Friday, December 18, 2009

Angels we have heard

Gloria in excelsis Deo! No, the angels of Christmas Eve are not here a week early; it is what happened in our own church this past weekend as the bags and boxes of gifts accumulated under our sharing tree. Glory to God in the highest is what was given by each and every act of generosity, and Glory to God in the highest is what we proclaim when we unite in His work as the Body of Christ on earth.

Et in terra pax hominbus bonae voluntatis, for this is the fruit of doing the work of Glory. You should have seen all the gifts that were piled up; each and every one of them will touch a heart with peace, for it is the result of human care for another. And on earth, peace to men of goodwill: God’s glory and the service thereof result in peace, and that peace will take hold of all who are willing to receive it.

So, my thanks to all who participated in this glorious work, and Doris Poole, Kellie Hanrahan, Lizanne Ganiban, and all who worked so hard to give us this opportunity to live our Christian love.

Gloria in excelsis Deo! Everybody, not only Catholics, knows this opening of the Angelic Hymn in Latin. These lines we sing or say after our penitential beginning of Mass are the angel’s greeting to the shepherds that holy night, and Latin is the language of the Church who sings it into our own day. Since I’ve been writing lately of some of the things that the Second Vatican Council forty-five years ago changed about our celebration of the Mass, we should note that Latin too has virtually disappeared.

Except, of course, that was not what the Church wanted, or asked for. Sure, we’re allowed to use English here in the US – or Spanish or Vietnamese or whatever we speak -- insofar as it helps us understand or participate in certain texts of the Mass, especially the Scripture readings. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and "the common prayer," but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down. But did you know that the very next sentence is of this Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy is: Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass that pertain to them. (Article 54)

So, for more than ten years, here at Saint Bernadette, during Advent and Lent we have used the simple, unadorned Gregorian Chant for those parts of the Mass we say every day, the meaning of which we all know in the language of our hearts. We also during the rest of the year sing that same Gloria in the setting known as “the Mass of the Angels,” in Latin, but familiar to us all. The beautifully sung Ave Maria everyone wants at funerals and weddings is only a small part of our Latin-language inheritance we all treasure. This is the treasure we need to maintain.

Dona nobis pacem. This is our prayer at every Mass, and especially poignant as we move closer to the feast of the arrival of that Peace. Grant us peace! We pray; God hears us, and sends His Son. Deo gratias!

Monsignor Smith