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Short verse praising God and beginning, as a rule, with the Greek word Doxa

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Doxology. —In general this word means a short verse praising God and beginning, as a rule, with the Greek word Doxa. The custom of ending a rite or a hymn with such a formula comes from the Synagogue (cf. the Prayer of Manasses: tibi est gloria in soecula soeculorum. Amen). St. Paul uses doxologies constantly (Rom., xi, 36; Gal., i, 5; Eph., iii, 21; etc.). These earliest examples are addressed to God the Father alone, or to Him through (dia) the Son (Rom., xvi, 27; Jude, 25; I Clem., xli; Mart. Polyc., xx; etc.) and in (en) or with (sun, meta) the Holy Ghost (Mart. Polyc., xiv, xxii, etc.). The form of baptism (Matt., xxviii, 19) had set an example of naming the three Persons in parallel order. Especially in the fourth century, as a protest against Arian subordination (since heretics appealed to these prepositions; cf. St. Basil, “De Spir. Sancto”, ii-v), the custom of using the form: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost“, became universal among Catholics. From this time we must distinguish two doxologies, a greater (doxologia maior) and a shorter (minor). The greater doxology is the Gloria in Excelsis Deo (q.v.) in the Mass. The shorter form, which is the one generally referred to under the name “doxology”, is the Gloria Patri. It is continued by an answer to the effect that this glory shall last for ever. The form, eis tous aionas ton aionon, is very common in the first centuries (Rom., xvi, 27; Gal., i, 5; I Tim., i, 17; Heb., xiii, 21; I Peter, iv, 11; I Clem., xx, xxxii, xxxviii, xliii, xlv, etc.; Mart. Polyc., xxii, etc.). It is a common Hebraism (Tob., xiii, 23; Ps. lxxxiii, 5; repeatedly in the Apocalypse: i, G, 18; xiv, 11; xix, 3; etc.) meaning simply “for ever”. The simple form, eis tous aionas, is also common (Rom., xi, 36; Doctr. XII Apost., ix, x; in the Liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions, passim). Parallel formulae are: eis tous mellontas aionas (Mart. Polyc., xiv); apo geneas eis genean (ibid.); etc. This expression was soon enlarged into: “now and ever and in ages of ages” (cf. Heb., xiii, 8; Mart. Polyc., xiv, etc.). In this form it occurs constantly at the end of prayers in the Greek Liturgy of St. James (Brightman, Eastern Liturgies, pp. 31, 32, 33, 34, 41, etc.) and in all the Eastern rites. The Greek form then became: Doxa patri kai huio kai hagio penumati, kai nun kai aei kai eis tous aionas ton aionon. amen. In this shape it is used in the Eastern Churches at various points of the Liturgy (e.g. in St. Chrysostom’s Rite; see Brightman, pp. 354, 364, etc.) and as the last two verses of psalms, though not so invariably as with us. The second part is occasionally slightly modified and other verses are sometimes introduced between the two halves. In the Latin Rite it seems originally to have had exactly the same form as in the East. In 529 the Second Synod of Vasio (Vaison in the province of Avignon) says that the additional words, Sicut erat in principio, are used in Rome, the East, and Africa as a protest against Arianism, and orders them to be said likewise in Gaul (can. v.). As far as the East is concerned the synod is mistaken. These words have never been used in any Eastern rite and the Greeks complained of their use in the West [Walafrid Strabo (ninth century), De rebus eccl., xxv]. The explanation that sicut erat in principio was meant as a denial of Arianism leads to a question whose answer is less obvious than it seems. To what do the words refer? Everyone now understands gloria as the subject of erat: “As it [the glory] was in the beginning”, etc. It seems, however, that originally they were meant to refer to Filius, and that the meaning of the second part, in the West at any rate, was: “As He [the Son] was in the beginning, so is He now and so shall He be for ever.” The in principio, then, is a clear allusion to the first words of the Fourth Gospel, and so the sentence is obviously directed against Arianism. There are medieval German versions in the form: “Als er war im Anfang”.

The doxology in the form in which we know it has been used since about the seventh century all over Western Christendom, except in one corner. In the Mozarabic Rite the formula is: “Gloria et honor Patri et Filio et Spiritui sancto in saecula saeculorum” (so in the Missal of this rite; see P.L., LXXXV, 109, 119, etc.). The Fourth Synod of Toledo in 633 ordered this form (can. xv). A common medieval tradition, founded on a spurious letter of St. Jerome (in the Benedictine edition, Paris, 1706, V, 415) says that Pope Damasus (366-384) introduced the Gloria Patri at the end of psalms. Cassian (died c. 435) speaks of this as a special custom of the Western Church (De instit. coen., II, viii). The use of the shorter doxology in the Latin Church is this: the two parts are always said or sung as a verse with response. They occur always at the end of psalms (when several psalms are joined together as one, as the sixty-second and sixty-sixth and again the one hundred and forty-eighth, one hundred and forty-ninth and one hundred and fiftieth at Lauds, the Gloria Patri occurs once only at the end of the group; on the other hand each group of sixteen verses of the one hundred and eighteenth psalm in the day Hours has the Gloria) except on occasions of mourning. For this reason (since the shorter doxology, like the greater one, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, is naturally a joyful chant) it is left out on the last three days of Holy Week; in the Office for the Dead its place is taken by the verses: Requiem oeternam, etc. and Et lux perpetua, etc. It also occurs after canticles, except that the Benedicite has its own doxology (Benedicamus Patrem … Benedictus es Domine, etc.—the only alternative one left in the Roman Rite). In the Mass it occurs after three psalms, the “Judica me” at the beginning, the fragment of the Introit-Psalm, and the “Lavabo” (omitted in Passiontide, except on feasts, and at requiem Masses). The first part only occurs in the responsoria throughout the Office, with a variable answer (the second part of the first verse) instead of “Sicut erat,” the whole doxology after the “Deus in adjutorium,” and in the preces at Prime; and again, this time as one verse, at the end of the invitatorium at Matins. At all these places it is left out in the Office for the Dead and at the end of Holy Week. The Gloria Patri is also constantly used in extra-liturgical services, such as the Rosary. It was a common custom in the Middle Ages for preachers to end sermons with it. In some countries, Germany especially, people make the sign of the cross at the first part of the doxology, considering it as chiefly a profession of faith.


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