After this I looked, & behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice. Revelation 7:9-10
The words are in a foreign language! Nobody speaks Latin anymore, at least not regularly as a native tongue. And yet, no matter what their native language, it seems that almost everybody sings the words: “Gloria in excelsis Deo!” as if they were our very own.
Indeed they are! And perhaps by them we can begin to get a picture of the heavenly harmony which awaits us because of the Good News the angels first proclaimed –whatever language they themselves used then, and whatever tongue we shall use when we join them, by God’s grace, in the eternal chorus.
Even now, we may use these familiar foreign words to remind ourselves that we’re not alone in our celebration, nor in our faith in Jesus Christ, which makes the celebration possible. “He died for all,” the Bible says, and that includes even people we cannot understand right now (for those who could not understand us), but whose needs are known, and are taken care of, by our one Lord who deserves the praise of all of us.
Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing over the plains,
And the mountains in reply echoing their joyous strains:
Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!
A note about the song. Although the Latin words: “Gloria in excelsis Deo” appear to
have been part of Christian hymnody since the 2nd century, the origin of this French carol
and its English translation are unknown.