The Gloria as Spirit-filled worship

Perhaps the liturgy of the Mass is not the first thing to come to mind when we think of Spirit-filled worship. Perhaps the whole idea of being led by the Spirit in worship seems to identify something spontaneous, and maybe a little bit chaotic. So it must have been on the day of Pentecost: one theme (‘the mighty works of God’), many voices, and many languages. Yet one of the great gifts we have, in the Bible and from the early Church, is a language for praise that is Spirit-filled. Or, it might be more apt to say, we have a language for praise that invites the Spirit to fill us.

Some of this language comes directly from the Bible. Especially in the Psalms, we find words to express the whole range of our human experience. Feeling joyful? There’s a psalm (many psalms!) for that. Feeling desolate? There are plenty of psalms for that as well. The Bible and the liturgy meet us in all those moments. But the Bible and the liturgy do not only give us words to express what we do feel. At times, in Mass and in prayer, we are called to express what we don’t feel, whether joy or sadness or even anger. Yet, we are not untrue to ourselves and our own experience: we transcend our own feelings and pray with the Church: we weep with those who weep; we rejoice with those who rejoice. The Gloria is no exception: we praise God, we bless God, we adore God, we glorify God and give God thanks, not because we feel like it, but because ‘it is right and just’. But how can we praise if we are desolate, or mourn if we are joyful? As St Paul writes, ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought’ (Romans 8.26). So as we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, let us ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, that we might join in exaltation with the whole Church as we sing, ‘Glory to God in the highest…’

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