Benedictus (Canticle of Zechariah)

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The first word of the Latin text of the Canticle of Zechariah, "Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel" ("Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel," Lk. 1:6879). It may be divided into two parts. The first part is closely related to the theme of the magnificat, because Zechariah praises and gives thanks to God, who through the Incarnation has already begun to fulfill the promises of messianic salvation made to the patriarchs and prophets. In the second part he addresses his son as the Messiah's prophet and precursor.

As a liturgical canticle, the Benedictus is sung daily in the Office of Lauds (Morning Prayer) in the Catholic Church, after the 9th ode of the canon in the Byzantine morning Office of Orthros (it replaces this ode during Eastertide), and before the Nicene Creed at the Office of Mattins (Morning Prayer) in the Anglican tradition. Its liturgical use probably stemmed from the verses 78b79 ("by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death's shadow").

Bibliography: f. rousseau, "Les structures du Benedictus (Luc 1:6879)" New Testament Studies, 32 (1986) 268282. r. f. taft, The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West: The Origins of the Divine Office and Its Meaning for Today, 2d rev. ed. (Collegeville 1993). g. guiver, Company of Voices: Daily Prayer and the People of God (New York 1988). p. f. bradshaw, Daily Prayer in the Early Church: A Study of the Origin and Early Development of the Divine Office (London 1981).

[s. d. ruegg/eds.]