This month we continue our simple study of the Divine Liturgy, and how it is the Word of God for you. Last month we looked at the Introit, and the Kyrie. This month, we learn about the Gloria in Excelsis and the Salutation. First, take a look at these portions of the Liturgy in the Lutheran Service Book, on pages 154 & 156, and on pages 187 thru 189.
GLORIA IN EXCELSIS
· The Gloria in Excelsis is Latin for “glory [to God] in the highest”.
· This is the Church’s song of the Angels’ Heavenly Chorus the night Christ was born. (St. Luke 2:14; St. John 1:29)
· Confident that God is merciful (having just sung the Kyrie) the Church joins with the heavenly hosts of angels in this hymn of praise.
· In the Gloria in Excelsis, the Church celebrates Christmas all year long. And we – along with the shepherds that first Christmas night – are invited to go and see Jesus. We do so in the Scripture Readings and the Sermon that follow.
· The Salutation is often misunderstood to simply be a greeting between the pastor and the congregation. This is because several years ago, the Church adopted a new version of the Salutation. We now have two versions: the “old”, and the “new”:
o P “The Lord be with you.” C “And with thy spirit.”
o P “The Lord be with you.” C “And also with you.”
· Why the new version? Because of something called “Vatican 2”. Vatican 2 was a series of liturgical reforms the Roman Catholic Church enacted in the 1960’s. One reason for these reforms was an attempt to lessen the “separation” between the clergy and the laity. By the 1960’s, many Roman Catholic laymen were increasingly resenting the doctrine of the clergy’s “indelible character” (which was understood by the laity to mean that priests were less-fallible and more holy than they).
o Therefore, the congregation’s response to the Salutation was changed from “And with thy spirit” to “And also with you.” This change hoped to somehow “equalize” the clergy and the laity.
o Sadly though, this change has actually brought greater misunderstanding regarding called and ordained ministers (more on this below).
· You might be surprised to learn that Lutherans adopted the Roman Catholic reforms of Vatican 2. This is why we say “And with thy spirit” in the liturgies we used before Vatican 2, but say “And also with you” in the liturgies we’ve adopted since.
· However, we need to understand the Salutation rightly – as it was originally intended by Christ, and taught to our Christian ancestors of old:
o The “And also with you” response can easily be misunderstood to mean something like this:
§ P “I hope that you’re feeling the Lord’s presence at this time.”
C “We hope that you are, too, Pastor.”
§ Now, this is a good greeting. In fact, Christians should speak this kind of greeting to one another as often as they get the chance. But this is not what the Salutation is. The salutation is something different, something more.
o “The Lord be with you” is a greeting reserved for pastors to speak to laity, because it conveys God’s authoritative presence with His people; it’s more than just a well-intended greeting.
o And while pastors are certainly no more holy than laymen, they are set apart by God (via Ordination) to speak and to administer God’s Word to His people. Pastors are ordained so that God’s people may be assured that what they hear and receive from pastors is indeed from Christ, not men.
o “And with thy spirit” employs a key word that has great meaning for those who wish to be assured of Christ’s presence in our lives. It is intended to mean this:
§ P “The Lord is ever present with you for your forgiveness, life and salvation.”
C “We acknowledge that by the spirit of your ordination, you are speaking God’s truth to us (and not merely your opinion).”
· The following Scripture passages verify this teaching: St. Luke 10:16; 1st Timothy 4:14; 2nd Timothy 4:22.
§ Notice that when the congregation replies “And with thy spirit” that “spirit” is not capitalized. This is not a reference to the Holy Spirit, but rather to the “spirit of ordination”, as in 2nd Timothy 1:6-8 and 2nd Timothy 4:22.
§ Therefore, since the pastor’s words are not merely his hope or wish for you, but rather Our Lord’s act of proclaiming His presence with you, you may be assured, and mot merely hope, that: The Lord is with you.
· It may interest you to know that recently, the Roman Catholic Church has changed back to the original response, “And with thy spirit.” They have come to see that this response more clearly conveys the meaning of the Salutation.
§ And yet, we Lutherans currently have both the old and the new responses. Nevertheless – no matter which response we use – let us Lutherans firmly understand the true meaning of the Salutation: The promise of Our Lord’s presence with us – spoken by His authority, through the pastor.
Next time: The Collect of the Day, and the Readings from Holy Scripture