Glory be to the Holy Spirit

Glory Be and Devotion to the Holy Spirit

As we approach Pentecost, we should think about devotion to the Holy Spirit.  One approach is to pray the Glory Be.

For some reason it’s finally struck me recently, after twenty years of praying the Liturgy of the Hours, how often we say this prayer.  A parallel: the first couple times I went to a Byzantine Mass were in a chapel I stumbled into in Paris.  My French is only okay, and I didn’t understand much.  But I did notice how often they said, “ayez pitié sur nous,” have mercy on us.  Gosh, I thought, the Byzantines love that phrase.  But if you came to a Roman Liturgy of the Hours in the same situation, you might think, “wow, they love to say Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”

One way to make our life more liturgical might be to run with that.  Love to say Glory be.  Say it often.  Say it well.  Say it like you mean it.  Be a Catholic.


File:Rom, Vatikan, Petersdom, Baldachin und Cathedra Petri (Bernini).jpgIt’s such a simple prayer.

“Glory.”  There’s an old Christian pop song that my kids like that says, “there’s such a thing as glory.”  What does glory mean?  Oh, I’ve written about that before: it means majesty, it means light, it means awesomeness.  But there’s something to that old pop song: rather than trying to define it, let’s just glory in the reality of glory.  It’s a word that picks us up beyond the ordinary, that gives us hints of heavenly splendor, that says there are beauties of which this world can only dimly hint.  (A better song on the same old album says, “there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiment, a music higher than the songs that I can sing”: there’s such a thing as glory.)

We should go there now and then.  We should go there often.  Glory!  Let that word be a moment of joy salting your days.


Glory to the Father.  Our tradition knows how to pack a lot into a few words.  Mostly, I’m trying to get to the Holy Spirit.  But how can I keep from singing every word of this prayer?  (That’s all Gregorian chant is, you know: an exaltation in the beautiful, glorious words of the liturgy, an effort to hold on for just a few seconds to each of these life-changing, transfiguring words.)

God is glory.  That’s what glory is, and that’s what God is.  Glory to God in the highest means lingering in the sheer gloriousness of God, and recognizing that glory means what God is.

But beyond Glory to God, Glory to the Father.  Glory to a God who is more than Creator.  Creator is pretty awesome – and God is more glorious still.

You can’t have a Father without a Son (or daughter), the two words define one another.  Glory to a God who not only makes a creation, which only dimly hints at his glory, but a Son, who shares in it fully.  Glory to the Son who glories in the glory of his Father, who is nothing else but sharing in that glory.


Glory to the Son has two sides, one in heaven, one on earth.  It revels in the eternal mystery of the Trinity, of God being two, Father and Son, who share in the same glory, of God the Father being one who glories in sharing his glory.

But Glory to the Son also revels in the Incarnation.  Glory to the Son means, as we look at the baby in the manger, at the strange homeless teacher, at the man on the Cross – and at the Transfiguration, and the Resurrected Christ – this man, one of us, shares in the glory of the Father.  He is “consubstantial with the Father.”  He is nothing less than the awesome glory of God, come among us.

How good God is!  Glory to a God who would bring his glory among us, who would be so close to us. Emmanuel!


But Glory to the Holy Spirit says more.  It is as if we say, Glory to the Father, to God in heaven; and glory to the Son, to a God who walks among us; and glory to the Holy Spirit, to God who comes even closer to File:Illumination de la Croix du Careme 1.jpgus than the Incarnation.  In the Incarnation Jesus was near us.  But he sends the Holy Spirit to be within us, to be our own heart.  The Incarnation is awesome, but for us, the giving of the Holy Spirit is even greater.

Glory to the Holy Spirit means, all that awesomeness, all that glory we have reveled in in our little glimpse of heaven, all that glory we have given thanks for in the coming of the Son – all of that glory comes to dwell in our hearts, to make the Church the real Body of Christ, pulsing with his heart, living by his soul, branches on his vine, with his sap, the very Holy Spirit, no less glory than the Father himself, pulsing through us.

That’s the Gospel: that glory has come among us.  That Jesus who walks among us shares in the glory of the Father and gives that glory to us.

