Revised 30 September 2008
What I am going to attempt here is to give you the words of the text in Latin and in English and then create an explanation of each piece using some citations from the participants and from experts in the field to make the words more meaningful to the neophyte.  The music of Bach speak for itself, but Bach has a few tricks up his sleeve for us that are hidden in his music.  If you aren't watching for it, you miss an important aspect of Bach's Mass. 

I'll give a brief over-view of Bach's life here, but will not attempt to write a history of his work as others have done so many times before and they are far more knowledgeable on the subject than am I.   If you wish to read more about the life and times of Johann Sebastian Bach, there are a number of books available through my bookstore.  In covering the text and music itself, I want to cite several sources published on the internet, including the great article by Timothy A Smith, and will include some comments from the performers, those who work behind the scenes and friends.  Rather than cite Mr. Smith directly, I will create a link over to his site so you can read the article for yourself as he has written an extensive evaluation of this work and gives some marvelous insight into the musical magic that Bach creates.  Please use your back arrow to return to this cite where links do not exist or do not yet work.

"Bach's music has lasted all these years because he gave God all the glory for his musical gifts.. At the bottom of each sacred work are the words-SOLI DEO GLORIA- to God be the glory." - Grace Arrowood, music teacher, West Virginia


Missa I


Kyrie eleison -  5 part chorus

Kyrie eleison

Lord have mercy upon us
Christe eleison - Duet for Soprano I and II

Christe eleison

Christ have mercy upon us
Kyrie eleison (II) -   4 part chorus 

Kyrie eleison

Lord have mercy upon us


Gloria in excelsis -   5 part chorus 

Gloria in excelsis Deo

Glory be to God on high
Et in terra pax -  5 part chorus

Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis

And on earth, peace to men of good will
Laudamus te - Soprano II aria 

Laudamus te, benedicimus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te.

We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we glorify thee
Gratias agimus tibi - 4 part chorus

Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam

We thank thee for thy great glory
Domine Deus - Duet for soprano I and tenor 

Domine Deus, rex coelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens. Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe, Altissime, Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris

Lord God, heavenly King, Father almighty, O Lord, the only begotten son, Jesus Christ Highest, Lord God, Lamb of God, son of the Father
Qui tollis peccata mundi - 4 part chorus 

Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram

Thou who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou who takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
Qui sedes ad dextram Patris - Alto aria 

Qui sedes ad dextram Patris, miserere nobis.

Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.
Quoniam to solis sanctus - Bass aria 

Quoniam tu solus sanctus, tu solus Dominus, tu solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe

For thou only art holy, thou only art the Lord, thou only, Christ, art most high.
Cum Sancto Spiritu  - 5 part chorus 

Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen

With the Holy Ghost in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Symbolum Nicenum (Credo) II


Credo in unum Deum - 5 part chorus

Credo in unum Deum.

I believe in one God.
Patrem Omnipotentem - 4 part chorus

(Credo in unum Deum) Patrem omnipotentem, factorem coeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium.

(I believe in one God) The Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
Et in unum Dominum - Duet for Soprano I and Alto

Et in unum Dominum, Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum, et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula, Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero, genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri, per quem omnia facta sunt, qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis.

And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by who all things were made: who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.
Et incarnatus est - 5 part chorus

Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria virgine, et homo factus est.

And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
Crucifixus - 4 part chorus

Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato, passus et sepultus est.

And was crucified also under Pontius Pilate, suffered, and was buried.
Et resurrexit - 5 part chorus -

Et resurrexit tertia die secundum scripturas, et ascendit in coelum, sedet ad dexteram Patris, et iterum venturus est cum gloria judicare vivos et mortuos, cujus regni non erit finis.

And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father: and he shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
Et in Spiritum sanctum Dominum - Bass aria

Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem, qui ex Patre Filio que procedit, qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur, qui locutus est per prophetas. Et unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, who prodeedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the Prophets. And I believe in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Confiteor - 5 part chorus

Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum

I acknowledge baptism for the remission of sins.
Et expecto - 5 part chorus 

Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen.

And I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Sanctus III


Sanctus - 6 part chorus

Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria ejus.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.

Osanna, Benedictus, Agnus Dei et Dona Nobis Pacem IV


Osanna in excelsis - 8 part double chorus

Osanna in excelsis.

Glory be to Thee, O Lord most high
Benedictus - tenor aria

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.

Blessed is he, who cometh in the name of the Lord.
Osanna in excelsis - 8 part double chorus

Osanna in excelsis.

Glory be to Thee, O Lord most high


Agnus Dei - alto aria

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Dona nobis pacem - 4 part chorus

Dona nobis pacem

Grant us peace.

Outside Bach links

Timothy A Smith article