1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Doxology

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DOXOLOGY (Gr. δοξολογία, a praising, giving glory), an ascription of praise to the Deity. The early Christians continued the Jewish practice of making such an ascription at the close of public prayer (Origen, Περὶ εὐχῆς, 33) and introduced it after the sermon also. The name is often applied to the Trisagion (tersanctus), or “Holy, Holy, Holy,” the scriptural basis of which is found in Isaiah vi. 3, and which has had a place in the worship of the Christian church since the 2nd century; to the Hallelujah of several of the Psalms and of Rev. xix.; to such passages of glorification as Rom. ix. 5, xvi. 27, Eph. iii. 21; and to the last clause of the Lord’s Prayer as found in Matt. vi. 13 (A.V.), which critics are generally agreed in regarding as an interpolation, and which, while used in the Greek and the Protestant churches, is omitted in the Roman rite. It is used, however, more definitely as the designation of two hymns distinguished by liturgical writers as the Greater and Lesser Doxologies.

The origin and history of these it is impossible to trace fully. The germ of both is to be found in the Gospels; the first words of the Greater Doxology, or Gloria in Excelsis, being taken from Luke ii. 14, and the form of the Lesser Doxology, or Gloria Patri, having been in all probability first suggested by Matt. xxviii. 19. The Greater Doxology, in a form approximating to that of the English prayer-book, is given in the Apostolical Constitutions (vii. 47). At this time (c. 375) it ran thus: “Glory to God on high, and on earth peace to men of (his) goodwill. We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we glorify thee, we give thanks to thee for thy great glory. O Lord God, heavenly king, God the Father Almighty; O Lord, the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us; Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us; For Thou alone art holy. Thou only, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.” This is the earliest record of it, but it is also found in the Alexandrine Codex. Alcuin attributes the authorship of the Latin form—the Gloria in Excelsis—to St Hilary of Poitiers (died 367). The quotations from the hymn in the pseudo-Athanasian De Virginitate, and in Chrysostom (Hom. 69 in Matth.), include only the opening words (those from St Luke’s gospel), though the passage in Athanasius shows by an et caetera that only the beginning of the hymn is given. These references indicate that the hymn was used in private devotions; as it does not appear in any of the earliest liturgies, whether Eastern or Western, its introduction into the public services of the church was probably of a later date than has often been supposed. Its first introduction into the Roman liturgy is due to Pope Symmachus (498-514), who ordered it to be sung on Sundays and festival days. There was much opposition to the expansion, but it was suppressed by the fourth council of Toledo in 633. Until the end of the 11th century its use was confined to bishops, and to priests at Easter and on their installation. The Mozarabic liturgy provides for its eucharistic use on Sundays and festivals. In these and other early liturgies the Greater Doxology occurs immediately after the beginning of the service; in the English prayer-book it introduced at the close of the communion office, but it does not occur in either the morning or evening service. This doxology is also used in the Protestant Episcopal and Methodist Episcopal churches of America, as indeed in most Protestant churches at the eucharist.

The Lesser Doxology, or Gloria Patri, combines the character of a creed with that of a hymn. In its earliest form it ran simply—“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, world without end, Amen,” or “Glory be to the Father, in (or through) the Son, and in (or through) the Holy Ghost.” Until the rise of the Arian heresy these forms were probably regarded as indifferent, both being equally capable of an orthodox interpretation. When the Arians, however, finding the second form more consistent with their views, adopted it persistently and exclusively, its use was naturally discountenanced by the Catholics, and the other form became the symbol of orthodoxy. To the influence of the Arian heresy is also due the Catholic addition—“as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,” the use of which was, according to some authorities, expressly enjoined by the council of Nicaea. There is no sufficient evidence of this, but there exists a decree of the second council of Vaison (529), asserting its use as already established in the East propter haereticorum astutiam, and ordering its adoption throughout the churches of the West. In the Western Church the Gloria Patri is repeated at the close of every psalm, in the Eastern Church at the close of the last psalm. This last is the optional rule of the American Episcopal Church.

Metrical doxologies are often sung at the end of hymns, and the term has become especially associated with the stanza beginning “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” with which Thomas Ken, bishop of Winchester, concluded his morning and evening hymns.

See J. Bingham, Biog. eccles. xiv. 2; Siegel, Christl. Alterthümer, i. 515, &c.; F. Procter, Book of Common Prayer, p. 212; W. Palmer, Orig. Liturg. iv. § 23; art. “Liturgische Formeln” (by Drews) in Hauck-Herzog, Realencyk. für prot. Theol. xi. 547.