“GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON EARTH PEACE TO PEOPLE OF GOODWILL.” We recognize this hymn as the song the angels sang on the very first Christmas night. But we also sing this hymn of praise every Sunday outside of Advent and Lent, and on every major Church of Solemnity.
Why is the Glory to God part of the Mass? The Gloria seems to stand out, as if the rest of the Mass is being interrupted by the Glory of God-or, more accurately, this is where the angels interrupt us.
We Join Them
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God” (335). We join them. Angels are constantly before the throne of God praising and giving glory. We were created to be there with the angels-eventually. In the meantime, the angels very kindly come here to be with us, to give us messages from God, to watch over us, and above all, to praise and glorify God with us.
At the Gloria, we stop to sing with the angels, to focus completely on God’s glory, to praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Right after the familiar line from Christmas, the Glory to God continues with a list or litany of five holy actions we are taking with the angels: “We praise you; we bless you; we adore you; we glorify you; we give you thanks for your great glory.” The hymn is all praise. It is what the angels do. They praise and glorify God. At this point at Mass, we join them in doing it.
The Gloria is a wonderful vehicle to use for teaching students about praising God, about the Mass, and about the angels themselves. Remind your students that “the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels” (CCC, 334) and they are involved when we are gathered for prayer, especially at Mass. Invite your students (and their angels) to sing the glory of God-not just to learn about this prayer of the Mass, but to sing and pray it as a prayer that can alone.
Peg Bowman is the director of music at Sacred Heart Parish in Marengo, Illinois. She is the author of dozens of catechetical books and articles, including the At Home With the Sacraments series from Twenty-Third Publications.
This article was originally published in RTJ’s creative catechist, November/December 2013.
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