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Gloria in Excelsis Deo

Just a thought


The Gloria is one of the most ancient prayers of the Church. It started out as early as the fourth century as a series of acclamations to Christ. It quickly evolved into a full blown hymn. In the early Church it was popu-lar as a morning prayer. Its first use in public liturgy was as a hymn sung by the bishop at midnight Mass at Christmas. Gradually it was used more frequently –on Sundays and feast days, but was still restricted to the bishop. Finally every priest and all the faithful were encouraged to sing the praises of God, Father, Son and Spirit.

The Gloria begins with our Saviour?s cradle song, the words of the angels at the first Christmas (Luke 2:14). The new translation restores the ref-erence to people of goodwill (“and on earth peace to people of goodwill”). The new translation also recovers phrases which had been left out :”We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory”. This repetition actually reminds us that we are dealing with religious poetry.

The word „begotten is reinstated when addressing Christ “only Begotten Son”; this language evokes the mystery of the Trinity and the relation-ship between Father and Son.

The ancient repetition “you take away the sins of the world” echoes the style of the early Church at prayer: “have mercy on us…receive our prayer…have mercy on us”.

The Gloria is one of the most sublime chants of the Church: it is an out-pouring of joy and delight in the mystery revealed in Jesus, combining poetic simplicity with profound prayer. Having prayed for mercy in the Kyrie (Lord have mercy), in the Gloria we exult with the angels in the glory of redemption.

Fr Seán Wales, C.Ss.R.

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