Where does devotion to the Holy Spirit fit in your day?

Glory to the Holy Spirit

massacio trinity with virginThere are many ways to dig into the Glory Be.  It is an astonishingly rich little prayer.  In the past I have written about it as a meditation on the Father-Son: to know God, in his glory, as the relationship of Father and Son – with the Holy Spirit as the reality of their sharing, shared with us, and the affirmation that Father and Son is the eternal reality, in the beginning, now, at all times, and in the “forever and ever” to which we look forward.

Another way to approach the Glory Be, as we approach Pentecost, is as a statement of faith: the simplest and most essential Creed, taking us to the very heart of Christianity so that we can see the realities around which everything else revolves.


We begin with “Glory to the Father.”

“Glory” translates a Hebrew word for majesty, even heaviness.  God is the weighty one, the only immovable and truly substantial one.  Everything else floats away, but God remains.  Everything else is poor, but God is rich, infinite riches.

Of course the angels remind us that God’s glory is “in the highest” – but though that turns our ideas of weight literally upside down, the point remains that he is more substantial than the changing world under our feet.  For the ancients, the heavens were a sign of what is always the same: life slips by, with all its challenges, but there the stars remain, forever and ever.  And God is “heavier,” more substantial than that.  More glorious, luxurious, more wealthy, than even the Sun.

The Greek and Latin traditions add to this idea of glory the idea of light: God is the radiant one, the dazzling one, the brilliant, fascinating, beautiful, resplendent one.  Imagine coming into the presence of the Sun – and having the transfigured eyes to look directly into it – and you have only a faint glimmer of the glory of God.

“Glory to the Father” gets us started by thinking about how fabulous God is.  Though we can say much about Father and Son, here, “Father” just stands for “not the Son.”  Before we talk about the other members of the Trinity, we start with the one we know is above all.  We ponder for a moment how glorious the First one is, the Eternal, the Source.


But we contemplate this glory of the Father so that we can immediately say, “so too the Son.”  As if we say, not just, “Glory to the Father and to the Son,” but “the Glory which belongs to the Father, the very same Glory, belongs also to the Son.”

“Glory to the Father and to the Son” is an affirmation of the divinity of Jesus.  It says, this man who came among us, whose words we hear, whose sacraments we touch, who unites himself to us – he is no less than the Father.  All of that eternal splendor and majesty and awesomeness that we can ponder as belonging to the “Glory of the Father” – that’s who Jesus is!  That’s what bursts out in the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and his Final Coming.  In heaven we will see all that more-than-the-Sun gloriousness of the Father shining out of the person of Jesus.

It is a way of saying how awesome our redemption is: that our Redeemer, who was one of us, is no less than the Father.  And it points us to the most awesome part of that: that our Redeemer shares in the glory of the Father.  How great, how glorious, is Jesus!


But then comes one more: the Holy Spirit shares in that same glory.

We can think of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in terms of their missions.  The Father is simply the glorious source of all.  The Son became incarnate as Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit is what is given to the Church, what dwells in our hearts.

But the Glory Be says, this is so much more awesome than you can imagine.  Just as that Jesus who comes to save you is not less than the Father, but shares in the very gloriousness of the Father – so too the Spirit he gives us.  This is not just the Spirit of “inspired” ideas, or speaking in tongues, or whatever other humanized ideas we might have about the Holy Spirit.  No, he is far more than that: the Holy Spirit is God – or, to make it more vivid, the Holy Spirit shares in the Glory of God, brings all the majesty and splendor of God himself into our souls.

The rest of the prayer, “as it was in the beginning,” only says, this isn’t a passing thing, not a “kind of” thing – the saving glory given to us is the eternal glory of God, the always-and-forever glory of the Father, shared equally and always by the redeeming Son and the Holy Spirit who is given to us.


That is the stunning, overwhelming truth of Pentecost.  That is the gift of the Gospel: the Glory which is the Father’s is also Christ the Redeemer’s – and he gives that very glory to us, in the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What would it mean for your life – for your prayers and for your works – to believe that the glory of God was being poured into your soul?

