Definitions

tuum

Sub tuum praesidium

Beneath thy compassion (Greek: Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν; Latin: Sub tuum praesidium) is the oldest extant hymn to the Theotokos (Blessed Virgin Mary).

History

The earliest text of this hymn was found in a Coptic Orthodox Christmas liturgy of the third century. It is written in Greek and dates to approximately 250. It is used in the Coptic liturgy to this day, as well as in the Byzantine, Ambrosian, and Roman liturgies.

Contemporary use

Although the hymn has been translated into many modern languages, the three major textual recensions are still the Greek, the Slavonic and the Latin.

In the Byzantine Rite used by the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, the hymn occurs as the last dismissal hymn of daily Vespers in Great Lent. In Greek practice it is usually sung in Neo-Byzantine chant.

The Slavonic version of the hymn is also often used outside of Great Lent, with the triple invocation «Пресвѧтаѧ Богородице спаси насъ» ("Most Holy Theotokos, save us") appended. Other than the traditional and modern chant settings, which are the most commonly used, the most well-known musical setting is perhaps that of Dmytro Bortniansky.

The Latin version has also been set to music in the West many times, notably by Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

St Joseph's Marist College, Hunters Hill, Australia sing the prayer after rugby union football games to give thanks.

Recensions

Greek

Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν,
καταφεύγομεν, Θεοτόκε.
Τὰς ἡμῶν ἱκεσίας,
μὴ παρίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνων λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς,
μόνη Ἁγνή, μόνη εὐλογημένη.

In English this is:

Beneath your compassion,
We take refuge, O Mother of God:
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble:
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure, only blessed one.

Church Slavonic

The earliest Church Slavonic manuscripts have the prayer in the following form:

Подъ твою милость,
прибѣгаемъ богородице дѣво,
молитвъ нашихъ не презри в скорбѣхъ.
но ѿ бѣдъ избави насъ,
едина чистаѧ и благословеннаѧ.

Beneath thy mercy,
we take refuge, O Virgin Theotokos:
disdain not our supplications in our distress,
but deliver us from perils,
O only pure and blessed one.

This version continues to be used by the Old Believers today. In 1586, under the liturgical reforms of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow, the Russian Orthodox Church adopted a new translation:

Подъ твое благоѹсробїе
прибѣгаемъ Богородице,
моленїѧ наша не презри во ωбстоѧнїй,
но ѿ бѣдъ исбави ны,
едина Чистаѧ, и Благословеннаѧ

Beneath thy tenderness of heart
we take refuge, O Theotokos,
disdain not our supplications in our necessity,
but deliver us from perils,
O only pure and blessed one.

This second version continues in use today.

Latin

At some point, a Latin translation was produced, possibly around the 11th Century, which reworks the Greek original slightly:

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genitrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias
in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta. Amen.

We fly to thy patronage,
O holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions
in our necessities,
but from all dangers
deliver us always,
O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.

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