I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but today it must be said that one of the great losses that occurred following the restoration of The Holy Eucharist as the central act of Sunday worship in The Episcopal Church is the singing of the canticles. No more do congregations have the chance to be imbued with these songs of Scripture, sung again and again over the years until they become a part of who we are. Occasionally, we are reminded of this fact, when either the Lectionary assigns a Canticle instead of a Psalm for the “Response” or when one of the lessons includes a Canticle like the First Song of Isaiah, the Magnificat, or, as is the case on Sunday’s Feast of the Presentation, the Song of Simeon, Nunc Dimittis. In addition, it is a real shame that we lose the great translations of those songs as well. Do a quick comparison of the NSRV translation of the Song of Simeon with the Prayer Book version, and you’ll see what I mean.
While there certainly is depth and beauty in the NRSV’s rendering:
- “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
- according to your word;
- for my eyes have seen your salvation,
- which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
- a light for revelation to the Gentiles
- and for glory to your people Israel.”
It seems to pale in comparison with the Prayer Book’s translation:
Lord, you now have set your servant free*
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,*
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations,*
and the glory of your people Israel.
The simplicity of the BCP version is stunning, in my opinion, and helps shine a light of the theme of Simeon’s song: God’s faithfulness to his promise of a savior who will cast a wide net to redeem the whole creation. If you find yourself with 10 minutes notice that you are going to preach this Sunday, go to the Nunc Dimittis, you won’t be let down.