Elder said...

Still firmly in memory nearly forty years after the Revolution, er, Vatican II. Joined right in! Hey, can't a guy leave behind what is Catholic and keep what is catholic?

Not so sure about the English though. Some of the phrases in Latin begin with the verb, at the top of a descending phrase giving the verb emphasis, which does not happen in English -- adveniat, fiat, zum B.

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Father, your reply to Christopher Hall is a bit odd, it seems. You mention singing the Kyrie eleison "in Latin." Even in the Old Rite, the Kyrie was always said/sung in Greek.

Actually, there are only two places where Greek has been retained in the Old Rite - the Kyrie, the in the Reproaches on Good Friday. The Tres Hagion is said alternately in Greek and in Latin.

Peter said...

Yes, the Lord's prayer is happily and regularly sung at the CTS chapel. From what I can tell, there is no recognizable group that would have it any other way.

As for the Latin chant, it does have a couple of advantages. It brings us closer to the Matthean idea of sin as a debt. In a day when some of our brothers go East, and abandon Anselm, it's good to be reminded regularly of the debt that we owe, and that has been paid for by Christ. Plus, it's simply a much more dominant Biblical theme, I think, than "trespass." (But I could be wrong)

Also, perhaps I see it differently than Past Elder. Sure, the verbs are up front. But, the surprise is not that we pray for a name to be made special, or a Kingdom to come, or a will to be done, but that in each case, it is "tuum, tuum, tua." Here, the Latin echoes the Greek, and keep the surprise for the end.

The other advantage of Latin, is that it moves from heaven to earth (rather than "on earth as it is in heaven"), even as prayer moves from ethereal third person jussives, to the more primal imperative of "da."

Some formalists might miss the "thees" and "thous" of English, which aren't present in the Latin. Likewise, the Latin doesn't carry the direct article, which takes us closer to the idea of deliverance from the evil one.

Pastor Beisel said...

Nice point about Matthew and debts. It baffles me how someone can ignore that strong theme in the Scriptures and say that the concept of divine payment for debt is completely foreign to the Scriptures.

Past Elder said...


I took FH's "in Latin", rather than in Latin, to indicate he meant from the old Latin Mass, which does indeed contain the Greek phrase Kyrie eleison, but is generally called the Latin Mass.

I'm not seeing a surprise in the second person familiar. The Our Father is taken from traditional Jewish evening prayer and is still found there -- at least in my siddur, though later revisionist ones have come out so who knows -- so Jesus' point, along with recommending the prayer itself, in quoting an already well known common prayer would be to stick with tradition rather than all kinds of showy stuff that impresses Man much more than God.

The thees and thous are present in Latin, in the sense that it does have a second person familiar, whereas English had it and technically still does although it has been out of use for centuries, so continuing the use of it in English on the one hand is truer to the Latin but is not true to modern English.

Anyway, it is great to hear this again, and hear it in the real catholic church -- when I was younger not a day went by that I did not say or chant the prayer as given. Let some find us using it crypto Papist if they must, I'm just happy to be catholic rather than Catholic!

Luke said...

Father Hollywood:

Great to hear that haunting music again. I've used the "Anglicanized" chant tone from TLH/LSB III and can recognize the commonality, but hearing the full Latin tone again is great (even for this Anglophile). Although, even singing the Our Father with a single pitch is also quite the experience. That was occasionally done in TLH Matins at the Fort during my SEM I year, just before you got there.


Past Elder:

One trifle quibble. I understand the concept of the "Second Person Familiar" form of address (the T-V Distinction). But in other reading, it appears that the use of Thy/Thine in the English Lord's Prayer is not a form of "Second Person Familiar," but rather simply using the now-archaic English form of Second Person Singular (thou/thee/thine = singular; ye/you/your = plural). Such consistent use of singular/plural second person is seen in the Tyndale Bible, regardless of level of familiarity.


