Dear Fellow Parishioners,
Last week, in our continuing tour of the Mass, we completed our discussion of the Penitential Act, and began our discussion of the Gloria. I will pick up from there.
Gloria, continued: The Gloria was used for personal prayer at least as early as 375 A.D., and possibly earlier. (This is very early, considering that the Nicene Creed was officially adopted only 50 years earlier; baptism “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit was not defined until the First Council of Constantinople in 381.)
The Liber Pontificalis (biographies of the Popes from St. Peter to the 15th century) says that Pope Symmachus (+514) called for the Gloria to be sung every Sunday and on the feasts of the martyrs.
Now, the Gloria is recited or sung principally on Sundays during Ordinary Time, and on solemnities and feasts. It is not recited during Advent or Lent, because these are penitential seasons. Since the Gloria was a fixed part of Christian worship long before the Protestant Reformation, it is prayed in several ecclesial communities, including Anglicans/Episcopalians, some Lutherans and others as well.
Opening Prayer or “Collect:” The word “collect” in this context has two meanings: (1) the intent to “collect” the assembly and (2) the intent to “collect” the prayers and intentions of the entire congregation into a single, shared prayer.
Who is being addressed? This question, crucial to all prayer, reminds me of a true story. Bill Moyers, the famous public television commentator and White House Press Secretary to President Lyndon Johnson, was also a Baptist minister. On one occasion, Moyers was asked to say grace before a meal in the family quarters of the White House. As he began praying softly, the President interrupted him with “Speak up, Bill! I cain’t hear you!” Moyers stopped mid-sentence and without looking up replied, “I wasn’t addressing you, Mr. President.”
A traditional Roman collect is carefully constructed and almost always addresses God the Father. It contains (1) an invocation that names God; (2) a phrase that amplifies who God is or what God has done; (3) a petition that names the request; (4) a purpose that expresses the goal of the request; (5) a motive that clarifies the reasonableness of the petition; and (6) a conclusion indicating the mediation of Jesus Christ (and at times, the Holy Spirit). Next week: The Liturgy of the Word.
Fr. Bill Donahue