Jubilate Deo

The Latin incipit of this Sunday’s lectionary psalm and the title of this Sunday’s Parish Choir Offertory anthem are the exact same: Jubilate Deo.

Amazing, yes?

Before we commend me too quickly here, I have a secret: they are not the same Jubilate Deo.

The incipit for this Sunday’s psalm citation, Psalm 66:1-11, is Jubliate Deo, from the first line of the psalm, “Be joyful in God, all you lands.”

An incipit (Latin for “it begins”) is the first few words of a text used as an identifier for that text.

For example, in our liturgical tradition, we commonly refer to “the Agnus Dei,” which is an incipit for the text we say or sing, “O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world.”

Musical terminology also uses the term incipit, which describes the first few notes of a composition. In the plainsong psalm tone that we are presently using on Sunday mornings, the first two notes that the cantor sings is known as the incipit or intonation.

In ancient times, before the usage of titles came into being, texts were most often known by their incipits. In the Hebrew Bible (Torah), the first book of the Bible that we know as Genesis is known as Bereshit from its first few words, “In the beginning.”

In the Western Christian tradition, psalms are often quickly recognized by their Latin incipits. Psalm 51, one of the most penitential psalms of all, is known by its incipit as the Miserere mei (“Have mercy upon me, O God”).

Composers throughout the ages have written various settings of Psalm 51 and titled their compositions Miserere mei. The setting by Allegri, which we sing annually on Ash Wednesday, being perhaps the best known.

The 1549 Book of Common Prayer did not include the psalms. Cranmer’s 1549 book contained the daily offices, charts for assigned scripture readings, and all the liturgies for the services of the church (Communion, Baptism, Marriage, etc.). Along with the Prayer Book, the priest then needed only a Bible and Psalter as companion books for conducting services.

The 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books, published under Edward VI, as well as the 1559 Prayer Book published under Elizabeth I, also did not contain the psalms. However, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer included Miles Coverdale’s beautiful translations of the psalms and even added “together with the Psalter” to the Prayer Book’s title page.

The psalms have been included in each edition of the Book of Common Prayer since that time.

But what about the “other” Jubilate Deo?

This Sunday morning’s 10:30 anthem is a setting of the Jubilate Deo canticle, which is one of the canticles from Anglican Morning Prayer. “The Jubilate,” as many will remember from those days when Morning Prayer was held on Sunday mornings, is the same text as Psalm 100, “O be joyful in the Lord all ye lands.”

A canticle (from canticulum, Latin for “song”) is a hymn or song of praise with a text taken from the Bible or from holy texts other than the psalms.

Since the Episcopal Church began recognizing that the Holy Eucharist is the central act of worship for Sundays, we do not sing as many canticles on Sunday mornings. However, from time to time, canticles will appear in the Revised Common Lectionary as options for the psalm.

Sunday’s anthem is a lively, contemporary setting of the Jubilate Deo by Atlanta composer Charles Beaudrot, whose “day job” is as a tax and corporate attorney. A Duke and Harvard graduate, in addition to law, he also studied choral music and composition at both universities. He is a member of the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) and the Association of Anglican Musicians (AAM).

A few canticles will show up in the lectionary later this fall. On Advent III, an option for the psalm will be Canticle 3 (Rite One) or Canticle 15 (Rite Two), The Song of Mary.

For old-timer liturgists like me, that will be “the Magnificat.”

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo, courtesy of All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 15:46