The Story Behind The Gloria In Excelsis HymnAnd now as the Messiah of God, Emmanuel, Christ is born, it is the song of the angels that we hear. The day is dawning and fittingly the angels of heaven greet the coming morning of the day of redemption. ''Shepherds were in the field keeping watch over their flocks by night.
And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.' "
What a privilege to those humble shepherds to hear the angel band sing their ecstatic hymn on the plains of Bethlehem, announcing the grace of heaven to our sin-smitten earth! Well has it been called the "sweetest melody that ever echoed from the skies."
The Gloria in Excelsis, as we now have it and use it in our public worship, is built up as from a foundation on this angel song, which, when first sung, had as its hearers the adoring shepherds, who were keeping their flocks on the plains of Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born in the manger of the Nativity.
The anthem, which fully expressed the joy of the angels at the Nativity, was inadequate to express the feelings of the Church that worshiped the Crucified. For this reason, there was a gradual evolution of the Gloria in Excelsis, which, by the end of the fifth century, had been developed into a hymn which, with but slight variation, is used alike by Greek, Roman and Protestant believers all over the world. Its use confirms the creed in which we express our belief in the ''Communion of Saints."
The seed of the song is the chant of the angels; the fruit of its fuller expression, the communion of the saints who worship the Triune God who have boldness and joy in their approach through the Christ of Bethlehem, the Saviour of the world. Henceforth we will sing the "angels' anthem" with better understanding and find in it an unusual medium of true communion with the angels and the saints in heaven as well as the universal brotherhood of believers on earth.
THE GLORIA IN EXCELSIS LYRICS
Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill
toward men. We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship
Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great
glory, Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
O Lord, the Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; Lord God,
Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sin of
the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the
sin of the world, receive our prayer. Thou that sittest at the
right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.
For, Thou only art holy; Thou only art the Lord; Thou
only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the
glory of God the Father. Amen.