Why We Sing “Gloria Patri” and Other Doxologies
(Note: Near the bottom of the linked page, you can learn how to sing these doxologies by singing along with the music player.)
First-time or infrequent visitors to our churches might be surprised by what we sing, read, pray and preach in our worship services. One notable surprise for them is our use of “Catholic” concepts such as the Invocation, Confession of Sin, Declaration of Pardon, and Catechism readings. We also use Latin words in our liturgy such as the Sursum Corda. And for sure, the singing of Gloria Patri and other doxologies is new to them.
So why do we sing these songs? Let us look at what they mean from Scripture, where they are found, and how they have been used in the Old Testament, New Testament, and in the early church.
The English word doxology was coined in the 17th century via medieval Latin from the Greek words doxa (“glory”) and logos (“word”). So etymologically, it means “word of glory.” A doxology then is simply a psalm or hymn sung, or words recited, in praise of God. Many doxologies are found throughout the Bible, and they were used in synagogue and early Christian worship.
Obviously, the Psalms have the most frequent use of doxologies since they are songs and prayers in worship to express praise and thanksgiving to God. All five books of the Psalter end in a doxology (Psa 41:13; 72:18-19; 89:52; 106:48; 150:1-6). The last doxology is a the whole of Psalm 150, in which “praise” (Hebrew halal) appears 13 times. Verses 1 and 2 says:
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Other examples of doxological verses in the Psalter are Psalm 28:6; 31:21; 68:19, 35, 36; 96:7-8; 112:1; 113:1.
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