The "Gloria Patri" & Saints Profound Devotion Praying it
Ladies of the Most Victorious Heart | The Daily Knight
Chapter VI in the Book: The Divine Office: Considered From a Devotional Point of View 1885 (PDF here)
The "Gloria Patri"
The Gloria Patri is commonly referred to as the Doxology—a Greek word signifying a hymn of praise and honour to God.
"Glory be to the Father," etc., is said at the end of every psalm and hymn, and at the close of the responsories in all, more than forty times [in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary]. Through it the faithful are constantly reminded that the end and aim of the Office is the praise and adoration of the Blessed Trinity. In the Office of our Lady we especially wish to praise and thank the Three Divine Persons for all the great things They have done on behalf of Their well-beloved Daughter, Mother, and Bride.[Dr. Schäfer.]
According to St. Basil, this Doxology goes back to the Apostolic age. It was used by the earliest Christians to distinguish Christian worship from that of the Jews. "The first Christians sang the psalms in the synagogue as in the church," says M. Olier, "but to the psalms the Christians added the Gloria Patri, to show that their law adds to that of Moses the religion and express worship of Three Divine Persons, which, up to that time, had been scarcely distinguished."
St. Damasus, on the advice of St. Jerome, sanctioned, confirmed, and generalized this holy practice of the first Christians, who began each of their actions with an express invocation of the Three Divine Persons in whose name they had been regenerated. It was equally the practice of the Bishops and Doctors, particularly in the East, to terminate their instructions by a testimony of veneration or of gratitude towards the Adorable trinity—the Beginning and End of all things.
The Arians and other heretics having tampered with the Doxology to give colour to their errors, the General Council of Nicea in 325 condemned their heresies, and added to the Gloria Patri the words which form the second part of it: Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
The first words of the Doxology recall the chant of the Angels at the Birth of our Saviour—Gloria in excelsis Deo; Glory to God in the highest (Luke ii. 14)—and that which St. John (Apoc. v. 13) heard repeated in Heaven: To Him that sitteth on the Throne, and to the Lamb, benediction, and honour, and glory, for ever and ever. Nothing is better calculated to raise the soul above the world than to re-echo the heavenly song: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of Hosts, all the earth is full of His glory (Isa. vi. 3). The Doxology enunciates with majestic simplicity the most sublime sentiments we can conceive, and the most perfect love which our Lord is Himself capable of feeling for His Father. If the nobility of its language results from the elevation of thoughts, what can be more magnificent than these few words where the Supreme Majesty finds the only offering that becomes its greatness, and which its oversight demands from every creature?
St. Francis de Sales says: "It is not only the glory that Jesus Christ renders Him in His humanity and by His saints; it is a glory incomparably more perfect. The human acts of our Saviour, although infinite in value and merit on account of the Person who produced them, are not therefore infinite essentially, because they are performed according to His human nature and substance, which is finite. God cannot be glorified according to His merit except by Himself, He alone being capable of equaling His goodness by a sovereign praise. In this sense we cry aloud: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. And that it may be understood that it is not the glory of created praises that we wish to God by these words, but truly the essential and eternal glory which He has in Himself, we add: As it was in the beginning,, etc. And we add this to each psalm, as was ordained by Pope St. Damasus, in order to protest that every praise, both human and angelic, is but a small thing for God, and that to be worthily praised it is necessary that He Himself should be His glory, His praise, and His benediction."
So that whatever may be the particular object of the psalm, this Doxology always sums up and completes its principal meaning; it is like the abridged expression of the purest sentiments, of the most generous and sublime aspirations that Divine Love can utter.[Bacquez.]
