Venerable Bruno Lanteri recommends these sentiments in his Spiritual Directory, “At the Gloria, that of the Angels.”
Background: Extraordinary Form of the Mass (Tridentine Mass)
Because Venerable Bruno wrote his preparation for the Tridentine Mass, it would be good to see what is going on at this point in the extraordinary form of the Mass.
The Latin-English Booklet Missal for Praying the Traditional Mass describes the Gloria as “the Church’s greatest hymn of praise.” The hymn celebrates the Trinity. The Gloria follows the “Lord, have mercy. … Christ, have mercy. … Lord, have mercy.” During a High Mass, the choir sings the Gloria while the priest sits. During a Low Mass, the priest stands at the altar, extends and then joins his hands, makes a slight bow, and recites the Gloria.
Lesson: How joyful am I at Mass?
When I worked on Christmas Eve in Corpus Christi, Texas, the various newspapers would have early deadlines to allow the delivery people to spend time with family. So I would leave the office at 9 p.m. instead of midnight.
I took the chance to attend the midnight Mass at the cathedral nearby. The Gloria moved me deeply. The choir sings with trumpets and organ. The melody was easy to sing to. I was lifted up by the music. For one moment, I felt that I was surrounded by those angels in the first Christmas night.
Venerable Bruno recommends having the sentiments of the angels. In Luke 2, the Virgin Mary gives birth to Jesus in the stable in Bethlehem. The first people to receive the news of the Messiah are shepherds. In certain times, shepherds had a bad reputation as outsiders and ruffians. At the very least, the shepherds stood for the poor and lowly. They, rather than the powerful, would receive the joyous news.
But the announcer would be an angel. In that pivotal moment, the outsiders would be in the inside. The angelic hosts would privilege the shepherds with a heavenly song of praise of God: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and good will among men.” Moved by the angelic message and song, the shepherds found the Holy Family. They found the Messiah, whom their hearts desire. “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Lk 2:20 RSV-CE).
The Mass returns us to that moment in Bethlehem. In the Penitential Rite, we had found ourselves on the outside because of our sins. But that’s NOT the end of story. It’s not. We the broken discover that we were actually in the inside. God has come. He has saved us. Jesus jumped into the midst of our brokenness. He took all that to himself so that he can unleash our healing. We aren’t excluded. We are welcomed and included.
Because the Mass connects us to the heavenly liturgy, we join the angels in singing that hymn sung in Bethlehem two millennia ago. How would you sing the Gloria? Wouldn’t you do it with full of joy because Jesus was right now with us. What if it’s difficult for you to sing the Gloria? Raise your heart and follow the melody. Allow yourself to be carried by the notes? Can you sense the joy inside the hymn?
Moved by that hymn, we like those shepherds seek the Lord, our Savior. And the first place is through prayer.
In the ordinary form of the Mass, the Gloria is included for Sundays, solemnities and feast days. Most weekday Masses usually don’t have it. How does that affect Venerable Bruno’s method? Aware of our sins from the penitential rite, we still seek out the Lord in prayer. An element of joy is missing, but there are other places for joy in the Mass.
Scripture passages for prayer:
- Luke 2:1-20: The angels greet the shepherds. Focus especially on verses 13-14.
- Revelation 7:9-17: What the angels announced was our future reality.
- John 15:9-11: Jesus desires us to have our joy full and complete.
- What is your favorite version and favorite part of the Gloria? And why?
- Was there a moment when you were once an outsider and found yourself suddenly as the insider?
- How is Jesus inviting you to share in his joy?