This post is part of a series on Getting the Most Out of Mass: tips to best dispose yourself to receive graces available during Mass (this will be specifically about Sunday Mass, but some of these ideas will also apply to daily Mass). We’re in the section on the Introductory Rites.
[Often the priest or choir will begin:] Glory to God in the Highest…
[All:] …and on earth peace people of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God Almighty Father. Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world; have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world,1 receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are the Holy One,2 you alone are the Lord,3 you alone are the Most High Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in the Glory of God the Father. Amen.
[Often the priest or choir will begin:] Glória in excélsis Deo…
[All:] …et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis. Laudámus te, benedícimus te, adorámus te, glorificámus te, grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam glóriam tuam, Dómine Deus, Rex cæléstis, Deus Pater omnípotens. Dómine Fili Unigénite, Iesu Christe, Dómine Deus, Agnus Dei, Fílius Patris, qui tollis peccáta mundi, miserére nobis; qui tollis peccáta mundi, súscipe deprecatiónem nostram. Qui sedes ad déxteram Patris, miserére nobis. Quóniam tu solus Sanctus, tu solus Dóminus, tu solus Altíssimus, Iesu Christe, cum Sancto Spíritu: in glória Dei Patris. Amen.
The Gloria is an expression of praise to God. After recognizing our failure and unworthiness to even be in the Lord’s Presence in both the Penitential Act and the Kyrie, we turn to God and glorify Him as the One Who is worthy of glory and who loves us so much that He forgives our sins and welcomes us into His Presence.
Well, after that we begin to want a bit of cheering up. And the thing we use to cheer us up is the Gloria in Excelsis… it is an appeal to our Incarnate Lord, as Incarnate, to make things all right for us… We try to cheer ourselves up, after all the grovelling, by reminding ourselves and reminding Almighty God that human nature has been raised to something altogether higher, ever since our Lord took human nature upon himself, and that if we unite our prayers with the prayer of our Incarnate Lord, we can, in spite of everything, make our prayers worth looking at.Knox, Msgr. Ronald. The Mass in Slow Motion. Sheed & Ward. New York, NY. 1948. p. 20
The Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) is a most ancient and venerable hymn by which the Church, gathered in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb… It is sung or said on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, and also on Solemnities and Feasts, and at particular celebrations of a more solemn character.General Instruction of the Roman Missal 53
Since the Gloria is such a celebratory hymn, it seems most appropriate on the most celebratory days (Sundays, Solemnities, Feasts, etc.) and not so appropriate during penitential seasons or on most weekdays.
Originally… you only got the Gloria on Christmas Day. Then it was put in on all feast days and most Sundays; so that in practice you hardly ever get a Mass without it unless it’s a black Mass or a day in Lent, or some other mournful occasion. And that is as it should be, because when it is a mournful occasion we like to go on grovelling, instead of trying to cheer ourselves up. But when we want to feel jolly, as we do on feast days or on Sundays, because Sundays are meant to be jolly in spite of letters home, we recover from the mood of depression we felt during the Kyrie, and start quite gaily on the Collects.ibid. 21
- This is another “Mass part” one of the times we are expected to sing.
- Whether you’ve got a great voice or you can’t carry a tune, sing this song to God–He will take your meager efforts and raise them to His glory.
- Focus on the words you say, don’t simply repeat them without meaning. As with all memorized prayers, try to put as much love into these words as you can. Sing purposefully as though you’re teaching the people around you about God (especially helpful if you have kids).
- Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to people of good will.
- We begin the Gloria borrowing words from the angels at Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)
- “Glory” is used in many different ways, but here we’re using it in a way that means “praise rendered to God in acknowledgment of His majesty and perfections manifested objectively in the world, or through supernatural revelation.”4 (Basically we’re saying how awesome God is.)
- Throughout this prayer, it can be helpful to bring to mind various ways that God is awesome:
- His Perfections (He is Infinite Goodness, Truth, Beauty, Wisdom, Mercy, Love, Power, etc.)
- His Works (creation, salvation history, miracles in the Bible, other historical miracles, miracles in your life, etc.)
- His Gifts of Himself to us (the Church, the Sacraments [especially the Eucharist], the Truths of the faith handed on by the Church, etc.)
- We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God Almighty Father.
- Here, we continue with praising God, but we end by specifying that we have been addressing God the Father.
- During this time, it might be helpful for you to bring to mind an image of the Trinity (or look at one in your church) and focus specifically on God the Father.
- Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father…
- Here, we have clearly changed to speaking to God the Son.
- We clearly recognize that He is also fully the one God (Lord God) but also somehow not the Father (Only Begotten Son… Son of the Father). We’ll get more into this when we profess the Creed.
- By saying Lamb of God, we foreshadow what’s coming next. As Lamb of God, Jesus took on our sins and redeemed us by dying for us on the Cross and opened for us the fountain of Mercy (forgiving even the unforgivable).
- …you take away the sins of the world; have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
- In each of these three phrases, we’re begging Jesus for His mercy, but not because we’re hoping that it’s possible He might consider it. Rather we’re asking with the confidence of sons to a loving Father and Brother Who have shown us over and over again that they desperately want to forgive us, if only we come to them.
- This is a joyous song, expounding God’s greatness, and here in the middle, we touch on His greatest attribute: His unfathomable mercy.
- In the Kyrie, we
- For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in the Glory of God the Father.
- Again, here we finish the prayer by praising God’s greatness and recognizing each person of the Holy Trinity as fully possessing that greatness.
- Yes, I agree. This is true.
- Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to people of good will.
What About You?
- What do you do to try to enter more deeply into the Gloria during Mass?
- Do you have any stories of particular insights you’ve gained while praying the Gloria?