Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Friday, 6 February 2015

The Nunc Dimittis.

Simeon’s Song of Praise
{Editor: The Nunc Dimittis]
Artist: Aert de Gelder (1645–1727).
Date: 1700-1710.
The Hague, Netherlands.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Nunc Dimittis.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
Thee End Credits to the 1979 BBC Television Serial.
Available on YouTube at

The Nunc Dimittis (also called The Song of Simeon or Canticle of Simeon) is a Canticle from a Text in the Second Chapter of Luke, named after its Incipit (Latin: "It begins"). Nunc Dimittis, in Latin, meaning "Now you dismiss . . ." (Luke 2:29–32), is often used as the final Hymn, or Canticle, in a Religious Service.

According to the narrative in Luke, Simeon was a devout Jew who had been promised by The Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen The Messiah. When Mary and Joseph brought the Baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, for the Ceremony of Consecration of the First-Born Son (not the Circumcision, but rather at the time of Mary's Purification, at least Forty Days after the Birth of Jesus), Simeon was there, together with Anna, the Prophetess, and he took Jesus into his arms and uttered words rendered variously as follows.

The Nunc Dimittis,
by Palestrina.
Sung by
The Tallis Scholars.
Available on YouTube at

Original Greek:
(Novum Testamentum Graece):νῦν ἀπολύεις τὸν δοῦλόν σου, δέσποτα, κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου ἐν εἰρήνῃ·ὅτι εἶδον οἱ ὀφθαλμοί μου τὸ σωτήριόν σου,ὃ ἡτοίμασας κατὰ πρόσωπον πάντων τῶν λαῶν,φῶς εἰς αποκάλυψιν ἐθνῶν καὶ δόξαν λαοῦ σου Ἰσραήλ.

Latin (Vulgate):
Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace:Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuumQuod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum:Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.

Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord,
according to Thy word, in peace;
Because my eyes have seen Thy salvation,
Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples:
A light to the revelation of the Gentiles,
and the glory of Thy people Israel.

(Book of Common Prayer, 1662): Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

The Magnificat
The Nunc Dimittis,
by Thomas Tallis.
Sung by
The Choir of New College, Oxford.
Available on YouTube at

The Nunc Dimittis is the traditional 'Gospel Canticle' of Night Prayer (Compline), just as Benedictus and Magnificat are the traditional Gospel Canticles of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, respectively.

Hence, The Nunc Dimittis is found in The Liturgical Night Office of many Western Denominations, including Evening Prayer (or Evensong) in The Anglican Book of Common Prayer of 1662, Compline (a late Evening Service) in The Anglican Book of Common Prayer of 1928, and The Night Prayer Service in The Anglican Common Worship, as well as both The Roman Catholic and Lutheran Service of Compline. In Eastern tradition, the Canticle is found in Eastern Orthodox Vespers. One of the most well-known settings in England is a Plainchant theme of Thomas Tallis.

Among Lutheran Churches, The Nunc Dimittis may be sung following the Reception of The Eucharist.

English: Saint Alban's English Church, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Stained-Glass Window, of 1890, showing "The Nunc Dimittis" scene.
While Jesus was being presented in the temple,
Simeon recognises Him as the expected Messiah.
Deutsch: Anglikanische Kirche St. Albans ( Kopenhagen ). Buntglasfenster (1890)
mit der "Nunc dimittis"-Szene: Bei der Präsentation Christi im Tempel
erkennt der greise Simeon Jesus als den erwarteten Messias.
Date: 23 July 2008.
Source: Own work.
Author: Wolfgang Sauber.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Many composers have set the Text to music, usually coupled in The Anglican Church with The Magnificat, as both The Magnificat and The Nunc Dimittis are sung (or said) during The Anglican Service of Evening Prayer, according to The Book of Common Prayer, 1662, in which the older Offices of Vespers (Evening Prayer) and Compline (Night Prayer) were deliberately merged into one Service, with both Gospel Canticles employed.

In Common Worship, it is listed among "Canticles for Use at Funeral and Memorial Services", and a Setting of it, by Charles Villiers Stanford, was sung at the Funeral of Margaret Thatcher as The Recessional. Stanford wrote many Settings of both The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. One of the most moving Settings is J.S. Bach's "Ich Habe Genug," BWV 82: Kantate am Feste Mariae Reinigung.

The Presentation In The Temple.
The start of The Nunc Dimittis,
The Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.
(Wikimedia Commons)

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