The Our Father and the doxology

During a recent RCIA class, the instructor provided a handout that included three basic Catholic prayers: the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be. One of the class participants immediately said: “Hey, your Our Father doesn’t include, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and glory, forever.” Before any response could be made, the same person asked: “And why does the priest interrupt the Our Father during Mass?”

These questions are not uncommon — perhaps asked differently from time to time, but not uncommon.

The Roman Catholic Church calls the words “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever” (or similar) a doxology. The word “doxology” is from the Greek doxologia, meaning “glorifying” or “praising God,” often found at the end of a prayer or hymn. Doxologies have been used throughout religious history. Psalm 41:14 says: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from all eternity and forever. Amen. Amen.” In the Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles, David praises God in a similar fashion, saying: “Yours, Lord, are greatness and might, majesty, victory and splendor. For all in heaven and on earth is yours: yours, Lord, is kingship; you are exalted as head over all. Riches and glory are from you, and you have dominion over all, in your hand are power and might; it is yours to give greatness and strength to all” (29:11-12).

“Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” is a doxology, called the lesser or shorter doxology. The Gloria we sing at the beginning of Mass is known as the greater doxology. St. Paul uses doxologies several times in his writings to the various churches; for example in Romans, he writes: “To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever” (16:27).

In 1 Timothy, Paul says: “To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (16:27). So, again, “For thine is the kingdom ...” etc., is, according to the Catholic Church, a doxology.

Certain Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Bibles include these words as part of the Our Father. Catholic Bibles do not.

Catholics do not believe that the words were part of this most perfect prayer Jesus gave to his disciples. Also, the Church does not believe that the phrase (or doxology) was part of the early Scriptures. The fourth-century translation of Greek into Latin by St. Jerome did not include it. One explanation has been advanced about how the phrase got into some translations: A scribe or monk copying the Scriptures was so inspired by the Our Father prayer that he wrote, “For thine is the kingdom ... ,” glorifying God, in the margin of the page. It was then eventually added as part of the Lord’s Prayer when other copies of the Scriptures were made.

History

There is historical precedence for including such a beautiful doxology in the Mass. From the beginning of the Catholic Church in the East, the words “For thine is the kingdom ...” were prayed as part of the Our Father during the liturgy.

In the first or second century, a book called the Didache, attributed to the Twelve Apostles, instructed Christians to pray the Our Father as follows: “Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the power and the glory for evermore.” And they added: “Say this prayer three times a day.”

The Apostolic Constitutions, a collection of fourth-century Church laws, reads: “Now, ‘when you pray, be not as the hypocrites;’ but as the Lord has appointed us in the Gospel, so pray: ‘Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come; your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for yours is the kingdom forever. Amen.’”

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A statue of Christ and the apostles near the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Shutterstock

In the West

In the Western Church, the doxology has not always been part of the liturgy and doesn’t widely surface, at least in the English-speaking world, until the 17th century. In the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, published during the reign of King Edward VI (r. 1547-53), the words to the Our Father are near identical to the words we use today; the phrase “For thine is the kingdom ...” is neither added to the prayer itself nor as a doxology. But by 1611, the Protestant King James Bible did include the phrase as the last sentence of the Our Father prayer.

The Roman Missal of the 1950s and ’60s omitted the doxology as part of the liturgy. In 1970, Blessed Pope Paul VI added the doxology, the verbiage differing slightly from the Protestant Bible, into the Mass; it is now included in every pew missal, part of the Communion rite.

Sung or recited by the priest and the laity: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

The following is then recited by the priest: “Deliver us Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

This prayer is known as an embolism (meaning an insertion or addition), and here it is added to bring focus to staying away from evil and remaining free from sin as we prepare for the coming of Jesus at the end of time and in preparation for receiving Jesus in holy Communion.

The priest and laity end with the doxology: “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.”

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal reads: “After the Lord’s Prayer is concluded, the priest alone, with hands extended, says the embolism Ligera nos (‘Deliver us’). At the end, the people make the acclamation, Auia tuum est regnum (‘For the kingdom’).” The sign of peace and Lamb of God are followed by holy Communion.

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The Church of the West long ago concluded that the doxology is not part of the Our Father prayer and has resisted making it such. It is, however, currently included as words of praise following and separate from the Our Father during the Communion rite of the Mass. This is the “interruption” the RCIA participant asked about.

D.D. Emmons writes from Pennsylvania.