Angels we have heard on high

I bet you look forward to singing “Angels we have heard on high” every year at Christmas Mass. It’s a great challenge for the whole family to get all 16 different “o”s in one breath! Kudos to all of you who can do it and still sing “in excelsis Deo” at the end. It’s no small feat, and the Willows Academy choir who sings this carol today will show you exactly how to do it. 

Did you know this hymn comes from deep in France? “Les Anges sur nos campagnes” (“the angels in our countryside”) narrated the Nativity as we hear it from the Gospel of Luke (2:8-15):

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

This inspired hymn was written by the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, England, James Chadwick. The hymn became very popular in the 18th century with the tune we know today. So I hope you’ll be prepared to sing each and every one of the “o”s in “gloria”!


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Rev. Francis J. Hoffman, "Fr. Rocky" is the Executive Director/CEO of Relevant Radio and a priest of Opus Dei.