World Without End

PFA83070In our standard English translation, the Glory Be ends “world without end.” It’s a strange phrase, and a strange translation – so strange that in the official translation for the Liturgy of the Hours, they did away with it. The traditional English translation says, “is now, and ever shall be, world without end.” The new, official translation says, “is now, and will be forever.” The last phrase has been dropped, or maybe the last two have been combined.

It’s translating the classic Latin phrase “et in saecula saeculorum.” Saeculum (plural: saecula) is a funny Latin word: it can mean “generation,” or “century,” or “age.” A literal translation, then, might say, “unto ages of ages” or “generations of generations” or “centuries of centuries” – not just one age of ages, either, ages of ages! I kind of like the old “forever and ever”: as in the Latin, the repetition kind of charmingly says, “a really, really long time.”

Before that in the prayer comes et semper. Semper just means “always” – as the Marines are supposed to be “always faithful,” with the stress not so much on forever and ever, as on, every moment along the way.

 So I like the point: in the beginning, now, and every point along the way (et semper), and forever and ever and ever (et in saecula saeculorum). The last two are different, and both important.

“World without end”? Well, I have no idea who came up with that. We believe this world will end. But we also believe there’s a “forever and ever,” beyond this world. Maybe this translation works as long as it’s obvious enough to everyone involved that our present world isn’t the “world without end” – so the prayer is pointing beyond that.

But it’s a lot simpler in the Latin. Maybe a nicer translation would be something like, “in the beginning, now, and always, and forever and ever.” Or, “ever shall be, and forever and ever,” if to you “ever shall be” sounds like, “every point along the way.”


Anyway, the point here is to distinguish two important points in the prayer. “Now and always” is a way of talking about the middle of time. What was true in “the beginning” will be true for every point thereafter, including right now. But then, too, it extends to the never-ending future: “forever and ever” (and ever). The beginning, middle, and end – except that there is no end: “world without end,” I guess.

Today, as we meditate on the last line of the prayer, we look forward, into forever and ever. And we realize, first, that the prayer urges us to do that. Our humble little Glory Be leads us through truly sublime meditations, both into the beginning and into the endless, forever-and-ever future.

The Christian mind is meant to go there. We are made for eternity. We are meant to see our now in the context of forever. But the Glory Be helps us go deeper into what we mean by “now in the context of forever.” There’s a temptation to think that eternity is this sort of weight hanging on earth. You can never enjoy the now because you’re supposed to be thinking about eternal consequences.

But that isn’t right. It’s not good Catholic spirituality, and it’s not what the Glory Be urges us to meditate on. Eternity isn’t a weight hanging on our now, it’s a balloon, lifting our now up to the clouds. It’s not that we pay now and get paid back later. It’s that even our now is part of the “always” of “forever.” Eternity is present now. Eternal life, as we heard in last Sunday’s readings, is just knowing God (the eternal), even here and now.

The truth of the Catholic moral view, the truth of Catholic spirituality, and the true meaning of judgment is that love begins now – above all love of God, the eternal. We are meant to “lift up our hearts” to God every day, so that already we participate in forever.

(Although the actual phrase in the Mass, Sursum corda, “hearts up!”, is more like a balloon than like activism: it doesn’t tell us to do the lifting, just to let ourselves be lifted up. The Latin response is not “we lift up” but “habemus ad Dominum”: we “have” hearts lifted up, carried up into the realms of divine love.)


What does forever look like? It looks like the endless, infinite glory of God. It looks like the supreme, wonderful love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s something worth enjoying forever and ever and ever.

Does the thought of heaven lift up your heart?

Is Now and Ever Shall Be

PFA83070The second half of the Glory Be connects all of time with the profession of faith in the glory of the Trinity. Time can be summed up very simply as beginning, middle, and end. Last week we talked about “as it was in the beginning.” Next week we will talk about the end of time, and why our (very loose) English translation of this prayer says, “world without end.”

But this prayer, both in English and Latin, speaks of the time in the middle as, “is now and ever shall be.” Obviously this is two clauses put together – but it’s important to see how these two fit together. This part of the prayer encourages us to think of “now” in terms of “always.” The God of the beginning and end will always be who he is – and that means now, too. We need to remind ourselves that our now is part of always.

