Meaning of: Gloria patri (Lesser Doxology)
Wow! Thank you all so much!! My mailbox was flooded by your very helpful
and informative answers! I am including a compilation of responses. I am
not including those which seemed to be in some way duplicates of information
I have already included, and hopefully there won't be too much repetition! I
am so very grateful for this list!
The reason for my request is that our choir and orchestra are presenting
Händel's Dixit Dominus next week during the church service and I am writing
worship notes. I was curious because in this particular work, the Gloria
Patri is so long, powerful and rich in texture, whereas so many other works
have a more understated treatment of the Gloria Patri.
I have learned a great deal from all of you and I have a few books to buy!
Nan Beth Walton
Faith Lutheran Church
The Gloria Patri is an added ascription to the Trinity. When it is added
to the Psalms (Jewish liturgical folk poetry/songs, remember), it serves the
dubious purpose of "Christianizing" the psalms. A number of contemporary
Christian theologians and other scholars have written about this, reasoning
(correctly, I believe) that we should approach the Psalms in their original
form, accepting their Jewish origins and character as an unexpurgated part
of our Old Testament heritage. Such reasoning certainly serves to enhance
the commonalities found in our Judeo-Christian religous experiences and
Adding GP to the Magnificat (the first, true "Christian hymn," albeit in
a pseudo-psalm form when versified), and the Nunc dimittis (traditionally
paired with Magnificat in the daily Offices of Vespers or Evening Prayer
[i.e., Evensong in the Anglican tradition]) is, on the other hand, entirely
appropriate, because of their Christian (New Testament) origins.
This is the so called "doxology" (or, more precise, "lesser doxology", as
there are various doxologies), that is liturgically appended to every psalm
(not only in major musical works or choral settings at all, but even in the
traditional monophonic psalm tunes) and canticle. This is a liturgical
formula praising God that has been in use from the very beginning of the
Christian rite and was adopted by the traditional Roman rite.
So it is a liturgical part of the psalms/canticles (like the "amen" at the
end) which, of course, has been set to music by all composers that have
written music for psalms and canticles.
In the Roman Church, the Gloria Patri was always sung at the end of each
Psalm and when it was chanted it, and the correct posture at this point was a
profound bow. I believe the Gloria Patri was also included at the end of
each Canticle, which would include the Magnificat.
To end canticles and Psalms used in the Divine Office with the Gloria
Patri has been a tradition in liturgy since the early days of the
church. Essentially, it is the lesser counterpart to the Gloria in
excelsis, which is called the Greater Doxology.
You may notice that Vespers settings, Magnificats (which are one of the
high points of the vespers liturgy), and any other canticle all end with
the Gloria Patri. Where it is not included, the pieces are usually not
written for liturgical purposes, such as the Magnificat, Op. 36, by
Gerald Finzi. All of the movements of the two Vespers settings of
Mozart include the Gloria Patri--these pieces were composed for
These psalms have been chanted in the Roman Mass and Offices for centuries
with the Lesser Doxology or Gloria Patri at the end of the psalm. If you
have access to a copy of the Liber Usualis (available in any university
music library), you can see this for yourself. Composers have continued
this formula in their own settings.
In the historical church, actually starting very early, when psalms or
canticles were sung liturgically they were almost always concluded with the
Gloria Patri. The Magnificat is also considered a canticle...I think others
are in the Lutheran Green Book. The 1982 Episcopal Hymnal also includes the
canticles. I'm not certain, but I am pretty sure the singing of the Gloria
Patri after psalms and canticles was especially common in non-Eucharist
services such as Morning and Evening Prayer. When composers set these these
text they usually also set the Gloria Patri...especially if the settings were
intended for actual liturgical use.
Ron Jeffers, in his
vol.1>, writes, "The Gloria Patria (the , or Lesser
Doxology) is usually recited after each psalm employed in Divine Office and
also occurs after canticles and is used frequently in extra-liturgical
services, such as the Rosary. . . . Its joyous nature excludes it from
occasions of mourning. . . . The tradition of closing a psalm with a
doxology, first ordered by St. Benedict in his
tradition of the synagogue where ancient rites and hymns concluded with a
similar formula. . . . Each book of the Psalter also ends with a doxology. .
The Gloria Patri or what I call the "Minor Doxology" made its way into
all the canticles and psalms as result of the monastic communities.
Specifically, the psalms and canticles were given a christological
"twist" as a result of the thinking that Christ fulfills and summarizes
what had come before (e.g. the Hebrew scriptures, the law, the
prophets,etc). This practice still goes on in the usage of the psalms
and canticles today without much thought as to why. However, when I use
them outside of the daily office (Morning and Evening Prayer). I remove
the doxology from the psalm or canticle.
