10 December 2008

Gloria in Excelsis and Advent

This is not a rant against liturgical tradition nor is it a potshot against the rubrics of the Lutheran Service Book, nor is it a troll to stir up strife among the liturgical cathari.  I am sincerely seeking honest discussion.  The rubric of LSB for the Gloria in Excelsis states "During Advent and Lent, the Gloria in Excelsis is omitted."  (I'm quoting from the rubrics for DS 3 and note in passing that TLH had no such rubric at this point.)

My question is "Why?"  Is it simply a kind of "liturgical fast" from the Gloria so that it can be heard with renewed vigor at Christmas/Easter?  

In the past years under the discipline of LW, I dutifully substituted a stanza from O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, as stated by that hymnal's rubrics.  This year, after the first Sunday of Advent (using DS 3 as is our custom during Advent/Christmas/Epiphany), I made the radical pastoral decision to (gasp!) disregard the rubric (mea culpa!) and forge ahead with the Gloria in Excelsis.  

Practically, it sounded terrible going straight from the bare three-fold Kyrie to the chanted Salutation and Collect.  Clearly something had been sawed off.  The Gloria is the ordinary hymn of praise for the service of the incarnate Word.  I know it's a relative late-comer into the liturgy, but it has been around for at least 1400 years, so it's hardly an innovation.  

Liturgically, I don't approve of the idea of making any Ordinary into an option.  This encourages liturgical mischief.  

Pastorally, it makes no theological sense to remove the angelic song of the Incarnation on any Sunday, much less a Sunday in a season of preparation to celebrate the feast of the Incarnation. 

If every Sunday is a little Easter, isn't every Sunday also a little Christmas?  (I'm going to ask the same thing about the suppression of Alleluia in Lent, but we'll wait for the -gesima Sundays to take up that one.)

I'm going to refrain from commenting, but will eagerly await any insights and discussion.

wmc


25 comments:

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

I am not really bothered by rubrical changes with the seasons so am probably not qualified to answer your questions objectively. Generally speaking, the change in seasons allow for various emphases to come through such as joy at the Incarnation and Resurrection which are part of salvation. During Advent and, moreso in Lent, the mood is tempered so that more attention might by applied to repentance and preparedness. I am not sure as to the exact reasoning of the omission of the Gloria in Excelsis at Advent although I could see how this hymn of rejoicing by the angels at the Incarnation might detract somewhat from an emphasis on the Lord's Second Coming (beyond the obvious solemn aspects of Advent). The liturgical year serves the church so that while Sunday (ie, Resurrection, "little Easter") reigns there is room for other scriptural and traditional emphases to manifest themselves, such as these seasonal rubrical changes. I would say then that the omission of the Gloria in Excelsis during Advent might seem to undermine the Incarnation but only superficially. Maybe it is because I do not equate the tone of Advent and Lent with undermining either the Incarnation or the Resurrection, especially since both are spelled out clearly in the Sunday readings and in the Sunday Eucharist. (Now as to the history of this rubrical change I have no answer though it is good to know.)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

You are right in noting that there is this horrid transition from the Kyrie to the prayer of the day - like an unresolved chord, and we are left waiting for something.

Hmmm. . . left. . . waiting. Waiting, dare I say, in hopeful expectation of our Lord's arrival? At least this is how I always understood it.

William Weedon said...

First, to clarify:

From *The Lutheran Liturgy*, General Rubrics (p. 420):

The Gloria in Excelsis shall also be used in all services of Worship in which the Administration of Holy Communion takes place, except that in this it may be omitted during the Seasons of Advent, Pre-Lent, and Lent.

Thus it was a permissive rubric in TLH to omit it during Advent.

Second, the gaping hole that is felt is remedied by restoring at that point a nine-fold Kyrie. One can use #944 (as we do at St. Paul's) or simply use the Kyrie as printed, but sing it three times. This also was an option under *The Lutheran Liturgy* see again page 420.

Third, the point of dropping the Gloria is above all to mark Advent as a season of penitence: fasting and prayer.

My $.02.

William Weedon said...

P.S. Note Luther's rubric from FM (and that DM does not have a Gloria) "However the bishop may decide to omit the latter [the Gloria] as often as he wishes." AE 53:23

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

The omission of the Gloria may seem glaring to you if you aren't in the habit of doing it, since we are all creatures of habit.

But if I'm not mistaken, it has plenty of precedent, particularly during Advent and Lent.

It is also customary to omit the Gloria during Low (i.e. spoken) ferial masses even during Ordinary time.

Such masses also customarily have a ninefold kyrie.

wmc said...

The omission of the Gloria may seem glaring to you if you aren't in the habit of doing it, since we are all creatures of habit.