What is always true is true today. We need to insert our today, what is most practical and concrete and right in front of us, into our sense of the always, the doctrines that we believe remain forever. We need to put the ever changing flux of our now into contact with the things that never change, to connect ourselves to the unmoving center of the wheel.


It’s very helpful in saying our prayers to pause, at least sometimes, after each phrase, so that we see what we are saying. And it is important to see where the pauses go.

With the Glory Be, we can pause, just for a moment, after we say, “glory.” Ah, yes, glory! But after that, we should not pause too quickly. Let us put together, “to the Father and to the Son.”  This is a relationship, and we better understand what the words mean when we put them together. Father and Son, yes – oh, right, that’s what we’re talking about. “And to the Holy Spirit.” This is another statement, which we can only appreciate if we pause after Father and Son, but that deserves recognition on its own.

As it was in the beginning.” Yes, we call to mind the beginning. “Is now and ever shall be.” If we break these two up, perhaps we risk missing the connection between the two, and making the prayer more of a big long list than it needs to be. Now and ever: those are inherently connected. And then “world without end.”

Just the briefest pause, to make sure we see that each of these phrases has its own thing to contribute. It can even help to count them on our fingers: that’s six points, one hand and a thumb. At least some of the time, we should pause just long enough to notice each of these six points.


When we pray “is now and ever shall be,” we unite all of our now’s to the beginning. As God created the world in the beginning, so now he is still Creator, it is still all in his hands.

We point to the beginning of our faith, as well. We know that the God of Abraham, the God of Moses, and the God of Jesus Christ and of Mary is our God too. Much of traditional Catholic piety involves recalling those past events and applying them to ourselves. “Is now and ever shall be” is a powerful reminder that the God of the Bible does not belong to the past.

But these historical events encourage us to look back further, to the ultimate beginning – to look into the life of God himself. The Father eternally begets the Son. And “eternal” means that he begets him today, too. God is still the Father. Eternally that’s who he is, and who he is for us today. Everything comes back to the Father and the Son. How beautiful to be reminded: yes, this is the deepest truth about right now!

The fabulous prologue to John’s Gospel tells us of the Word, the eternal Son, “all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” Today too, and always, everything that exists somehow pours forth from the love of Father and Son. “Is now” tells us to look around and see our world, both the material world and human events, through that lens.

And finally, we look back too to the glory of God. It is too easy to forget that beauty, that grandeur, amidst the confusion of everyday life. But our shortest little prayer tells us, don’t forget, God is glorious today, too, and ever shall be.


What little way could you meditate on eternal doctrines being real in our now, our today?

As It Was In the Beginning

PFA83070The second half of the Glory Be connects the profession of faith in the Trinity with all of time.

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?

And to the Holy Spirit

PFA83070Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Do we mean anything when we say these words? Do they enrich our spiritual life, or are they a meaningless formula? Does the Trinity have anything to do with us?

We have seen, first, the value of glory, of thinking of the grandeur and beauty of God. Last week, we saw that God is Father and Son, a relationship of love, and of giving and receiving. We do well, sometimes when saying this prayer, to pause for each significant phrase. Glory. To the Father and to the Son. That is not two phrases, it is one, in which the two parts, Father and Son, reveal one another. But now we come to the the third phrase. What is the Holy Spirit?

We said that names matter: all that we know about the Trinity is in these names. Father and Son are names that point out a relationship. But Holy Spirit is a challenge. God is holy. God is a spirit. Holy Spirit, then, is what Father and Son have in common. But why name it a third thing?

We see deeper into the doctrine of the Trinity if we realize that, in some sense, Father and Son is all there is to it. Holy Spirit does not name a third kind of relationship: not wife, or mother, or anything else. It all comes down to the Father and the Son. Why then say the Holy Spirit is a third thing? (Or “person,” which, remember, is a word that in this context means nothing but “what there are three of.)


We can understand why we think about the Holy Spirit as a third “person” if we think a bit about the Christological debates of the fourth century, in which these things were first hashed out.

The original question was not about the Holy Spirit and not about the Trinity. The question was about Christ. In fact, all of this is just about naming who Christ is and what he does.

