Receiving Grace: Mozart’s Great Mass

51nbxoelzl-_ss500Becoming familiar with Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor (K.427) is a good way to both deepen one’s appreciation for WAM, especially his church music, but also to find a way into understanding the rich and ancient eucharistic liturgy of the western church. The Great Mass, composed in 1782/3, is unfinished* but the missing parts are often added for modern performances and recordings.

In the Great Mass we proceed in stages through music until we receive the grace of God in the Eucharist.

1. Kyrie (Chorus and Soprano: 0:00-7:37). Kyrie, eleison (Lord have mercy) is sung three times, followed by a threefold Christe, eleison (Christ have mercy) and by another threefold Kyrie, eleison. Here, like the Caanaanite woman in Matthew 15:22, we cry out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me!”

2. Gloria (Chorus, Sopranos, Tenor: 7:38-33:50). Here we praise God for his glory and thank him for the mercy offered to us through Jesus, who takes away the sins of the world.

3. Credo (Chorus, Soprano: 33:51-46:22). The text of the Nicene Creed reminds the worshipper that grace comes through the truth of a historical moment — that the one God was incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth and died on a cross during the prefecture in Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate. Because we believe, we come to God’s altar looking for his grace.

4. Sanctus (Chorus: 46:23-end). These are the final words of the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer, words placing the praise of the worshippers in unity with the angels in heaven.

[5. Agnus Dei. Not present in K. 427, an invocation to the Lamb of God is sung as the Host is broken. In this broken body and blood outpoured, God’s grace is now received.]

Enjoy this Arte broadcast (and this is a good recording on CD/MP3):

This is the Agnus Dei from the Coronation Mass:

* “The work is incomplete, missing all of the Credo following the aria “Et incarnatus est” (the orchestration of the Credo is also incomplete) and all of the Agnus Dei. The Sanctus is partially lost and requires editorial reconstruction.”


  1. Simply beautiful. Thank you.

  2. I love these posts, too. They remind me of the need for a better narrative for “apostasy” and “restoration” in our church, as works like these show me God’s active involvement in the world well before 1820.

  3. Thanks, Ronan! I haven’t had time yet to listen to Mozart’s Mass, but you inspired me to put on the Kyrie from Bach’s Mass in B Minor this morning, and I’m looking forward to some Mozart this afternoon. And thanks for the explanations!

  4. Thanks, Ronan!

  5. gorgeous. thank you!

  6. Aussie Mormon says:

    I may be showing my ignorance here, but what’s WAM?

  7. Aussie Mormon: “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.”

  8. Aussie Mormon says:

    Thanks! That makes sense. I knew his name, but wasn’t expecting his initials to be used there.

  9. There is a quote, variously reported and attributed to Karl Barth, that runs something like, “When the angels praise God in Heaven I am sure they play Bach. However, en famille they play Mozart, and then God the Lord is especially delighted to listen to them.”

  10. I certainly can’t speak for God, but I was delighted to listen to this.

  11. Young Ham says:

    I love them all!
    Thank you.

  12. This is very valuable spiritual guidance in an increasingly darkening moment. Thank you.

  13. WAM is the pop group formed by Mozart and Andrew Ridgeley.

  14. james needham says:

    I tired Mozart after reading this. This might take some time to grow on me. For all who need a faster way to awe through music. Try this,
    Erbarma dich. Absolutely wonderful. Read the lyrics in English side by side the German.

    Erbarme dich, mein Gott,
    um meiner Zähren willen!
    Schaue hier, Herz und Auge
    weint vor dir bitterlich.
    Erbarme dich, mein Gott.
    Have mercy, my God,
    for the sake of my tears!
    See here, before you
    heart and eyes weep bitterly.
    Have mercy, my God.

    This is Peter after having betrayed Jesus. (St. Matthew Passion, Bach)

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