On the most basic level, remember, the Glory Be is a profession of faith. Equal honor to the Son as to the Father, it says, and to the Holy Spirit too. As a profession of faith, the second half pushes back against theories that say the Trinity is anything less than the very nature of God.
One way to say that the Son is less than really God is to say that he came to be late in time. It’s not that there was God (the Father) hanging out for a long time, and then he began to have a son when Jesus was begotten in the womb of Mary. No, the Son was eternal, from the beginning, in God.
Nor is it that the one God sort of acts differently at different times: at one time Father, at another time Son, at another time Holy Spirit. No, he is always Father-Son-Holy Spirit. So much so that though we say the Son is begotten, we cannot say that in any sense he came “after” the Father.
The Athanasian Creed, a deceptively dry meditation on the Trinity, reminds us, “In this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves coeternal and coequal.” And Jesus “is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father.”
“As it was in the beginning” is part of our profession of the full divinity of Father and Son. It’s a reminder, too, that though it’s fine for pious people to change the prayer to “Give glory to the Father,” the deeper glory is eternal, not what we give. This is about discovering that God is God.
There are three important “beginnings” in Scripture. The Old Testament begins, in Genesis, with “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Gospel of John – the last Gospel, after we’ve discovered Jesus, but as we ponder who he truly is – echoes Genesis with “in the beginning was the Word . . . all things were made through him.” In Latin these are “In principio,” just as in the Glory Be: our prayer intentionally echoes these phrases.
The Glory Be encourages us to think about these things. Perhaps what’s most important about the Glory Be is that this simple little prayer reminds us that we really should think about eternal things. And you don’t have to be a theology professor to do it. The Glory Be is the simplest prayer – when my kids are feeling lazy, they argue over who gets to say this for their bedtime prayer, since it’s shorter than the Our Father or the Hail Mary – but it encourages us to meditate on the most profound things.
We should think about “the Beginning.” We should think about who God is, who he “was” even before the universe existed. It’s not out of our reach to occasionally ponder that God’s glory, and his Trinity of love, “predates” even the beginning of time. Genesis takes us to “the beginning” of time – but John urges us to think about “the beginning” as a who: the triune God who was already there, and made that beginning come to be.
It’s okay to go there. It’s a prayer children can pray, but it’s worth taking a moment or two, frequently, to ponder who God was before time began.
We should think, too, about the beginning of time. With Genesis, we can meditate on the reality that this world came to be by an act of God – the glorious triune God. To think of that “beginning” is to think of everything coming forth from God’s love. You could say “as it was in the beginning” as you look at the trees, or the fields, or the sky, and say, all of this comes forth from the glorious love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This points us to our third “beginning,” one that St. John Paul II urged us to think of: the beginning of man. Jesus says, “from the beginning it was not so.”
Now, to be fair, it’s not exactly the same phrase: the Greek word for “beginning” is the same, but it’s not technically “in the beginning.” Nonetheless, the point is that the Trinity is the source of man, too, made in God’s image. We smear that image almost beyond recognition, but the glorious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is what our own creation is all about, too. To know man truly you must know God.
Do you allow yourself to think about God? Could a “Glory Be” here and there give you a little space to do that?