As many of you are aware, the Church is implementing a new translation of the Roman Missal, and the language of some of our most familiar prayers will change. The work of re-translating these prayers from Latin is one that every language around the world is dealing with. New translations of the Roman Missal into French, Spanish, Italian, etc., are currently being made. For us English speakers in the United States, this new translation will be fully implemented this Advent. However, we will begin this transition in stages, beginning September 17th with our Sunday Masses, when we will start singing the new translation of the Gloria.
At its heart, the Gloria celebrates the Incarnation of the Son of God, who for our sake became a human being. The first line of the Gloria echoes the angels’ song on that Christmas night: “And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’” (Luke 2:13-14). The USCCB website has a good commentary that explains the four specific changes in the Gloria:
- The current Gloria reads, “peace to his people on earth,” which the new text expands to “on earth peace to people of good will.” Some versions of the Bible render Luke 2:14 as “on earth peace, good will toward men.” The new translation of the Gloria is a richer reference to the fact that the Messiah’s coming brings the world a higher order of divine peace that only the incarnate Son of God can bestow. Those who live in accordance with God’s will and receive His grace shall experience the fullness of this peace.
- After this initial exclamation of praise, the Gloria then offers ways in which we should pay homage to God. We currently sing “we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.” The original Latin text offers five successive ways in which we pay this homage to God: “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory.” In a general sense, it is true that these all convey the same idea of worshiping God. But liturgical prayer is enhanced by poetic repetition, and these five descriptions of worship do hold subtle distinctions. Together, they combine to express the extent to which it is our Christian duty to give “glory to God.”
- In the current Gloria, we addressed Jesus as the “only Son of the Father”. The newer Gloria adds “Only Begotten Son” recovering the Latin “Fili Unigenite”, a venerable title of Jesus Christ, which speaks of the fact that the Son of God comes forth from the Father, yet is no less an eternal Person of the Divine Trinity.
- Finally, in the current Gloria, we entreat Jesus two times: “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.” The new Gloria has three supplications, thus featuring the classic threefold structure “have mercy on us… receive our prayer… have mercy on us” that we find in the Kyrie and Lamb of God. So the new Gloria reads, “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.”
Overall, while some words in the Gloria are changing, the message is the same: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.” (Gal 4:4-5).