We read in the life of Bartholomew of the Martyrs, that illustrious and pious Bishop, one of the lights of the Council of Trent, that each time he sang or recited the Gloria Patri he felt such an ardour of soul, and experienced so lively a joy, that these sentiments were apparent externally in his face and in the sound of his voice. The same remark has been made in the case of Father Serarius, a religious of the Society of Jesus, a man of great learning and eminent piety. "It is impossible to express," says Pére Saint Jure in his Homme Spirituel, "with what ardent devotion and with what raptures of heart and mind, he said or heard these grand words. On feast-days, especially when he heard them sung with more than ordinary solemnity, he could no longer contain himself; the delight of his soul burst forth in spite of himself, and bore him away into a pious ecstasy."
A praiseworthy practice is to incline the head when pronouncing these words, according to the rubrics. St. Francis of Jerome never neglected to do so. By arousing the attention, this helps us to enter into the sentiments of respect and humility which this act expresses; and so by our attitude, as well as by our words, we imitate the angels and blessed in heaven. When those living creatures gave glory and honour and benediction to Him who sitteth on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, … they fell down before Him that sitteth on the throne and adored Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worth, O Lord our God, to receive glory, honour, and power (Apoc. iv. 9-11). To this general signification we may add another, more particular and more precise. One day when St. Magdalen of Pazzi bent herself thus, with more than ordinary earnestness, one of her Sisters inquired the reason of this observance. "It is," she replied, "a practice I have, through my confessor, to offer my life to the Holy Trinity in bowing my head at the Gloria Patri as if I were presenting it to the executioner to suffer martyrdom."
By the same inclination of the head, a pious priest proposed to himself to honour the self-abasement of the Son of God, descending from heaven in order to restore to His Father that glory of which the pride of man had robbed Him; and he united himself in this manner to the homage which the Incarnate Word offered to the Divine Majesty. Another, more inclined to compunction, regarded himself as a useless and guilty servant who offers himself to the Divine Justice to undergo the punishment due to his negligence and faults. The Blessed Jordan, successor to St. Dominic in the government of his Order, had the custom to implore at this moment the blessing of the ever-august Trinity. Once, on the Eve of the Purification, God rewarded him with an extraordinary favour. As the Invitatory was being sung he was the Blessed Virgin come down from heaven, and seat herself with our Saviour upon a throne that angels had prepared for them. They both looked benignly upon each of the religious; then, when these, having finished the Venite, exsultemus, … bowned whilst signing the Gloria Patri, Jordan saw the Mother of God take the hands of her Son, who blessed them sweetly, making the sign of the Cross over them.[Bacquez.]
The Venerable Bede—the man of prayer, as his name implies—loved the Doxology. He died while repeating it on the Eve of the Ascension, May 26, 735, according to the account of his disciple Cuthbert.
The Gloria Patri inspired St. Francis of Assisi with liveliest devotion. He could never tire of repeating it, and he exhorted everyone to say it frequently. Once when he desired to return thanks to God for a special favour, he ordered the Magnificat to be said by one of his friars, he himself saying a Gloria Patri after each verse. He likewise much recommended meditation upon this Doxology. To one of his brethren, who was very desirous to learn, he said: "Study well the Gloria Patri; in it you will find the whole substance of the Scriptures."[Ibid.]
In the Life of Blessed Jean Gabriel Perboyre, who had the glory of shedding his blood for the Faith in China not long ago, we read: "An extreme attention was noticed in him whenever he repeated the Gloria Patri at the end of the psalms. He then bowed his head with great respect, and his devotion seemed to redouble. 'We ought to recollect ourselves,' he said, 'during the Doxology, in order to arouse our fervour and make up for the distraction we allowed ourselves to have during the psalm we have just finished, and to dispose ourselves to recite better the one that follows.' He had, besides, so great a desire to honour the ever Blessed trinity, that it often happened that he repeated this prayer four or five times in succession."
Whenever St. Alphonsus, in his old age, heard of some good news for the glory of God or the welfare of Holy Church, he cried out with heartfelt emotion: Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Great things are told us of the devotion of the Blessed Paul of the Cross to this Doxology, and he taught the same spiritual devotion to his Religious. [Father Faber.]
In Christ Crucified and the Most Victorious Heart of Jesus.
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