Roman Catholic Church
The Liturgy of the Hours uses 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". The liturgy prior to the reform after the II Vatican Council used fourteen Old Testament canticles, having two weekly cycles. Prior to the 1911 reforms, a single cycle of seven canticles was used.
Additionally, the following Canticles from the Gospel of Luke (also called Evangelical Canticles) occur each day:
- At Lauds, the "Canticle of Zachary" (Luke 1:68-79), commonly referred to as the "Benedictus";
- At Vespers, the "Canticle of Mary" (Luke 1:46-55), commonly known as the "Magnificat".
- At Compline, the "Canticle of Simeon" (Luke 2:29-32), commonly referred to as the "Nunc dimittis".
In the Church of England, Morning and Evening Prayer according to the Book of Common Prayer makes extensive use of canticles. There are 21 different canticles listed and are recommended for use at various times including the below.
- At Morning Prayer:
- At Evening Prayer:
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)
- 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)
- Canticle Eight — The Song of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:57-88)
- 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. 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.
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.
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- General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, No. 136
- Canticle Two is normally only said on Tuesdays of Great Lent.
- In many Protestant versions of the Bible, this is found separately in the Apocrypha.
- Ware, Kallistos (1969). The Festal Menaion. London: Faber and Faber. p. 546.