Isn’t it amazing the impact that birthdays can have on us? It’s always fun to see the kids walk into school on their birthdays, almost always with a smile on their faces and a bagful of completely unhealthy snacks for their classmates. Birthdays mark a very special occasion. When we were conceived, we came into existence, and when we were born, we came into this world. So your birthday is more than just a day for cake (or moping, when we reach that age), but a celebration of the day when we first started to get to know you!
So what about Jesus Christ, the Son of God? Well, he was sort of born, and sort of not born. This is partly what we mean when we say in the new Gloria the titles “Only Begotten Son” and “Son of the Father”. These are ancient titles of Jesus that remind us that Jesus is both God and man, and how that is even possible.
The Son (by which I mean the second Person of the Holy Trinity) is God. And of course, that means that he is eternal – he has no beginning, and will have no end. “Begotten” is a technical word that the Church uses to explain the fact that the Son (who is God, by the way) comes forth from the Father (who is also God), but He is no less eternal, no less God, than any other member of the Holy Trinity.
And yet, the great mystery of Christmas, which we celebrate in just a few weeks, celebrates the fact that the eternal Son of God – who existed even before time itself, and who was there when the world was created, when Moses crossed the Red Sea, when King David slew Goliath, or when the Israelites returned from exile – became a man, a human being named Jesus, who had a birthday like us, and was born of his mother, Mary. This wasn’t some guy who was good enough that God decided to make a deity as well, nor a guy who tricked us into thinking he was human, but who was just God wearing a human being costume. This Jesus, who we praise in the Gloria, is 100% God and 100% man!
Much of the rest of the Gloria is the same, except for a few additions to make it sound more poetic and more closely imitate some of the Latin sentences. But it’s important to know how we’re praising God, even in single words like “begotten”.