Debbie from Maryland asks, “Why did we add the doxology at the end of the Our Father at Mass?”
In the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite Mass, the priest and people recite together the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples when they asked Him how to pray. After all say the words, “but deliver us from evil,” the priest alone says the following: “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” The people respond with a doxology, a prayer glorifying God: “For the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory are Yours now and forever.” Prior to the late 1960s, the Roman Missal did not include the doxology. However, most Protestants, when reciting the Our Father, say a similar doxology. Did the Church add the doxology to the Mass in order to appease Protestant critics? Is there another reason for the addition?
Doxologies in general are not a new concept. The Hebrew Scriptures have multiple doxologies, oftentimes attached to one of the great Psalms of praise to God. For example, Psalm 41:14 praises God in a manner similar to the doxology attached to the Our Father: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from all eternity and forever. Amen. Amen.” In 1 Chronicles 29:10-13, David sings a song in praise of God; it begins with a doxology, saying that God is “from eternity to eternity.” The New Testament also has several doxologies. One of the clearest examples of this is in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, where there are several statements glorifying God, each one ending with “Amen.” They are little prayers peppering his letter. Likewise, the “Glory Be,” a prayer which dates to the earliest days of the Church and appears in various Christian prayers, from the Divine Office to the Rosary, is a Trinitarian doxology
Clearly, doxologies are good, longstanding traditions in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the Catholic Church has no problem with doxologies accompanying her prayers. The question is: why do we have a doxology at the end of the Our Father during Mass, but when we say the Our Father at other times, we do not have a doxology? What precedence is there for the doxology accompanying the Our Father?
The controversy over the Our Father’s doxology begins in the Gospels, or at least in translations of the Gospels. Most translations of Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4, where Our Lord teaches the Our Father to His disciples, do not include the doxology. The two earliest editions of Matthew’s Gospel do not include the doxology (the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus), while the third earliest (the Codex Washingtonensis, held at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.) does have the line. The first two editions date to the 4th century, but the third dates to the late 4th/early 5th century. That’s not much of a difference when dealing with ancient manuscripts.
Speaking of ancient manuscripts, the earliest reference to a doxology accompanying the Our Father is found in one of the Church’s earliest writing’s, the Didache. This is important, because the Didache was probably written in the late first/early second century. This means that early in the Church’s history a doxology went with the Our Father. This practice continued in the eastern part of the Church. Today, following this ancient tradition, the Eastern Churches (whether in union or not with the Roman Catholic Church) include a doxology at the end of the Our Father in the Divine Liturgy: “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
An added doxology never really picked up in the West until the Protestant Reformation, and even then, it didn’t happen right away. It was during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in England that the doxology appears in Protestant editions of the Bible and in the Book of Common Prayer. It seems that the addition was made by Protestants to distance themselves from the Church.
As Fr. Zuhlsdorf notes, “Catholics didn’t use the ancient Catholic prayer and Protestants did, in order to be Protestant, which is ironic.”
So we can see that, in both the Orthodox Church and in Protestant congregations, particularly in the English-speaking world, there is a tradition of using a doxology with the Our Father.
Fast forward to the 1960s. While working on what would eventually become the Novus Ordo, or the Ordinary Form, of the Roman Missal, the liturgists included the doxology in the Mass after the Our Father. These liturgists didn’t explain why they made the change. Perhaps, given the Church’s liturgical history, they sought to be ecumenical, trying to reach out to Protestants and the Orthodox by including in the Mass a prayer praising God which would make them feel more at home.
Additionally, there was a push by many liturgists to bring back into the liturgy more practices and prayers from the ancient Church. One can see this in the inclusion of the second Eucharistic Prayer, which was composed by St. Hippolytus in the early 3rd century. As the Our Father doxology is just such a prayer, it would make sense that it was part of a larger push to reawaken in Catholics a sense of their tradition, a sense of the Catholic past. At a time when many in society sought to break with their cultural ancestors, perhaps the liturgists sought to bring back these ancient prayers to save the Church from a similar wreckage, to reinvigorate the Church and help the faithful recognize their true identity as Christians.
In the end, however, without any notes left by the liturgists themselves, our guesses must suffice. The doxology does not seem to have been added in any malice or heretical mindset. On the one hand, if the prayer was added as a touchstone for Protestant and Orthodox converts, the addition is a genuine extension of Catholic welcome to our separated brethren. On the other hand, if it is a sort of antiquarianism, perhaps it was done with the hope of using the old to transform the new, to use the voice of Tradition to transform the modern man’s heart.
One final note about the Our Father’s doxology. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s meditation on the Our Father, which forms the bulk of the section on Prayer, there is a portion devoted to the doxology. The Catechism reads, “The final doxology . . . takes up again, by inclusion, the first three petitions to our Father: the glorification of his name, the coming of his reign, and the power of his saving will. But these prayers are now proclaimed as adoration and thanksgiving, as in the liturgy of heaven. The ruler of this world has mendaciously attributed to himself the three titles of kingship, power, and glory. Christ, the Lord, restores them to his Father and our Father, until he hands over the kingdom to him when the mystery of salvation will be brought to its completion and God will be all in all” (CCC 2855).
I hope this helps!
For further reading:
Saunders, William. “Who Added the Doxology?” Available at http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/DOXOLOG.HTM. Accessed 10/27/14.
“Is the Doxology of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13 a Late Addition?” Available at http://www.kjvtoday.com/home/is-the-doxology-to-the-lords-prayer-in-matthew-613-a-late-addition. Accessed 10/27/14.
Zuhlsdorf, John. “QUAERITUR: Why is the Protestant “For the kingdom, the power, the glory…” in Our Catholic Mass?” Available at http://wdtprs.com/blog/2011/02/quaeritur-why-is-the-protestant-for-the-kingdom-the-power-the-glory-in-our-catholic-mass. Accessed 10/27/14.