The Gloria Patri appears there because it was traditional to add a
"doxology" to the end of these texts. The tradition first comes from the
singing of this "lesser doxology" after psalms. The tradition comes from
the Rule of Benedict c. 525. The rule follows the traditions of the old
synagoge rites . If you look at the Psalter you will find that each book of
the psalter ends with a doxology. Look at the Vulgate psalms 40, 71, 88,
105 and Psalm 150.
The first portion of the text, which dates from the 3rd or 4th century was
probably modeled on the forumla for baptism (baptising in the name of the
Father Son and Holy Spirit) where the Trinity is named in parallel order.
Earlier doxologies were addressed to God the Father, or to Him through the
Son, or to Him in or with the Holy Spirit.
You can find more inforation with regards to these type of rubric questions
in Translations and Annotationso fo Choral Repertoire, Vol. 1: Sacred Latin
Text. ( A must have!!!)
Because doxologies traditionally are used in Christian contexts as codas
to prayer. Sacred concert works generally adhere to the prevailing
formulas used in worship. It can be rightfully construed that
masterworks written using sacred texts are actually worship works. QED,
form follows fashion.
The 'Gloria patri' is a classic trinitarian doxology used in
context in services where -- most often -- Eucharist is not celebrated,
as codas to canticles or other liturgical song. One finds others in more
elaborate liturgical use, as well:
Collects (Episcopal, Roman) or Prayers of the Day (Lutheran)
typically end with a formulaic doxology that varies but essentially says
"...through your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit...etc".
The Grand Doxology of the Holy Trinity is used during the
Eucharistic liturgy, at the conclusion of the Great Thanksgiving and
prior to the Lord's Prayer: "Through him, with him, in him, in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, now
and forever. Amen."
Even the Methodist/Presbyterian/Baptist use of "Old 100th" as a doxology
following the Offering is just another variation on the reinforcement of
the trinitarian theme (reminder) in worship.
These formulas have their origins in the early (Roman) institutional
liturgies, possibly even earlier. The Roman mass (and even some of the
more elaborate procession rites in the Lutheran tradition) begins with
an Introit which is, generally speaking, a psalm or fragment of a psalm
appointed for the particular day and which concludes with a Gloria
Psalms elsewhere in the pericopes (readings), e.g. the psalm after the
OT reading and before the Epistle, do not conclude with a Gloria patri
because they are responses to the readings, not stand-alone prayer.
For a slightly more fleshed out explanation of all this, suggest you
borrow or buy a copy of Manual on the Liturgy (a supplement to the LBW).
Much of the mystery of things liturgical is exlained therein.
The "Gloria Patri" is a doxology, an utterance of praise to God. It is
known as the Lesser Doxology (the "Gloria in excelsis Deo" being the
Greater Doxology). The "Gloria Patri" is notable for its Trinitarian
emphasis: "Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit...".
Because of this, it became popular during the period of theological
controversy concerning the divinity of Christ (4th and 5th centuries).
When the Church decided to make the psalms a central element of
Christian worship, it also decided to "christianize" these Jewish songs
by ending them with the Lesser Doxology whenever they were sung or said
in a liturgical context. This practice was then extended to New
Testament canticles (such as the Magnificat) sung during the same
services (such as Vespers). When later composers set the psalms or
canticles to music for liturgical use, they of course would also set the
Yes. It's a liturgical requirement in the early Roman Catholic Church.
Called the Lesser Doxology, it routinely followed the chanting of all
psalms and canticles in the offices. For more on this, see the chapters
on liturgical music in Yudkin's book, "Medieval Music."
Probably because they are taken from the liturgy of the Mass or Office of
religious communities. It is our custom to end our praise with giving
glory to the Trinity. In chanting or praying the Psalms or anthems, we
end each with a Gloria Patri. The end of each decade of the rosary is
finished off with this prayer, too. It is sort of way of saying "Amen,"
and the repetition helps us to recall the loving presence of the Trinity
in our lives in the present and the declaration of the timelessness of
the Trinity "as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world
without end. Amen."
The Gloria Patri is a doxology, and as such, in liturgical traditions
(particularly Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, and Lutheran), is said or spoken
after Psalms and Canticles such as the works you describe. I'm not sure
where the practice originated, but it has been this way for centuries.
Closing phrases such as this have been appended to prayers since ancient
The translation of the gloria patri is" 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."
It is common practice in churches with a liturgical background to end all
psalms and canticles (Magnificat, Te Deum, Nunc Dimittis, Venite, etc) with
this closing. Therefore when they are set to music, using latin words, they
end with the Gloria Patri.
It is called doxology (german Doxologie) from greek doxologia,
what means praise. It is the traditional ending of a psalm. You can
find it since gregorian chant (see Liber usualis) with the
abbreviation EUOUAE, which means the vowels of "et in sEcUla
Nan Beth Walton
Faith Lutheran Church