It’s not a very long prayer – but chances are, if you’ve ever been at a Catholic event like sacramental preparation, youth ministry gathering, or any other parish meeting – you’ve prayed the Glory be:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
You may also have come across another translation of this prayer – most commonly found in the Liturgy of the Hours:
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Amy Welborn says that this prayer is the summary “of everything our prayer has been (or should have been) about,“ a prayer which “points us in the right direction and attaches us to the divine and the eternal.“ This is high praise for one of the shortest prayers in our tradition – a prayer we don’t say at Mass – but do use at the conclusion of each decade of the Rosary and many times during the Liturgy of the Hours. It also tends to show up at the conclusion of many gatherings – particularly if someone forgot to prepare something or if we might be running short on time.
Although the Glory be is brief, it’s a rich prayer both because of what it is – and what it reminds us.
Prayers like the Glory be are called doxologies (words of praise to God), and can be found in many places throughout our Christian tradition. In Scripture, you find them numerous times, including the book the Psalms (see Ps 41, 72, 89, 106, & 150), and the New Testament: “…to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21) According to an ancient Christian book called the Didache, doxologies were a part of the Liturgy of the early Church, and this remains true today. You see a much longer doxology in the Gloria we still sing at Mass today, and shorter ones at the conclusion of the Eucharistic prayer and Our Father. Doxologies are also sprinkled throughout the history of the Church – from the final words of St. Polycarp at his martyrdom through the sacred music both traditional and modern which try to give voice to our praise.
The Catechism identifies praise as a standard form of prayer in the Christian life. It goes on to say that: Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS (CCC 2639). And that may be the simplest way to understand our little prayer: one which recognizes and honours God for His own sake.
The Glory be reminds us both of who God is – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that He is ruler over everything – past, present, and future. As Christians, we want our whole lives to give Him glory – and by praying this prayer, we are asking that this decade of the Rosary, Psalm, meeting, or activity would be just that. By directing our praise to Him, using these brief but often spoken words, we are unraveling some of the impact that original sin has left in our lives. Rather than directing ourselves towards the Holy Trinity who rules all of eternity, by sinning we – in the words of Cardinal Thomas Collins – attach ourselves to the unholy trinity (me, myself, and I), and worry only about the gratifications of this moment. Whether we conclude a meeting, a formal prayer (like the Rosary), or something much more spontaneous – praying the words of the Glory be should remind us who God really is (Father, Son, Spirit), and who is not (you and I.) It reminds us that the sacrifices, struggle, and suffering that may have occupied our prayer are one chapter in a much bigger story.
May our lives and prayer daily give glory to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit both today and always.
(This post is part of an ongoing series of articles on traditional Catholic prayers., drawing inspiration from Amy Welborn’s book “The Words We Pray.“)