The Lord’s Prayer: The Final Doxology

For most English speaking people in our culture, the Lord’s Prayer ends with the words, “For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” This is, however, an ecclesiastical and liturgical conclusion, not a part of the original Lord’s Prayer. That does not mean, of course, that the ekklesia should omit the ecclesiastical conclusion in the interest of exegesis or liturgical archaeology. Arguably the Lord gave His disciples a model prayer ending with the words, “deliver us from the Evil One” knowing that, as good Jews, they would add a doxological conclusion to it.

This is certainly what the Church did with the prayer, and the various manuscripts testify to a number of different endings—which also testifies to the fact that the final doxology is not original to the prayer itself. Thus the early manuscripts Sinaiticus and Vaticanus lack any doxology, as do citations in Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, and Gregory of Nyssa. Other manuscripts contain as a doxology “For Thine is the power forever and ever”, while still others (such as the extant version of the Didache, written ca. 100 A.D.) read, “For Thine is the power and the glory forever”, while yet others read, “For Thine is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit forever”. Yet another reads the (now traditional) “For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever”. The Orthodox Church, perhaps not unexpectedly, uses the fullest version possible: “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 always and forever [or, more literally, “now and ever and unto ages of ages”].

Which doxology the Church uses is less important than the fact that it chooses to end its prayer with a note of praise to God. It is the praise of God which humanizes us and helps us fulfill our role in the world. Man is a microcosm, and the link between the rest of creation and its Creator. In some sense the totality of creation already praises God: through the noise that the leaves of a tree make when blown by the wind, the tree claps its hands and acclaims its God (Isaiah 55:11, Psalm 96:12); when the hungry lion roars, it is seeking its food from God (Psalm 104:21). But in another sense all creation must praise the Creator through the mouth of man, whom God has set over creation as king. We give voice to the voiceless fish; we translate the lion’s inarticulate roaring into a hymn of praise. This is our role as the priestly link between God and the rest of His creation. As the priest gives voice to the prayers of his congregation at the Divine Liturgy, so mankind gives voice to the varied creatures filling the world.

This offering of praise constitutes our true dignity as human beings. Our glory is not that we are rational and capable of complicated language and speech. It is not that we have opposable thumbs and make tools and technology. It is not that we are can produce philosophical systems, and are wise. Man is not homo faber, a maker of tools, or homo sapiens, a creature of wisdom. We are homo adorans, creatures capable of self-transcendence through worship. Without this ability and capacity for worship, we are not fully human; even in our pomp we are like the beasts that perish (Psalm 49:20).

That is perhaps why the Orthodox service of Matins, originally a monastic vigil taking one through the wee hours of early morning until the dawn, culminates in the Psalms of Praise, Psalms 148-150. And when the sun finally peeks over the horizon after the long hours of the morning vigil, the celebrant upon seeing it cries out, “Glory to You who have shown us the light!” and the assembled worshippers respond by singing the Great Doxology. The Church can think of no better way of beginning each day than with the praise of God.

Whether or not one chants the entire service of Matins every day (a bit of a challenge for us non-monastics), it is important nonetheless to begin each sleepy day with the praise of God. We may not all be monks, but we are all human, creatures made and redeemed by Christ, we are homo adorans. Now we toil through the long night of this age. But a bright dawn is coming, bringing a day which will know no evening. The Kingdom and the power and the glory belong ultimately not to man in his pomp, but to God, and when the Day of the Lord finally dawns, all will know this. Even now, every time we pray, we end our prayer by ascribing all the glory to Him.

4 comments:

  1. “a bright dawn is coming, bringing a day which will know no evening” – is this a quote from scripture? It is lovely!

    Good explanation about “for thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory etc….”Tks!

    God bless!

  2. Fr. Farley,

    When I was being disposed of my Sola Scriptura presuppositions, this addition – the doxology – which you may be right about, that it was commonplace to add a doxology – it helped me understand the Bible as a liturgical document, especially when you add on the fact that the Canon was about what was worthy of the liturgy.

    I think this is an interesting apologetical tool. When a Protestant realizes just a little about textual criticism, how liturgical writings/instructions were written into various variants – with apparently no issue of conscience – it’s clear that the Bible they were reading was the Bible for Church use, which would have been the same for home usage if there had been an availability. Then add on the fact that only the Priest says the doxology, and obviously, you have a liturgical text.

    So, the Lord’s Prayer is an beginning to show that Matthew at least, in any church that uses the formula from the Byzantine text – and though many churches use modern translations, they still repeat the Lord’s Prayer according to the KJV – that the Bible is a liturgical document, then questions will expand.

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