The theme was that Christ is our mediator, the one who unites God and man. Now, there are Scriptural arguments driving all of this, and I feel bad not giving them, but we will have to stick to the level of doctrine. On the doctrinal level, the point is that Christ cannot unite God and man if he is not God and man himself. If he wasn’t really man, what good would he be to us who are? But if he were not really God, he could not get us to God. The bridge has to reach all the way to both sides of the chasm. Christ unites God and man because he unites them in his own person.


The first point, then, is that Christ himself, the “Son,” really is God.

But then a second question arises, how Christ unites us to God. The Biblical answer is that he pours out his Spirit on us. The Son becomes incarnate as Another man, somehow who is not me. But then he unites me to himself through the Holy Spirit.

The logic is again the same. If the Holy Spirit were less than God, the Holy Spirit could not unite us to God. Glory to the Holy Spirit, coequal with the Father and the Son!

But see that this is not as abstract and obscure as it sounds. “God became man so that man could become God,” said the fourth-century Church Fathers, and the Church has echoed it ever since. The Holy Spirit that he pours into our hearts is God himself, and he lifts us up into the life of God.

That’s obscure in the sense that it’s hard to think about. But it is the very Gospel. He didn’t just come and preach some nice little thoughts. He didn’t just lift us up so we could be slightly higher than those around us. In fact, it’s not about being higher than anyone. It’s about entering into the life of God. That’s crazy. And it’s the Catholic doctrine of grace. That’s the Holy Spirit we receive. That’s the offer.


When we say, “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,” first we imagine the glory of God. Then we realize that in that glory is love, and giving, and thanksgiving: Father and Son. And then we affirm that the Spirit is given to us precisely so that we can enter into that relationship of love, and giving, and thanksgiving.

That is Good News, mind-blowing Good News. Settle for nothing less.


Do you recognize the greatness of the Gospel? That God gives his own Spirit to you?

The Father and the Son

PFA83070We continue our short series on the “Glory Be.”

The word “Glory” took us into the grandeur and beauty of God. We would do well to dwell on that one word. But the prayer immediately takes us even deeper, into the interior life of God.

God is Father and Son. It all comes down to that.

The theological tradition insists that we pay attention to the words themselves. The Trinity is not just Persons One, Two, and Three, not just three “somethings.” The Trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But what do these names mean? We will talk more about the Holy Spirit next week. For this week it suffices to notice that his name is generic. The Father is Holy and the Son is Holy, and they are both spirits. Whatever the Holy Spirit is, he is what they have in common.

But Father and Son name difference, and relationship. The two names push off against each other: what makes a Father a Father? A Son (or daughter). What makes a Son a Son? A Father (or mother). Father and Son name not two things, but a relationship.


So, what does it mean to be Father and Son? It means to be the same kind of thing, but for the Son to receive everything from the Father.

“Same kind of thing” is funny when you’re talking about God. The Son would not be a Son if he had a beginning, or anything that came “before” him, because he would not be God. That’s bizarre. It’s hard to fathom. But see that this is what it means to say “Son of God”: that he truly is God. Anything less than God would not be a Son. That means something for us, too – we’ll talk about that next week.

The sameness of Father and Son means there are an awful lot of things we can’t say about the Son: not “after,” not “lesser,” etc. That in itself is helpful: in a way, it helps point out to us that we don’t have such a grasp on God. The Trinity is a helpful reminder that, among other things, God transcends our thoughts.

But on the other hand, there is one thing, and really only one thing, that we can say about the Father and the Son: that they love one another. It is a love of giving and receiving. To say, “the Father and the Son” is to say “God is love.” And it is to say slightly more, slightly deeper: it is to say “God is giving and thanksgiving, joyfully offering everything, and joyfully receiving everything.” God is a superabundance of goodness and happiness that can’t help but give and joyfully receive.

This is what we affirm when we say, “Glory to the Father and the Son.” God, the God of glory, is love, gift, thanksgiving.


We can clean up a couple little problems. First, we should hold the word “person” very lightly. Person is merely a substitute word, and it is not what the Bible reveals. Augustine says, “what does ‘person’ mean? Just what there are three of.” It doesn’t mean anything; it shouldn’t give us pictures of what they are like. It’s just a place holder, to remind us that there is, somehow, a kind of threeness in God. But rather than talking about persons, we do much better to talk about Father and Son. It all comes down to Father and Son.