I have done it for 16 years.

Vicar Josh Osbun said...

Consider this:

The church year itself reflects the life of Christ. Advent is the time of the prophets. Christmas is the time of the nativity. Epiphany is the time of revelation to the world, beginning with the arrival of the Magi and concluding with the Transfiguration. Advent is the time of travel to Jerusalem. Holy Week is the week in Jerusalem. Good Friday is the crucifixion. Holy Saturday is the Sabbath. Easter is the resurrection. 40 days later is the ascension. 10 days after that is Pentecost. Then the church enters its period of common time wherein our readings focus more upon the teachings of Christ than on specific events in His life. The church year concludes with Christ's return.

Since, then, the church year reflects the life of Christ, it is appropriate to omit the Gloria in Excelsis in Advent because it hasn't been sung yet in the life of Christ. Since it is the hymn that announces the birth of the Savior, it is appropriate to omit it during the season of Advent, since this is a time of preparation for the birth of the Savior.

Rubrics did not come about just because someone decided to do it on a whim one time and then everyone else followed suit. There is always a logical explanation, and it might be more beneficial to understand the misunderstood rubrics before deciding to omit them outright.

Rev. Robert Franck said...

I think every church I have attended or served has omitted the Gloria in Advent as well as in Lent. It seems a salutary practice to me. In fact, I think that is the only modifcation to the liturgy for Advent. It helps to have a bit of ebb and flow, fast and feast, to help mark the times and seasons. I'm pretty sure this is the practice in the Roman Catholic Church as well.

Among Lutherans, some Scandanavians have a tradition of NOT omitting the Gloria in Advent.

Pr. H. R. said...

As our Confessions note, ceremonies are for teaching the people. It's for this reason that I value such seasonal changes in the liturgy. Dropping the Gloria in Advent teaches:

* That Advent is different, it's a special time.
* That Advent is a time of fasting
* That there is a time for rejoicing, and a time to mute our rejoicing somewhat

We also have a local tradition of varying the preparation by season. During Advent, Pre-Lent, and Lent we use the longer, Melanchthon authored "Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer". . .

We also veil the images and crosses right after the Gospel reading on Judica and unveil them at the Vigil, drop Alleluia for pre-Lent, etc., etc. I relish any opportunity for such visible, tangible teaching tools that help the people gain the rhythm of the Church Year and see that there is a rhyme and reason to it.

It's not necessary, of course, that all our local customs in this regard be uniform - and I would love to hear what others do as well in this regard as I'm always looking for such things to teach the people. . . but I draw the line at hoisting a papier-mache Jesus up through a hole in the ceiling on Ascension Day, which I hear tell was popular in the Middle Ages.

+HRC

wmc said...

Ah, you guys have me convinced on this one. The Gloria in Excelsis looks like the least ordinary of the Ordinaries. (I'm not going to worry so much about "This is the Feast" in Easter anymore.)

I'm going back to a stanza of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, as prescribed in LW. It has become a liturgical habit with us for the past 16 years, but we were suffering from the loss of canticle #1. Most know it by heart anyway.

Thanks for the input.

wmc said...

It occurred to me this morning (I don't know why it didn't occur to me sooner): What about the Litany in place of the Kyrie and the Gloria in Advent/Lent? The LItany has lots of Kyrie in it and we don't get to use it much. I miss the sung Litany in LSB; I know it's buried somewhere, but you have to print it out if you want to use it.

Rev. Rick Sawyer said...

It occurred to me this morning (I don't know why it didn't occur to me sooner): What about the Litany in place of the Kyrie and the Gloria in Advent/Lent?

We do this on the first Sunday in Advent every year, and I'd considered doing it all Advent, but didn't. We also use the Litany during the prayers at our Lenten Vespers. We chant it here, so LSB's inclusion of only the spoken form in the pew edition troubled me. We broke out our reserve LW's at first. Then I got the Service Builder and this year I printed the Litany out in our bulletin. A single legal size sheet, printed on landscape, front and back, will accomodate the Litany with music as well as the rest of the service and announcements. Took some time to get the Litany arranged for that, but if anyone wants, I'm happy to send the Word file for your own tweaking. Might save some time on your part.

wmc said...

I'd love to have that! PDF please. I wish CPH would offer this without having to get Service Builder, for which I have no use.

Rev. Rick Sawyer said...

It's on its way, Bill. Enjoy.

PMagness said...

The Litany is a great option during penitential seasons. We use it each year on the First Sunday in Lent.

