Why isn’t the "Gloria" sung during Lent?

Posted by Alice L. Camille
Friday 02, March 2012 | Category:   Liturgy,Liturgy

Gloria

Let’s start with some basic rules of liturgy set down by the Second Vatican Council in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. The aim of liturgy is to serve the need to worship God in “full, active, and conscious participation” (no.14). The rituals in the Mass should therefore bear a “noble simplicity” that is “within the people’s powers of comprehension” (no.34). The unfolding of the church year with its various feasts and seasons seeks to do that by revealing “the whole mystery of Christ” from Incarnation to Pentecost in due season (no.102). The church is to be particularly directed toward feasts of the Lord that point to salvation (no.108).

In other words, a huge principle in ritual is to move up and down a sliding scale of magnificence so that it will be clear to the youngest child what’s really important in the full spectrum of what the church believes. The Resurrection of Jesus is the number-one mystery Christians celebrate, so it’s enhanced with three days of intense liturgy (the Triduum), a full week of solemn commemoration (Holy Week), preceded by 40 days of penitential preparation (the season of Lent)—not to forget every celebration of the Eucharist of course.

Along with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to get ready for Easter, the church also fasts from saying or singing the word Alleluia (some traditions have even buried the Alleluia with great pageantry on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and “resurrected” it again at Easter) as well as singing the Gloria. As one perceptive music minister put it: The church doesn’t sing these great words during Lent for the same reason the church don’t sing Jesus Christ Is Risen Today—until we get there liturgically.

Just as the church refrains from the Gloria during Lent, it does the same during Advent, which is another great season of preparation for a greater mystery, the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. We don’t sing Christmas carols during Lent (not in church, anyway!), so we don’t sing the mother-of-all-carols, the song of the angels, until then. Gloria in Excelsis Deo is heaven’s response to the glorious birth of Jesus. If the angels can wait until that holy night to sing it, I suppose the rest of us can, too.

The Gloria is an exalted hymn which is not to be replaced by any other at that time in the Mass, so say the norms of the Roman Missal. It adds a “celebratory character” to the Introductory Rites that is better expressed sung than in recitation, and increased in collaboration with a full choir—reminding us of its debut performance. “To sing belongs to lovers,” as Saint Augustine once said. To yearn also belongs to lovers—which is why sometimes the church saves the song until its proper hour.

Scripture
Luke 2:14; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19; Acts of the Apostles 2:46-47

Online
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

Books
At the Supper of the Lamb: A Pastoral and Theological Commentary on the Mass by Paul Turner (Liturgy Training Publications, 2011)
Days of the Lord: The Liturgical Year, Vol. 2: Lent (Liturgical Press, 1993)

| ➕ | ➕

More questions...and responses

Sponsors
Sponsors

SOCIALIZE

Follow Us