Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Great Doxology- A Series on The Divine Liturgy of St John Chyrsostom

I'm no theologian, but theology is a huge part of my life. Monday rolls around, and I have nothing to write unless I am going to rant about some struggle with the weekend. That might be alright occasionally, but not every Monday. So I have decided to start a series, going through the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysotom. You might be familiar with a different translation, and some jurisdictions have simplified portions of the Divine Liturgy, but this is our Liturgy. I'll be writing some personal reflections, and I hope you will write your own thoughts in the comment box, especially if you, dear reader, are a theologian.

Before the Liturgy, the priest will be busy at a side altar, preparing the bread for the service. That is a little service in itself. One of these days, I'll have my husband write about it because it is not quite clear what is happening because the people are usually busy singing hymns and then the priest incenses the altar and icon screen and the congregation sings:

The Great Doxology
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men
We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you; we give you thanks for your great glory
O Lord God, heavenly king, Father almighty, O Lord, only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit.
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, who takes away the sins of the world- have mercy on us, you who take away the sins of the world.
Receive our prayer, you who sit at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For You alone are holy, you alone are Lord, Jesus Christ, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Every day will I bless you, and I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Make us worthy, O Lord, this day, to be preserved free from sin.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and your name is praised and glorified forever. Amen.
Let your mercy, o Lord, be upon us as we have hoped in you.
Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your righteousness.
Lord, you have been our refuge from generation to generation. I said: Lord, have mercy on me. Heal my soul, for I have sinned before you.
Lord, in you have I hoped, teach me to do your will for you are my God.
For with you is the source of life; in your light will we see light. Extend your mercy unto those who know you.
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.

The Doxology is found in many traditions, the equivalent in the Roman-rite would be the 'Gloria.' The language here is very rich and alludes to Old Testament tradition. One could meditate on each line and take days to really understand what one is singing. Perhaps this is a reason why it is good that we pray it at every Divine Liturgy. Of course, one can just recite it robotically, but if one really prays while singing it, it is a perfect prayer.

I always feel a little calmer when we start the Great Doxlogy. Probably we couldn't find shoes or socks. Probably the little kids are squabbling over who gets which soft toy to hold. Probably we are rushing to put food into the coffee room. Maybe the baby's bottle overturned in my purse- I've never been a baby bag person. Even those days that work because I followed my own Sunday morning advice can be hectic. So, when we start the Great doxology, I can breathe a sigh of relief- even if I can't stay long because the baby decides to act up.

'For with you is the source of life; in your light will we see light' is speaking to me especially. Perhaps it is because the days are getting shorter lately. We are children of light. Christ is the light. Darkness has no place in us because God has made us His children. Although we sin, we are called to constantly renew our relationship with God through the sacraments and personal prayer so that we can 'enlighten' ourselves through God's mercy. I also love that the words 'light' and 'life' are so similar in the English language because these concepts are one and the same.

Contrast this with a prayer-poem written by Fr Ed Hayes and reproduced by the National Catholic Reporter- it celebrates the darkness that is within us- a darkness that as children of light we should reject  

I unite myself with ancient memories that sleep within.
Ancestors of long ago whose fears have left their fingerprints upon me,
remind me of my holy communion with that river of humanity
that flows through my soul.
May this flame be my autumn sacred fire.

I greet you, child of night — my anger.
May I live with you in a creative way.
Be fuel for the prophet within me
to speak and act against the darkness of injustice.

I greet you, daughter of the dark — my sexual needs.
May I always dance with you in creative, selfless ways.
May I live with you in openness and without fear
. (for the remainder of the text, click here)


  1. yes- my Monday post got posted on Tuesday and it is not profound or educational. I hope those of you who are smart and able will add some profound insight to this portion of the Divine Liturgy in this commment box!

  2. I beg to differ. This is a great post. It shows to all the way life really is for all of us. Not some stern way of life, but a "I'm trying to be holy while the baby just threw up in the pew" kind of life.

    I admire your perspective, one that not very many people really know about, just think they might. God Bless you in the pew and home.

    Not from a theologian.

  3. Organic Catholic- Thanks for your kind words- it's 'funny' that theologians will commment and comment and comment on issues like celibacy- but when I want them to add to the conversation, where are they? ;)

  4. okay- the poem almost made me throw up. the national catholic distorter may not be the greatest place for finding wholesome content. oh my i just reread your whole post and saw that you were indeed contrasting your view with that whack-job's view. WHEW! -Jane S.

  5. Thanks for your great article. But I prefer the National Catholic Register to the National Catholic Reporter. I suppose the Reporter has "some" good stuff but the Register is a better source. Certainly and obviously, the Great Doxology can not be improved upon. Thanks for you and your husband's vocation.Please note - no comments about the worthy tradition of celibacy.

  6. Anonymous- YIKES! I hope it doesn't seem that I approve of that Reporter prayer-poem! I printed it because it is in direct conflict with our Doxology that says "in your light will we see light" so light is our goal- not the darkness that seems to be celebrated by the Reporter.

    I enjoy the Register a lot

  7. Confused Latin here:
    Do you start with Matins? I thought that doing the Major Doxology at the Divine Liturgy was a Western thing and that the East sang it during one of the Office hours.

    I can't believe you read the NCR.

  8. Alice- good call! This doxology is before the first blessing ('Blessed is the Kingdom..) of the priest, so technically, it is a before Liturgy prayer. It probably IS a hold-out of matins (we don't do them in church because the church isn't ours and time is limited)

    About the Reporter. Right again! I have never read it- but my husband was ranting about some awful (slightly satanic) prayer-poem that a non-Catholic hospital chaplain wanted to use in her 'ecumenical' prayer service that his hospital has once a week. The poem wasn't used. I am shocked (ok- maybe not that shocked) that such mishmash drivel is still written by catholics- aren't the 70's over yet?

  9. OK, that makes sense. My husband has a pew missal (for lack of a better word) from when he used to attend Divine Liturgy regularly and the opening prayers are all different from what you have here.

    Out of curiosity, does the East always use the "peace, good will among men" reading of that Scripture? My mother drilled into me that the Catholic version is "peace to men of good will" while Protestants say "peace, good will to men." She'd get annoyed when we got Christmas cards that quoted the verse from the King James Bible.

  10. I'm having a major lack of memory here. I can't remember if we say anything like this. We definitely don't use anything similar to the Roman "Gloria" (which I miss by being Byz Cath now), but I cannot remember what we say.

    Wow, that's shameful! haha

  11. Oh duh. I think the doxology is what the priest says when he's incensing the entire sanctuary. But our priest doesn't really incense all of it anymore...he's slacked a bit. During this time, we're singing a Psalm. At least I think so.

    Sign me,
    Still learning

  12. rabbit....fie on slacking priests....but maybe he needs a deacon to help him out ;)

  13. Just dropping in to say that poem made me sick to my stomach. Ick!

    Loving the glimpses into your liturgy, though.

  14. I thought you were insulting my 'haiku for a cast iron pan'- ;)

    but then I remembered this THING I published...you can imagine the fight my husband had to go through to make sure it didn't get used during a prayer service


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