For Advent, I never really considered a stanza of Veni Emmanuel to be a Canticle, like LW did. But it did inspire me to take advantage of our freedom in the Gospel and insert a different hymn in its place: Jaroslav Vajda's "Light the Candle". An acolyte lights the appropriate at the beginning of each stanza as we sing one stanza the first Sunday in Advent, two stanzas the second, and so on. After a few years, folks really get the words down to this hymn, and I must admit it was quite touching this morning to watch one of our acolytes sing while lighting the candles.

This hymn flows nicely out of the Taize Kyrie in LSB, which we use with the ektene from DS I/II. So, for example, this morning our entrance rite was an Introit, Kyrie-I, and then the Advent Candlelighting Hymn mentioned above.

Some might question using a hymn here, I suppose, but I think the sequence of Introit-Kyrie-Advent Hymn is more satisfying than Hymn-Kyrie, which is a more ordinary practice in our circles than Introit-Kyrie during Advent. (IOW, this way you don't have to throw out the Introit in order to 'make room' for an Advent hymn.)

I think the ninefold Kyrie is also an excellent practice. I wish LSB had included the Kyrie from the Orbis Factor. That chant is one of the few strengths of ELW vis a vis LSB, IMHO. Perhaps the Commission will add that and other options for the Kyrie to the LSB Electronic Edition in the future.

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

The chief reason for omitting the Gloria in Excelsis during Advent and Lent (as well as at other times) is that it has been the custom of the Western Rite to omit the Gloria at any Mass that was celebrated in Violet vestments.

A particular case in point is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. This day is celebrated in Violet vestments when it falls during the week; but when it falls on Sunday, red vestments are used and the Gloria is sung. If this feast is celebrated with its historic octave, even if the feast itself fell during the week, the octave day is always celebrated in red vestments and with the Gloria.

If we follow the historic Western use there is no need to debate the omission of the Gloria at certain times of the year.

Vicar Josh Osbun said...

Deacon Muehlenbruch,

We do not hold onto rites and rubrics simply because that's the way it has always been done. There must be understanding, or else the ceremony is useless. Augsburg XXIV states, "For ceremonies are needed for this reason alone, that the uneducated be taught what they need to know about Christ." If you cannot explain how the rite teaches about Christ, then the rite holds no place within Christ's divine service.

So to say that "the chief reason for omitting the Gloria in Excelsis during Advent and Lent . . . is that it has been the custom of the Western Rite to omit the Gloria at any Mass that was celebrated in Violet vestments" is to say that understanding of this rubric is not necessary, but it is simply to be done because that's how it's done. That makes the rite an act of vain repetition and therefore worthless.

We preach Christ crucified, not just in our words but in our actions as well. Do these things because they point to Christ, not because they are written in red.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

The deacon provides the reason behind the Western Rite and demonstrates how this is practiced at the Mass of the Holy Innocents. The vicar cites the confessions which state that ceremonies are needed that the uneducated be taught what they need to know about Christ. We see that there is both a reason given behind the practice of the Western Rite and that the ceremonies teach Christ ("We preach Christ crucified, not just in our words but in our actions as well.") Since our actions (ie, rubrics) reflect what we believe and vice versa (something I think the deacon would not argue) I suggest revising the vicar's conclusion to say, "Do these things because they point to Christ, because they are written in red." (ie, His blood). Maybe this can help to calm our fears about rubrics.

wmc said...

That the Gloria in Excelsis is omitted because the color of the season is violet is an observation not an explanation, which, if I understand the deacon correctly, is to say that rubrics are to be observed not explained or understood.

In other words, we do this because that's what we do.
This will greatly simplify liturgical catechesis.

wmc said...

"Do these things because they point to Christ, because they are written in red." (ie, His blood).

Interesting reasoning going on here.

We do them because that's what we do.
We do them because they're written in red.

Actually, in my copy of TLH, the rubrics are written in black. Are these then actually rubrics?

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

Although the deacon said "the chief reason" I guess his post may be taken by the reader as an observation and not as an explanation.

Nevertheless, the use of colors, rubrics, liturgical actions, do not equate with ex opere operato (ie, "an act of vain repetition and therefore worthless"). One ought not find a problem with doing as liturgical catechesis (lex orandi, lex credendi). Nor does the doing lack meaning.

In short, my previous post was an apologetic for the use of rubrics. (ie, say the black, do the red). I hope that there is no need for explanation.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

"Do these things because they point to Christ, because they are written in red." (ie, His blood).

is NOT:

"Do these things because they point to Christ, not because they are written in red." (ie, His blood).

Please lighten up about the color of the print . . .

If your hymnal has black rubrics they would not be called "rubrics" but they might be called "aterubrics." ;-)

wmc said...

Please lighten up about the color of the print . . .

What about Gothic typeface?

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

Only on parched paper.

wmc said...

Only on parched paper.

The paper has to be thirsty?