21 December 2014

Contemporary version of the Minor Doxology

While compiling (and editing and re-editing) my Rosary for Anglo-Catholic Use, it dawned on me that the prayers usually accompanying it, whether said in a Roman setting or an Anglican setting,  were in “church” language.  You know what I mean: “thee”, “thou”, “doest”, “beseech”, “hallowed”, “art”, “thy”, “thine”, etc.; what folks call Elizabethan or King James English, just like Shakespeare’s plays and the “Authorized Version” of the Bible.  Roughly equal to mouthing ecclesiastical Latin during an old style Mass and not really feeling what is said in such a foreign sound, no matter how beautiful to the ears.

At around the same time, looking through the histories of some of these prayers, I discovered that many of the better known English language texts were based on translations which left something to be desired.  That, and the fact that there were older, simpler versions of the prayers in early, sometimes obscure manuscripts.

The best way to go about this is, for each prayer in turn, to give the familiar, churchy-language version first, then my revision, followed by an explanation of the changes.

Third up is the Minor Doxology, also known as the Lesser Doxology and the Gloria Patri.

Minor Doxology

Old, familiar version (Western):

Glory 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.

Old, familiar version (Eastern):

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and always, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Updated and revised version:


Glory be to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit: As it was, is now, and always shall be, unto aeons of aeons.  Amen.


Notes on the Minor Doxology

1) On the name Minor Doxology:  Often this prayer is referred to by its Latin handle, Gloria Patri.  It is also called the Lesser or Minor Doxology, being thus vis-à-vis the Greater or Major Doxology also know by its Latin name, Gloria in excelsis Deo.

2) On “through” and “in” instead of “and” and “and”:  This is not a conjunction junction malfunction.  What is offered here is the original form of the Minor Doxology, before all the trouble between the Athanasians and the Arians.  The change of conjunctions probably came at the same time that the Great Commission was added to the end of the Gospel of Matthew, or at least its formula for the Trinity altered.

3) On “As it was…” instead of “As it was in the beginning…”:  Another amendment to the Minor Doxology made in the West but not in the East to protest or protect against Arianism was the addition of the Latin phrase “Sicut erat in principio”, which does in fact literally mean “As it was in the beginning”.  This was added in support of the doctrine of the coequal divinity of the Son with the Father, “it” being understood to mean “he” rather than “it”. 

With the passage of many centuries, “it” came to be understood more as “the way things are”.  The prepositional phrase “in the beginning”, however, implies finity rather than eternity.  By dropping it, this part of the Minor Doxology now mirrors the two verses of Revelation (1:8 & 4:8) referring to God as the one “who was and is and is to come”.

4) On “unto aeons of eons” instead of “world without end”:  The Greek phrase “eis toús aió̱nas tó̱n aió̱no̱n”, accurately translated into Latin as “in saecula saeculorum”.  This phrase literally means “unto aeons of aeons”.  Only in two places in the KJV out of several in which it occurs was this phrase translated “world without end”.  The Sarum Use also translated it thus in the Minor Doxology.  This version follows the literal translation, but “forever and ever” may taste better to some tongues.  Eastern translators usually render it as “unto ages of ages” and Western translators as “forever and ever”, either of which may work for those in whose mouths the phrase “aeons of aeons” does not taste well.

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