An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Gloria in Excelsis

“Glory in the highest,” a short hymn of praise to the Trinity. Its opening verse is based on the song of the angels to the shepherds at the time of Jesus' birth, as reported in Lk 2:14. It is known as the “Angelic Hymn.” It is also known as the “Greater Doxology,” distinguishing it from the Gloria Patri, the “Lesser Doxology.” It dates from the fourth century, and was the canticle for the morning office in the Apostolic Constitutions. It continues to be used in the morning office by the eastern churches. The Gloria became a part of the entrance rite of the Roman Mass in the twelfth century and was dropped from the Daily Office in the west. The Gloria was also used in the eucharistic entrance rite of the 1549 BCP, but later editions used the Gloria as a postcommunion prayer. This reflected the penitential emphasis of those editions of the Prayer Book. The 1789 American Prayer Book allowed the use of the Gloria instead of the Gloria Patri as an option at the end of the psalmody in the Daily Office, but that option is no longer allowed. The 1979 BCP restored the Gloria to its place in the eucharistic entrance rite (pp. 324-325, 356). The Gloria may be used from Christmas Day through the Feast of the Epiphany, on Sundays in Easter season, on all the days of Easter Week, on Ascension Day, and at other times. The Gloria is not used at the eucharist on the Sundays or ordinary weekdays of Advent or Lent (BCP, p. 406). The 1979 BCP uses the Gloria as canticle 20, “Glory to God.” It is printed in the Rite 2 service for Morning Prayer, it may be used for Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer, and it is suggested for use at Morning Prayer on Thursday except in Advent and Lent. The Hymnal 1982 provides various musical settings for the Gloria (S 272-S 281), including those by William Mathias (S 278) and Robert Powell (S 280).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.