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Experiencing the Mass: The Gloria (part 2)

Friday, January 20, 2023

by Fr. David M. Knight

View readings for today:

Dear Readers: Since the Church is presently engaged in a Eucharistic Revival, we thought it would be helpful to post excerpts from his booklet called Experiencing the Mass, for the next few weeks. (This is not a sales pitch. However, the booklet is available for order on this website for $5 per copy if you would like have a copy.)

“You alone...”

Modern sensitivity might react against the suggestion of exclusiveness in:

For you alone are the Holy One,

you alone are the Lord,

you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ.

A negative reaction here just means we are not paying attention to the words. We are not saying that Jesus (and by extension his Church) alone is holy. We are saying Jesus alone is the Holy One, as we will say later in the Creed that we believe in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”

People could wrongly interpret both of these statements, as if they said no one who is not consciously and officially a Christian could be holy, and that no figurative representation of the deity venerated by non-Christians could have sacred value. This would rule out the Great Spirit of the Native Americans, everything the Buddha stands for, and any inspiration drawn from the characterizations of the Hindu gods and goddesses, not to mention the values we recognize in Western civilization, artistically symbolized in the “idols” of the Greeks and Romans.

This interpretation put on the Creed would open Catholics to the accusation that we see no good in other churches, and do not recognize other Christian denominations as truly “Christian” assemblies. Both interpretations would be unjustified and false.

This is not the place to explain what is true and false, either in other religions or (on levels that do not involve dogmas recognized as belonging to the “deposit of faith”) in past or current Catholic teaching The bishops assembled for the Second Vatican Council addressed that issue in two documents which come to a head in a Council statement about non-Christian religions: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.” So truth and holiness are not limited to explicitly Christian beliefs and practices.[1]

What, then, does it mean to say. “For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ”?

In reality it is to proclaim the only valid basis for accepting the truth and goodness found in every religion and world view. The Gloria has moved its focus from the Father to the Son. The Jesus we are addressing here is the Second Person of the Trinity, whom John’s Gospel calls the “Word,” the Logos, the intelligibility of God and hence of everything intelligible. When the Father, in creating, says “Let it be!” he gives existence through the “Word” of his knowledge, the Son who is the Truth of all that is:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.[2]

As Word, Jesus is the intelligibility of creation. If he were not unique, there could be two different rational explanations of created reality. And whether they were incompatible with each other or just incomplete, there would be no one truth or explanation in which both were rooted. Fundamentally, there would be no unified explanation of the universe.

As it is, since the Word is One, Catholics believe that all worldviews and philosophies — Jewish, Roman, European, African or Oriental — are united and consistent in whatever truth there is in each one. Saying the Logos is One lets us say that all intellectual systems are basically one insofar as they are true. So we are open to the truth in all.

The word “catholic” (kata-holos) means “throughout the whole.” The One True God of the “catholic” Church is a “catholic” God. Since he is Creator of all, his unique truth and goodness are found “throughout the whole” of all creation, “from the rising of the sun to its setting.” We find and respect one Truth and Goodness — that of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the Way, the Truth and the Life — in whatever is authentically real. [3]

The exclusivity of “You alone...” is also inclusivity. It says Jesus contains, includes in himself all we are looking for. He is not a partial truth, a partial guide to a partial fulfillment. In him alone we have all we need and desire. “We may speak much, and yet shall want words. But the sum of our words is: ‘He is All’!”[4]

To proclaim, “For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High” is simply to affirm the One God, the monotheistic God of Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, who revealed himself to Abraham and Moses, the LORD of the First Commandment: Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.”

This is the only God we can love “with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength.” We cannot give our whole selves to a partial good.[5]

If God is not All Truth we cannot love him “with all our mind.” If he is not All Good, we cannot love him “with all our heart.” The Bread of Life is not one dish offered in a cafeteria line. It is All.

This is why Jesus can demand all for All.

John Paul II claims that Jesus gave a “new, specific form” to the First Commandment, and brought it down to an embraceable plan of daily living by re-phrasing it as “Come, follow me.” Jesus makes love of the infinite, unimaginable All concrete: “The way and at the same time the content of this [perfect love] consist in the following of Jesus.” On ground level. We follow the Word made flesh. We keep our feet on the ground, our eyes on Jesus, and we move in a human way toward the “breadth and length and height and depth” of infinite love.”[6]

“With the Holy Spirit...”

We end the Gloria by bringing things to a conclusion that is also a beginning — as Jesus brought his redemptive mission on earth to its glorious conclusion with the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which was the beginning of the mission of the Church.

We add the short phrase. “...with the Holy Spirit” to make the Trinitarian structure of the Gloria complete — because nothing in Christianity is complete without the inclusion of Father, Son and Spirit. Whenever God acts “outside of himself,” all three Persons act together, although in our human handling of this mystery of “plural unity” we associate the Father, Son and Spirit with different activities on our behalf.[7]

We say in Eucharistic Prayer IV that Jesus “sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father... so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full.”

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.... He will guide you into all the truth... and he will declare to you the things that are to come.[8]

The Gloria leaves the role of the Holy Spirit open-ended. And leaves us looking forward with expectant hearts to the “more” we will experience, both in the Mass and throughout life.

The Gloria ends as it began, with glory: “ the glory of God the Father. Amen!! This is the glory of God: Father, Son and Spirit, “three Persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendor, yet one Lord, one God, ever to be adored in your everlasting glory.” We end the Gloria as we will end every Eucharistic Prayer:

Through him, and with him, and in him,

to you, O God, almighty Father,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

is all honor and glory,

for ever and ever. Amen.[9]

In praising and thanking God through the Gloria we proclaim our identity; we proclaim the Good News; we proclaim the joy we find in both.

Questions for reflection and discussion:

  • Besides praise and thanksgiving, what does the Gloria do?

  • What does it mean to say that where the Creed is dogmatic, the Gloria is “kerygmatic”? What is the goal of each?

  • How do you explain that the apparent exclusivity of “You alone...” said of Jesus, is really the basis for respecting the truth and goodness in all religions?

  • Why does monotheism require the First Commandment and the First Commandment depend on monotheism?

  • If these questions are too abstract, reduce them to one: “What is so great about the Gloria?”

[1] See the Decree on Ecumenism, esp. nos. 3, 4 & 6, and the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, esp. nos. 1, 2 and 5. [2]Colossians 1:15-17. [3]Eucharistic Prayer III. [4] If anyone knows where this quote comes from, please tell me. [5] See Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:30. [6]Ephesians 3:18. See Benedict’s Encyclical “God is Love,” December 25, 2005, no. 6; and John Paul II, The Splendor of Truth, nos. 18-19. [7] See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 258. [8]John 15:36, 16:13. The previous version of the Eucharistic Prayer was, “to complete his work on earth and bring us the fullness of grace.” The point is not, “Which is better?” but “What nuances of meaning can we find in each?” If we pay attention to the words! [9] See the Preface for the Holy Trinity.

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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