Sub tuum praesidium

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A 15th century Virgin of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced), depicting protection under the mantle of the Madonna. Note the masked executioner on the left side.


Beneath Thy Protection (Greek: Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν; Latin: Sub tuum præsidium) is the oldest preserved extant hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary as (Theotokos the God-Bearer).

The hymn is well-known in many Catholic countries and is often a favourite song used along with Salve Regina.

History[edit]

The earliest text of this hymn was found in a Coptic Orthodox Christmas liturgy of the third century. It is written in Greek and dates to approximately 250.[1] It is used in the Coptic liturgy to this day, as well as in the Byzantine, Ambrosian, and Roman liturgies. It was part of Sulpician custom that all classes ended with a recitation of this prayer.[2]

Besides the Greek text, ancient versions can be found in Coptic, Syriac, Armenian and Latin.[3] "Praesidium" is translated as "an assistance given in time of war by fresh troops in a strong manner."[4]

Contemporary use[edit]

In the Byzantine Rite used by the Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches, the hymn occurs as the last dismissal hymn of daily Vespers in Great Lent. In Greek practice it is usually sung in Neo-Byzantine chant.

The Slavonic version of the hymn is also often used outside of Great Lent, with the triple invocation «Пресвѧтаѧ Богородице спаси насъ» ("Most Holy Theotokos, save us") appended. Other than the traditional and modern chant settings, which are the most commonly used, the most well-known musical setting is perhaps that of Dmytro Bortniansky.

In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church it is used as the antiphon for the Nunc Dimittis at Compline in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in the Liturgy of the Hours may be used as the Marian antiphon after Compline outside of Eastertide.

The Latin version has also been set to music in the West many times, notably by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.[2] In 2010 the text was set as a triple-choir motet in Latin, Slavonic and Greek by the English composer Ivan Moody.

The prayer has a special significance for Marists.[2] and it is often heard in Marist schools and groups around the world. It is also commonly used by the Salesians in honor of Mary Help of Christians.

Recensions[edit]

Greek[edit]

Greek Text English Translation
Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν,
καταφεύγομεν, Θεοτόκε.
Τὰς ἡμῶν ἱκεσίας,
μὴ παρίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνων λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς,
μόνη Ἁγνή, μόνη εὐλογημένη.
Beneath your compassion,
We take refuge, O Mother of God:
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble:
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure, only blessed one.

Church Slavonic[edit]

The earliest Church Slavonic manuscripts have the prayer in the following form:

Church Slavonic English Translation
Подъ твою милость,
прибѣгаемъ богородице дѣво,
молитвъ нашихъ не презри в скорбѣхъ.
но ѿ бѣдъ избави насъ,
едина чистаѧ и благословеннаѧ.
Beneath thy mercy,
we take refuge, O Virgin Theotokos:
disdain not our supplications in our distress,
but deliver us from perils,
O only pure and blessed one.

This version continues to be used by the Old Believers today. In the 17th century, under the liturgical reforms of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow, the Russian Orthodox Church adopted a new translation (but parishes continue to use the form given above):

Church Slavonic English Translation
Подъ твое благоѹсробїе
прибѣгаемъ Богородице,
моленїѧ наша не презри во ωбстоѧнїй,
но ѿ бѣдъ исбави ны,
едина Чистаѧ, и Благословеннаѧ
Beneath thy tenderness of heart
we take refuge, O Theotokos,
disdain not our supplications in our necessity,
but deliver us from perils,
O only pure and blessed one.

This second version continues in use today.

Latin[edit]

The Latin translation, likely derived from the Greek, dates from the 11th century:

Latin Text English Translation
Sub tuum praesidium
confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias
in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta[5]
We fly to thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Matthewes-Green, Frederica (2007). The Lost Gospel of Mary: The Mother of Jesus in Three Ancient Texts. Brewster MA: Paraclete Press. pp. 85–87. ISBN 978-1-55725-536-5. 
  2. ^ a b c Green, Michael. "The History of the Sub Tuum"
  3. ^ de Villiers, Henri. "The Sub Tuum Praesidium", New Liturgical Movement
  4. ^ Roten SM, Johann G. "Help of Christians", Marian Library, University of Dayton
  5. ^ http://www.ewtn.com/library/prayer/latrosar.htm
  6. ^ "Sub tuum Praesidium", KofC

External links[edit]