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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Friday, September 30, 2011
27th Sunday of the Year – 2nd October 2011
Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Yes they do, but they don’t sing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth.” As we have already seen, one of the biggest changes is in the words of the Gloria. Indeed the text has changed so much that composers have written new musical settings and revised existing ones for it. The first change is to the words of the angels - “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.” As before, the guiding principle is to let the English express more literally the sentiments of the Latin original. Thus we previously referred to whom the people belong while the new one describes their quality. The new translation is more faithful to the original Latin, better connects with Luke 2:14, and challenges us to be of good will if we are to receive God’s peace as opposed to receiving it just because He made us.
The next section is also different – “We bless you, we praise you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.” The shorter text we used previously was abbreviated because the truer translation seemed a bit excessive. Now that all the descriptions for God have been restored, the result does seem a bit excessive – but that is precisely the point. We should be so overcome with awe and wonder in the presence of the Lord that we gush vocally. In the presence of earthly beauty we struggle to find the correct words and so by meeting God in prayer we are bound to search for words to describe the experience. The third section reads, “Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.” The previous version again showed an economy of words although it expressed exactly the same dogma – namely, that Jesus is the only Son of God. The new version has more capital letters because they exist in the Latin – Fili Unigenite. Since the Latin uses only one word for “Only Begotten,” when it is translated into English, both words are capitalised to emphasise the sanctity of this title of Jesus.
Referring to the sins of the world, the phrases appear in a different order to reflect the order in Latin. In addition, we now speak of sins in the plural. This is to help us understand that Jesus did not come just to take away the general principle of sin but he takes away and forgives individuals their personal sins. And, you’ve guessed it; in Latin the word referring to our transgressions is plural. The rest of the Gloria remains the same and the whole prayer is longer than our previous version. By the way, there are 84 shopping days until Christmas.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:39 am