Father Hollywood said...

Dear Deacon:

I was using "Kyrie Eleison" as an interjection (as in it's Southernized form: "Lawdy mussy"). I'm sorry about the confusion. When I said "in Latin", I was referring to the singing of the Lord's Prayer, not the Kyrie. Some seminarians squawked about simply reciting the Creed in Latin in Dr. Scaer's class (which was very helpful in a dogmatics class) - heck, there would have been *armed rebellion* if Latin would have been used at chapel! ;-)

At least while I was there, we never sang anything litugically in Latin at Kramer Chapel, though I know Dr. Reuning's old prayer booklets had one office in Latin (it may have been Compline).

It always made me chuckle when churches would use the "German Mass" from LW, and yet there was no German in it at all - though in singing "Kyrie, God Father" there was a bit of Greek!

Of course, technically speaking, we are using Hebrew, Greek, and Latin liturgically when we sing "Amen."

Father Hollywood said...


Excellent points!

The first three petitions have the verb up front - which is not the typical Latin word order (which may be part of the reason that the English seems like it fits the chant a little better than English typically does - e.g. "Thy kingdom COME, Thy will be DONE" with the final slur on "come" and "done" as opposed to "adveniat regnum TUUM, fiat voluntas TUA" - with two syllables to manage).

Also a good point about Latin's similarity to Greek. Without the inflections, English is farther removed from the sound and patter of the Greek text - as well as the ambiguity we have regarding "evil" and "the evil one."

I believe "trespass" was used in Coverdale's translation (1535) which was picked up by the Book of Common Prayer. According to St. Wikipedia, Origin was saying "Trespasses" (παραπτώματα) in the Lord's prayer in the 3rd century. Apparently Luke's "sins" and Matthew's "debts" are the same word in Aramaic. And how about debt forgiveness in terms of the Parable of the Ungrateful Servant in Matt 18:21-35? How can one not see the cross as a payment of debts (ὀφειλήματα, debita) we could never pay on our own?

Father Hollywood said...


We did sing the Lord's Prayer at Kramer Chapel in monotone on alternate Fridays (when we sang TLH Matins), though at some point, we just went back to speaking it. I think some guys might have had trouble singing in tune. ;-)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Past Elder:

Don't let anyone tell you that you are only a "Small C" Catholic. "Lift Up Your Lowercases!"

At least in the Triglot, we Lutherans are "Big C" Catholics (while modern Roman missals have demoted the RC church to "Small C" catholicism in the creeds). Of course, in German, all nouns begin with an uppercase letter. Confusing!

Our stumbling over the word "C/catholic" does result in some funny things. I was at an ordination last year, and the bungling District Vice President (not my own district), bless his heart, was pretty much clueless. He read the formula of ordination just like this: "I ordain and consecrate you into the office of the holy ministry of the one holy catholic i.e. Christian and apostolic Church" ignoring the brackets around the Obligatory Rubric explaining what the word "catholic" means.

Of course, by working "i.e." (id est) into the formula, the holy hierarch unwittingly reinserted Latin into the ordination liturgy. Saints be praised!

Past Elder said...

Maybe I'm seeing English through Spanish lenses, but I always took the second person in any language to be familiar whether singular or plural, the third person being formal address as well as he/she/it/they.

With the exception of a few places Spanish has lost the second person plural; it's not used in Spanish as I speak it (Puerto Rican).

So I would still find thee/thou a more literal translation of the Latin even though in a form not used in modern English.

I can handle the Catholic thing, I just use the catholic/Catholic thing to explain the term to those who seem to find being Lutheran mostly about not being Catholic.

Actually, my one regret in life is being too old to go to sem then stroll into the ice cream shop in a cassock with wife and kid in tow, as I recall being recounted on this blog, and countering the "Father's pretty open about having a little on the side" looks (which you'd get here if not there) with something like "Relax, we're Lutherans, the real Catholics."

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