The Gloria & Collect
by Father Kevin Kennedy
Father Kevin Kennedy is pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Russian Byzantine Catholic Church, administrator at St. Monica-St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in San Francisco and formation adviser and spiritual director at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University.
Glory to God in the highest.
Throughout our lives we sometimes need a reminder to get to the point or, in other words, to focus on what really matters. After the preparatory penitential act of the Mass, described in our last two articles, the gathered assembly gets “to the point” of the liturgy by offering praise and thanksgiving to God. We do this especially in the Gloria, a beautiful hymn which begins by repeating the song of the angels as they announced the birth of Jesus (Lk 2:14). This ancient doxology, which was gradually developed and enriched by various authors in the East, was originally sung at different times of the day, including liturgical celebrations (Byzantine matins). According to tradition, it was first inserted into the Mass for the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord, and later expanded throughout the Roman rite where it is now said (or preferably sung) on Sundays (except Advent and Lent), feasts and other solemn celebrations.
While singing the Gloria, the assembly addresses and exalts the Lord our God who is proclaimed as the heavenly King and almighty Father. We praise, bless, adore, glorify and give thanks to him. We worship the Father in and through Jesus Christ, who is himself also proclaimed as Lord and God, the only begotten Son of the Father and the Lamb of God.
The Gloria thus bears witness to the apostolic faith of the universal church (both East and West) regarding the mystery of Christ and the Trinity, and also of God’s creative, saving and sanctifying plan for all of humanity. We offer prayers and supplications to the Lord, repeatedly imploring his mercy and asking that he hear our prayer. Finally, we crown our joyful praise with the triple proclamation that Jesus Christ is the holy one, the Lord, the Most High.
The Gloria concludes with a reference to the third person of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. We thus praise God the Son made man, with God the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. In this exultant doxology we are reminded that the mystery of Christ; crucified, risen and glorified, is always made present to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is necessarily both a vertical and a horizontal dimension to our liturgical and sacramental celebrations. However, in the past 50 years many have observed that the vertical dimension of the Mass seems, at times, to have been significantly damaged if not altogether lost. In some circumstances, there has been a sense that the assembly has gathered in order to celebrate itself (a merely social event) as if it did not really matter whether God was mentioned or not. Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) warned against this self-destructive phenomenon, teaching that whoever elevates the community to the level of an end in itself is precisely the one who dissolves its foundations. “Worship then becomes a feast that the community gives itself, a festival of self-affirmation” (“Spirit of the Liturgy,” 22-23).
One of the great gifts of the ancient – and ever new – Gloria is that it provides a life-restoring antidote to the poisonous aberration in the liturgy described by Pope Benedict. The entire hymn is focused on God rather than the assembled congregation. Therefore, it lifts us up beyond ourselves, to the heights of self-transcendence and self-surrender that make true worship – and therefore entrance into the kingdom of God – possible.
The introductory rites of the Mass are brought to their conclusion by the collect, or opening prayer, which is the first of the presidential prayers of the Mass in which the priest, who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ, addresses God on behalf of all those present. The priest invites the congregation to pray. After pausing in order to allow this to happen, he then collects (or gathers together) the individual prayers of those present through the official oration of the church for that day. The collect is typically simple and brief. It is normally addressed to God with a particular intention and usually concludes through the mediation of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit: “Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.” The collect leads us into the Liturgy of the Word, which we will examine next as we continue our series on the Mass.