Of course, we should also hold the gender thing lightly. Here’s two ways to think about it. First, we say “Father and Son” instead of “Mother and Daughter” mostly just to be Biblical. It’s a recognition that this isn’t our ideas, that we don’t make up our own God. It’s not that we think God is revealed to be masculine – to the contrary! It’s that we stick with the words we are given, and ponder them.

But second, if there is any good reason for saying Father instead of Mother, it is perhaps that Mother says too much. Mothering is a much richer concept than Fathering. We’re not using masculine language to build up men. We’re using it to limit how much we say about God. All we know is that he is giver and receiver.

But what a fabulous image of God to consider: that God gives and receives everything. That is he is love, and communion, and friendship.


Could you love God better by spending a moment, now and then, pondering “Father and Son”? Would you be enriched at all by pausing at those words in the Glory Be?

Glory Be

PFA83070Easter Monday seems a fitting time to begin a short study of the “Glory Be,” with a meditation on the word “Glory.” This little prayer is worth rediscovering, and praying well. Like honey from the comb, we can suck incredible richness from these traditional prayers.

The Latin gloria refers to renown, as when we say “no guts no glory”; it also has connotations of shining. In the Greek New Testament, doxa is a word that means “seeming,” also related to both reputation and appearance. It is used to translate an important word from the Hebrew Old Testament that means “heaviness,” in relation to dignity.

Weightiness, influence, significance, substance, authority: in the Old Testament, a king was said to be “heavy,” or “glorious.” He is a Big Deal. But then, for example, “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19). God too is a king, king of kings, more regal than kings, the most substantial, authoritative, and “glorious” of all. This is what we proclaim when we say, “Glory to God in the highest” or “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.”


But glory takes on a second meaning, not only of heaviness, but of shining, and beauty. The king wears not just fancy robes, but beautiful ones. He is “fairer than the children of men; grace is poured upon his lips”; he rides “in majesty, prosperously, because of truth and meekness and righteousness” (Ps. 45). God is beautiful.

The central motif for this is the Transfiguration, which is mirrored in the “glory” that shown on Moses’s face when he saw God passing by. “The LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend . . . . Moses said, ‘I beseech thee, show me thy glory.’ . . . When Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in his hand . . . he knew not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him” (Ex. 33:11, 33:18, 34:29).

“And as Jesus prayed, the appearance of his face was altered, and his raiment was white and glistening. And, behold, there talked with with him two men, which were Moses and Elijah: who appeared in glory” (Lk. 19:29-31).

“If the ministration of condemnation,” that is, the Old Testament, “be glory, much more does the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that exceeds it. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remains is glorious. . . . And not as Moses, who put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished. . . . Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. . . . But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD” (2 Cor. 3:9-18).

The glory of God, represented by the light that shines on the face of Jesus, is communicated to us, so that we too shine with that glory. We too will share in the dignity, and the beauty of God, “the liberty of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). (This is often translated less literally as “glorious liberty,” but how much more glorious that our liberty comes from that glory. To share in God’s glory is to be truly free.)


When we say “Glory be,” we say that God has the ultimate dignity, and we call to mind the beauty, beyond all imagining, of gazing on his supreme goodness. All in one little word, worth praying well.

But we also make a profession of faith. Historically, the “Glory Be,” and its myriad variations, which conclude all the ancient hymns, is a rejection of anti-Trinitarian heresies. The emphasis, in a sense, is on the word “and.” Not only do we say that the Trinitarian God has glory, but we say that each member of the Trinity shares in that glory.

The Glory Be says, don’t you dare say that the Son has any less glory than the Father. Glory to the Son! The same Glory as the Father! Jesus is God, very God from very God!

And Glory too to the Holy Spirit! the Spirit given to us has no less dignity, no less divinity, no less greatness than the Son; the Son communicates that dignity to us in giving us the Holy Spirit. In the next couple weeks we will see how beautiful this profession of Trinitarian faith is, and how much it means for us.


Do you give yourself sufficient space to consider the beauty and the goodness of God?