Lutheran Worship Part 5: The Hymn of Praise (Gloria in Excelsis or This is the Feast)
In the Kyrie, we pray, “Lord, have mercy upon us.” We know that, in Christ, God has shown His mercy to us. Thus, in the next section of the service we rejoice with the angels in singing to the triune God with special emphasis on the Son. On the night of Jesus’ birth, the angels offered their song of praise: “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”
On that occasion, they proclaimed the good news that God the Son had come in the flesh. Heaven had come down to earth! The infinite, timeless God had entered time contained in the flesh of a baby.
The hymn we know as the Gloria in Excelsis originated as a hymn sung to God the Father, and the lines praising the Son and Holy Spirit were added later. There are versions of this hymn in all the Divine Services found in our hymnal utilizing different music
and slightly different texts. This hymn is a true hymn of praise. First, it praises God according to the mystery of his nature, namely the Trinity, His almighty power, and “great glory.” More importantly, the hymn praises God for what He has done. We praise the Lamb of God who “takest away the sin of the world.” That is what is at the heart of praising God, proclaiming what He has done for us especially in the death and resurrection of Jesus, who was born of Mary for our salvation. In Christ, we have not only forgiveness but also fullness of life.
In Settings 1 and 2 of the Divine Service, an alternate Hymn of Praise is offered, “This is the Feast of Victory.” In the LC– MS, this hymn first appeared in the hymnal Lutheran Worship, published in 1982. “Drawing directly from the description of heaven in the Revelation to St. John, our voices are joined to that heavenly throng as we sing
with them: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ (Rev. 5:12)” (https:// www.lcms.org/worship/liturgy- parts) Many Lutheran congregations will use this hymn during the season of Easter.
During Lent, the Hymn of Praise is omitted. Lent is a time of fasting, repentance, and expectation as we await the celebration of our salvation on Good Friday and Easter. In a sense, the liturgy enters a time of fasting, when we refrain from certain parts of the service, including the Hymn of Praise. Our highest praises await the time of Easter as we celebrate our Lord’s victory over sin, death, and Satan. Next month, we consider the Salutation and Collect of the Day.
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