Last week we introduced the Gloria Patri in our service to be sung after the Confession and Assurance of Pardon. For many people this is a standard and much loved song in worship – for many it is a strange and ‘liturgical’ memento.
The Gloria Patri (Glory to the Father) is used diversely in the different liturgical traditions (Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian) and is sometimes called ‘the lesser doxology.’ Scholars believe that its original use sprung from the early church ‘baptizing’ the familiar doxologies of the jewish synagogue and temple for Christian worship. They were predominantly used at the end of reciting or singing the psalms or New Testament canticles (eg. ‘Nunc Dimittis’ Luke 2:29-32) in the early church. (There are arguments for and against this desire to ‘christianize’ the psalms and canticles when used in worship.) This practice was rooted in the popularity of doxologies in the prayers of both synagogue and temple. The psalms themselves are full of examples (Psalm 8, 100, 135:19-21), with the whole psalter ending with the doxology of Psalm 150. The early christian doxologies were trinitarian, and were also a prominent part of the baptism liturgies. It is often thought that it came into vogue during the 4th and 5th centuries when the church was embroiled in theological controversies concerning the divinity of Christ. In this way it became a confession of faith like the Apostles or Nicene creeds.
The Doxology is most commonly found today in the form dating from Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost:
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.