Day 14: Sunday

Week Three: The canticle of the angels (the Gloria) – Luke 2:14


Day 14: Sunday



Angel with the words “Gloria in Excelsis Deo et in terra pax” by Dalziel Brothers

The names given to each of Luke’s Canticles are from the first word of each Latin Vulgate translation. Therefore the Gloria comes from Gloria in altissimis Deo, or “Glory to God in the highest…” The four canticles of Luke’s Gospel bookend the birth of the Christ Child. In Luke’s narrative, the Magnificat and the Benedictus are presented directly before the scene of Jesus’ birth, and the Gloria and the Nunc dimittis immediately follow. With the Gloria, therefore, the reader enters the latter portion of the four beautiful songs after the birth of Jesus, all of which point to the birth of Jesus.


Read Luke 2:9-14, the lines of which provide the context for the canticle of the angels. Read slowly, and listen with the “ear of your heart.” What stands out to you? Consider this and ponder it in your heart. Let it settle there. Savor it. Note it in your journal.


“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”


The Gloria. This one line in a melody of heavenly song – is a singular moment in the Scriptures, redolent of unfathomable beauty. It is distinguished from the other three canticles in Luke’s gospel by the of the nature of its cantors: the canticle is sung by angels, and not merely several, but a “multitude of the heavenly host.” Angels are the first to proclaim the good news of the Savior’s birth, an act that Luke clearly features in the rest of his Gospel. Darrel L. Bock, in his commentary on Luke, writes “All uses of the verb in the Gospels are found in Luke except one (Matt. 11:5; Luke 1:19; 2:10; 3:18; 4:18, 43; 7:22; 8:1; 9:6; 16:16; 20:1).” Angels are also the first to give praise to God after the Savior is born. To appreciate the short, choral structure of their one line of praise, it is helpful to think of their hymn as does Bock: “Angelic praise serves the same function literarily for Luke as do choruses in Greek dramas – they supply commentary. Thus, angels reveal to the shepherds through praise what the result of Jesus’ coming should mean. Heaven addresses earth about Jesus’ significance.”


The great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, wrote in his Magnum Opus, The Glory of the Lord (Vol 6), “The whole movement of revelation has as its goal to make image and glory coincide in Jesus Christ.” In Christ, God’s glory and man’s image meet. Through the ages, the Church has continued to sing the angels’ hymn. By the birth of Christ who restores all things in heaven and on earth (Eph., i, 10), angels and men, separated by original sin, are now reconciled; men may now hope some day to join in the angels’ hymns.


  • Listen to Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria. Meditate on the aspect of this song that stood out to you as you listen.   When you are finished, note any impressions which came to you in your journal.