New Year's Eve and the 'Te Deum'
The Catholic Church is well-known for Her traditions and customs that have been passed down to us from our faithful predecessors. One such practice is to sing the ‘Te Deum’ on New Year’s Eve, which is a Latin hymn of thanksgiving to the Lord. The ‘Te Deum’, which is short for ‘Te Deum laudamus’ meaning ‘Thee, O God, We Praise’, was previously referred to as ‘The Hymn of Saints Ambrose and Augustine’, because the origins of the hymn are attributed to them. Christians can obtain a plenary indulgence (under usual conditions) by publicly singing or reciting this hymn on New Year’s Eve.
When we first glance at the words of this beautiful hymn, it may just appear like any other song of praise. But when we truly meditate upon each word, we find that this hymn is so relevant for our modern times. The present situation is so uncertain, and it is very easy for people, especially us youth, to feel confused and anxious about what is to come. We need to remind ourselves that our God is powerful - more powerful than any trouble we could ever face - and that He loves us very much. Praying the ‘Te Deum’ can give us the much needed confidence and hope that we need during this difficult time.
The ‘Te Deum’ is divided into 3 parts - A ‘Praise to the Trinity’, a ‘Praise of Christ’, and ‘Prayers’.
The first part, ‘Praise to the Trinity’, acknowledges that the Holy Trinity is the Lord. It confesses that all in Heaven and on earth - the Angels, the Powers of Heaven, the Apostles, the Prophets, the Martyrs, and the Church - worship and glorify the Lord. Finally, it recognises the three Persons of the Holy Trinity - The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The second part, ‘Praise of Christ’, acknowledges that Jesus Christ saved mankind by being born into this world as a human being, dying, resurrecting, and ascending into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father, until He comes again as our Judge. It concludes with a prayer, asking Jesus to help us to be with His Saints in Heaven.
The third part, ‘Prayers’, is a plea to the Lord, asking Him to save us, bless us, preserve us from sin, and have mercy on us. It ends with a proclamation of trust in the Lord.
Singing or reciting the ‘Te Deum’ is a very effective method of praying. As a whole, this short but simple hymn achieves the 4 ends of prayer - Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (ACTS).
Consider the beginning of the hymn. It is a prayer of Adoration, where we give God the glory and praise that He very rightly deserves. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it will do us good to take some time out to be in the presence of the Lord, and just adore Him. Try to spend some time in silence, being still, and praying these words of adoration, especially when you feel stressed or anxious. Recognise the magnificence of God in the greatest and most inconspicuous aspects of your life.
We then have prayers of supplication:
The first supplication is that we may be among the Saints in Heaven. We know that the Saints were ordinary human beings who lived extraordinary lives. These are people who strived to live in the holiest way possible, putting God first in everything they did. When we pray these words of the ‘Te Deum’, we ask the Lord to help us to be like them. It might seem impossible to us, but we need to have Faith that our Jesus is calling us all to be Saints, and if He calls us, He will help us achieve this end by making us more like Him.
The second supplication is that we may be blessed and raised up by the Lord. As God’s children, redeemed by His precious blood, it is our hope that we may be lifted up out of the darkness of this world, and that we and our descendants may always have the blessings of the Lord upon us.
The third supplication is that we may be saved from sin. As human beings, we are prone to failures and mistakes, but we need to accept that God will give us the strength to overcome our weaknesses.
The third part contains words of contrition. We need to be aware of our sins, as well as our tendency to sin, and we need to ask God to have mercy on us. We know that our sins separate us from God, but we also need to believe that by truly repenting, we can return to God. We need to be convinced that God is trustworthy, and we need to try every day to have a childlike trust in Him Who loves us and thirsts for us.
Finally, we must remember that this hymn is sung as an act of thanksgiving to the Lord. During the good times, and even during the bad, God is with us, giving us the graces we need to go through each moment. We need to remember, as often as possible, to take some time out to contemplate the goodness of our Lord. And, with our hearts filled with gratitude, we should thank God for every way in which He has blessed us and continues to bless us out of the abundance of His love and mercy.
So, as we enter this new year and begin a new chapter in our lives, let us go forth with the spirit of the ‘Te Deum’ - With gratitude and awe at the greatness of our Lord, and complete trust in His gracious providence.
Have a blessed new year!