4. The Glory to God (Gloria)
Gloria in excelsis Deo – “Glory to God in the highest”… This prayer of immense praise to God harkens back to at least the 6th Century when it appeared in the Christmas Masses celebrated by the popes. Five hundred years later, it was a mainstay at all Sunday Masses. Today, except during Advent and Lent when it is omitted, we sing it every Sunday (and, yes, it really should be sung – it is a hymn of praise). It also appears in a number of other Masses throughout the year. So, where did it come from?
The first of its four parts derives from the wondrous pronouncement by the angels to the shepherds near Bethlehem, proclaiming the birth of Christ, and praising God’s glory and the blessings He bestows on people who are of good will because of His blessings. The second part consists of five praises and one thanksgiving to the Father. Third, we find five statements of praise directed at Jesus – and note that these praises are prayed not in the past tense but in the present. They are about Christ as He is today and always. Finally, it ends with an accolade to the Holy Trinity. Together, these four parts form a beautiful prayer of praise that flows from our hearts in poetic wonder. Now, let’s look at what has changed.
It begins as before: “Glory to God in the highest…” Then…
[Phrases in brackets are in the current translation, and are shown for reference.]
(1) “…peace to His people on earth.”
“…on earth peace to people of good will.”
(2) “…almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory”
“We praise you, we bless you, we adore you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.”
(3) “…only Son of the Father,”
[Lord God, Lamb of God…]
“Only begotten Son”
[Lord God, Lamb of God,]
“Son of the Father,”
(4) […you take away the sin of the world,
have mercy on us; you are seated at
the right hand of the Father:]
“…receive our prayer.”
“…you take away the sins of the world”
[have mercy on us;]
“…you take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer;”
[…seated…right hand of the Father,]
“have mercy on us.”
(1) The change to “people of good will” offers a far better description of the people we are speaking about (a people hopefully including us!). The phrase in Luke 2:14 actually states, “…and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” The words in the Gloria, more directly translated from the Latin original, reflect the effect His favor has on the people.
(2) The best explanation of this change is from the words of Fr. Paul Turner in his booklet, Understanding the Revised Mass Texts (© 2010, Liturgy Training Publications; p. 15): “The [shorter text] we had been singing probably abbreviated this section because it seemed a bit excessive. Now all the descriptions for God have been restored [emphasis mine, SAV], and the result is indeed excessive – but that is the point. We are so overcome with awe in the presence of God that we practically babble and stammer.” Fr. Turner goes on to say that the revision provides for “the overwhelming experience of meeting God in prayer.” ‘Nuff said.
(3) Once again, this revision offers a more profound concept, a direct translation of the original Fili Unigenite, expressing the immense holiness of this particular title of Jesus.
(4) The word order has been changed, once again to accommodate the Latin text. Note, too, the change from “sin” (singular) to “sins” (plural). The shift is from the sense of the generic sin of the whole world to the individual sins each of us is responsible for. In other words, the Gloria becomes not merely the prayer of the congregation, but a personal prayer as well.
5. The Liturgy of the Word
For the most part, little has changed in the Liturgy of the Word, with the exception of the Creed, which will be discussed in the next chapter. Only two revisions will affect the people in the pew. The others will affect only the presider and deacon, with changes to several of the silent prayers involved.
The two changes for the people are very simple. The first is “And with your spirit” in response to “The Lord be with you.” The second is the response to the announcement of the Gospel itself, changing from “Glory to you, Lord” to “Glory to you, O Lord.” The addition of “O” adds an additional note of respect to God. There is no change affecting the readings or the homily.
As Fr. Turner notes, “As some of the words for Mass change around you, the Word of God will keep you stable” (ibid).