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The Liturgy Corner: The Dialogue of the Mass Part 11: The Lord's Prayer

After ‘the Great Amen,’ we all stand to say the Lord’s Prayer. I won’t say much about the Lord’s Prayer itself, as it seems pretty obvious why we pray it and all that. I will briefly mention the introduction to it that the priest gives.

“At the savior’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say…”

This statement is rather packed. The ‘savior’s command’ is pretty clear. He says in the Gospel that this is how we are to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). And then we have the ‘formed by divine teaching’ part. What we have here is an implicit recognition of the two prongs of Divine Revelation: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Jesus Christ gives us the mandate in Sacred Scripture to pray this prayer. Through the handing down and flowering of Sacred Tradition, we have a much deeper understanding of the full import of this prayer. In particular, we have come to understand the incredible gift that it is for us to be invited to call God ‘Father.’ We don’t often think about the intimacy of that title, especially with regards to God. And so, we only can ‘dare’ to say it because we are commanded by the person who came to reveal the love of God to us (Jesus) and because we are encouraged over and over again by the teaching of the Church and the centuries of reflection from Saints and Fathers of the Church.

It is one of those things that we can’t really appreciate until we have first come to see and understand it in a way that makes us question whether it could possibly be real.

After the Lord’s Prayer, the priest adds some words of petition, emphasizing certain parts of the Lord’s Prayer in a different way. Then the people conclude this moment by saying,

“For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.”

For those of you who read last week’s Liturgy Corner, you should recognize that this is another example of a Doxology. It is also the focal point of a significant and often misunderstood point of contention between Catholics and Protestants. It is a question I, personally, have heard pretty frequently: “Why do Catholics leave out the last part of the Lord’s Prayer when they say it?” For many somewhat traditional protestants, this Doxology is considered to be simply part of the Lord’s Prayer itself. And many will point out to you in their Bibles that it shows up at the end of the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:13. However, if you look in your own Bible, you may or may not find that Doxology included. This is because the earliest and best manuscripts did not include this particular passage. However, it has been used in at least some Masses following the Lord’s Prayer since a time soon after the apostles themselves (ex. Evidence of its presence shows up in the Didache). It was especially present in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. But the origins of its Scriptural presence are a little muddy, though it seems that it began to show up more frequently in manuscripts in the 4th century. The King James version of the Gospel is based upon one of these later manuscripts and so it includes the Doxology in the Bible. During Queen Elizabeth’s persecution of Catholics, the use of the Doxology in praying the Lord’s Prayer in everyday life was mandated in protestant England, most likely as a way to continue to distinguish between the protestants and the Catholics.

Hence, we now find ourselves in the interesting position of including this Doxology in our Liturgical recitation of the Lord’s Prayer but not in our common recitation nor in most Catholic editions of the Bible, and non-Catholics often include it in their Scriptures and in their common recitation.

It is easy to see the beauty and significance of this inclusion of a Doxology in our liturgical recitation of the Lord's Prayer. It is especially meaningful because of where it is placed. Rather than being right after the Lord's Prayer proper, it concludes the Priest's petitionary prayer, which includes the theme of 'waiting in hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' This forward-looking, hope-filled prayer points us to the end of time, when Christ will come again in glory, and we, the faithful, shall be resurrected to gaze into the perfect splendor of God's infinite beauty. In that perfect kingdom, the power and glory of God will be joy like we have never known, forever and ever.

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