General Information

A doxology is a short prayer or hymn of praise that extols the glory and majesty of God. Well known doxologies include the Glory to God (Gloria Patri), the Glory Be (Gloria in excelsis), the Holy, Holy, Holy (Sanctus), and the Hebrew word Alleluia, which means "praise the Lord." Some verses of hymns, such as Thomas Ken's "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," are also called doxologies.

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General Information

A Doxology is a hymn or formula of praise to God. Many doxologies are found in the Bible, such as in Romans 16:27, Ephresians 3:21, and Jude 25; they are known as biblical doxologies. The "lesser" and "greater" doxologies are two responsive forms that originated in the 4th century and are now used in the liturgies of many Christian churches.

The lesser doxology is named Gloria Patri: "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

The greater doxology, Gloria in excelsis Deo, is an early church expansion of the song of the angels in Luke 2:14: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased." It is used in the Roman Catholic Mass, except during Advent and Lent and in certain Masses throughout the year, and in many Protestant services.

In the liturgy of the Church of England, the lesser doxology occurs at the end of psalms and canticles, and the greater doxology is used in certain seasons in the communion service.

A special doxology, the Trinitarian doxology, concludes the canon of the Mass by emphasizing Christ's mediatorship: "Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever."

The greater, lesser, and Trinitarian doxologies are known as liturgical doxologies.

The last stanza of a hymn by the English bishop Thomas Ken, beginning "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," is commonly called "The Doxology" in Protestant churches. In Jewish worship, several psalms and the Eighteen Benedictions close with doxologies.


Advanced Information

The term, which is derived from the Greek doxa (glory), denotes an ascription of praise to the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. In its commonest form, known as the Gloria Patri or "Lesser Doxology," it is rendered: "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." Its use at the end of the Psalms, as directed, e.g., in the Book of Common Prayer, dates from the fourth century. It is thus a symbol of the duty of Christianizing the Psalms and serves at the same time "to connect the Unity of the Godhead as known to the Jews with the Trinity as known to Christians" (Tutorial Prayer Book, p. 101).

The so - called Greater Doxology is the Gloria in Excelsis, "Glory be to God on high." On account of its opening words, taken directly from Luke 2:14, it is sometimes known as the Angelic Hymn. This doxology is of Greek origin (fourth century) and was used at first as a morning canticle. Later it became incorporated into the Latin Mass, where it occupied a place at the beginning of the service. In the English Communion Service of 1552 the Reformers transferred the hymn to the end of the office, no doubt in accordance with the usage at the first Eucharist: "When they had sung an hymn, they went out" (Matt. 26:30). In this position it forms a fitting conclusion to the Christian sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

It is now generally agreed that the doxology at the end of the Lord's Prayer is not part of the original text of Matt. 6:9 - 13. It may be regarded as an ancient liturgical addition to the prayer, which was adopted by the Greek church but not by the Latin.

F Colquhoun

(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)


Catholic Information

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 sæcula sæculorum. Amen). St. Paul uses doxologies constantly (Romans 11:36; Galatians 1:5; Ephesians 3:21; etc.). The earliest examples are addressed to God the Father alone, or to Him through (dia) the Son (Romans 16:27; Jude 25; I Clem., xli; Mart. Polyc., xx; etc.) and in (en) or with (syn, meta) the Holy Ghost (Mart. Polyc., xiv, xxii, etc.). The form of baptism (Matthew 28:19) 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 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 (Romans 16:27; Galatians 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 4:11; I Clem., 20, 32, 38, 43, 45, etc.; Mart. Polyc., 22, etc.). It is a common Hebraism (Tobit 13:23; Psalm 83:5; repeatedly in the Apocalypse 1:6, 18; 14:11; 19:3; etc.) meaning simply "for ever". The simple form, eis tous aionas, is also common (Romans 11:36; Doctr. XII Apost., 9:10; in the Liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions, passim) Parallel formulæ 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. Hebrews 13:8; Mart. Polyc., 14: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 yio kai hagio pneumati, 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 (9th 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 sæcula sæculorum" (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, in 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 æternam, 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 extraliturgical 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.

Publication information Written by Adrian Fortescue. Transcribed by Tony de Melo. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York


ERMELIUS, Dissertatio historica de veteri christianâ doxologia (1684); SCHMIDT, De insignibus veteribus christianis formulis (1696); A SEELEN, Commentarius ad doxologiæ solemnis Gloria Patri verba: Sicut erat in principio in his Miscellanea (1732); BONA, Rerum liturgicarum libri duo (Cologne, 1674), II, 471; THALHOFER, Handbuch der kath. Liturgik, I, 490 sq.; IDEM in Augsburger Pastoralblatt (1863), 289 sq.; RIETSCHEL, Lehrbuch der Liturgik, I, 355sq.; KRAUS, Real-Encyk., I, 377 sq.

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