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    "Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker." 
                Psalm 95:6

Seventh in a Series–

A Section of Prayer and Praise

The Introit

There is symbolism in our liturgy. The actions and reactions of the worship leader and the worshipers are often determined by symbolic purpose. For example, when the leader in God’s stead invites the congregation to confess their sins, he faces them. When they respond with the confession, the leader joins them, indicating this by turning to the altar. When the leader proclaims the forgiving love of God, speaking for God he again turns to face the people. So also, when the congregation is invited to pray, the leader faces the people, but during the prayer he joins them and turns toward the altar.

The next part of our worship service, the Introit, is accompanied by such symbolism. Centuries ago the part of the service up to the Introit was carried on by the leader standing at the entrance to the chancel area. This was symbolically done to emphasize that we, as sinners, need to be cleansed of our sin before we enter into the presence of God. Having confessed their sins, the worshipers were assured that through God’s forgiving love in Christ they were cleansed of their sins. Now they could enter into His gracious presence to worship and to praise Him. The Latin word introitus means “a going in, entrance.” Thus, on behalf of the people, the worship leader proceeded to enter into the sanctuary. As he did so, the choir sang a psalm.

As time passed, the singing of the psalm was abbreviated, and finally the singing of it was discontinued entirely. Instead, a portion of the psalm was simply read. Furthermore, as time went on, the leader no longer remained at the chancel entrance during the confession of sins and absolution, but proceeded directly into the chancel area at the beginning. Thus the symbolism–which could be very meaningful–was essentially lost. The only explanation offered for this change was that the service was too lengthy (sound familiar?). Nevertheless, the preparation for worship through the confession of sins and the absolution very properly leads us to this section of prayer and praise.

Gloria Patri

“Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” Historically speaking, Part I of the worship service begins with the Introit. This portion of the service is devoted to prayer and praise. And so, having read the designated portion of a psalm, the congregation responds with the hymn of praise to the Trinity called the Gloria Patri (“Glory be to the Father”). This hymn is a very brief summary of such words of praise to the Holy Trinity as are found in Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

Glory–that is, adoration and praise–is the theme song of the Church, the people of God who are His in Christ Jesus throughout all ages. And so we sing “as it was in the beginning” of His church, it “is now, and ever shall be” as long as this world stands. His people will never cease in their proclamation of praise here in time and throughout the endless ages of eternity.

Both in this Ephesians passage and in our liturgy the concluding words are “world without end.” Once again, this is an unfortunate translation and not readily understood. It would be better translated (as many translators do), “forever and ever.” Our praise will swell to a magnificent crescendo on that final Day and will echo with endless reverberation throughout the halls of eternity “forever and ever. Amen.”

The Kyrie

“Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.” This short musical prayer is historically known as Kyrie Eleison (translated “Lord, have mercy”). It is abbreviated to “The Kyrie” in our hymnal. It might seem strange in the progression of the liturgy to once again be addressing the Lord and pleading for mercy. After all, we have previously confessed our sins and have been assured of His merciful, forgiving love. Is this nothing more than redundancy?

Actually, this prayer is a request that the mercy of God accompany us in every situation of life. In other words, this threefold petition for mercy is a recognition that we need the Lord’s mercy every second of our lives. We need Him to mercifully strengthen, comfort, guide, help, and uphold us as we step into the unknown future. With His mercy resting upon us, we are assured that the future will be filled with His blessings.

Part I is concluded with a final hymn of praise, namely . . .

The Gloria In Excelsis

“Glory in the highest” is the translation of the title of this hymn of praise to the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Other hymns such as 237 or 238 are often substituted for this hymn in the liturgy. Reasons for substitution include a desire for variety, as well as the fact that this hymn maintains some rather high notes which make it uncomfortable for some to sing.

More on the Gloria in our next article.

–Pastor L. Dale Redlin