The Glory Be Prayer: Origin And Meaning


The Gloria Patri or Glory Be is one of the most common liturgical prayers of the Christian faith. It is part of the Catholic Rosary, written in the Liturgy of the Hours (Breviary), and is part of nearly every other public prayer. As a result, it is found on almost every Christian’s lip.

It is a “doxology”, meaning a short expression of praise to God. “Doxa” is the Greek word for “glory”. Liturgically, there are three common doxologies in the faith; the Gloria in Excelsis which is the greater doxology, the Gloria Patri which is the lesser doxology, and the metrical doxologies.

Considering that the Glory Be is one of the most popular prayers used by Christians everywhere, it is important that we know its origin and learn its true meaning. Saying a prayer without any personal understanding of its true meaning makes it a routine or a religious exercise, rather than authentic words spoken to God straight from your heart. 

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:7

“And when you pray, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (AMP)

But instead, prayer should resonate with our truth and we should allow every word matter.

So where then, dear believer, do the words of this prayer come from, and what do they mean?

Why is the Glory Be Prayer Important?

The “Glory Be” prayer, also known as the “Doxology”, is a short hymn of praise to the Holy Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It’s a central prayer within the Christian tradition, especially in liturgical denominations like the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches. Here’s why it’s important:

  1. Trinitarian Praise: The “Glory Be” encapsulates the core Christian belief in the Trinity. By invoking the three Persons of the Trinity, it reminds the believer of the central mystery of the Christian faith.
  2. Historical Significance: The origins of the Doxology can be traced back to the early Christian Church. Its continuous use over the centuries ties today’s believers to the early Christians in a shared expression of faith.
  3. Structure in Prayer: In the Catholic tradition, the “Glory Be” is used to conclude certain prayers, like the decades of the Rosary. This provides a consistent structure and rhythm to personal and communal prayers.
  4. Universal Acclamation: Its widespread use in various Christian liturgies and traditions emphasizes the universality of the Christian proclamation of the glory of God.
  5. Simplicity: Its brevity makes it easy to remember and recite, making it accessible for believers of all ages and levels of catechesis.
  6. Acknowledgment of God’s Eternity: The prayer’s emphasis on “world without end” or “as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be” reminds believers of the timeless nature of God, and the eternal promise of life with Him.
  7. Expression of Hope and Trust: By glorifying God and recognizing His eternal nature, believers express their hope in His promises and their trust in His will.

The “Glory Be” is more than just a set of words; it’s an affirmation of faith, a nod to tradition, and a universal act of worship that spans across time and culture.

Catholic Glory Be Prayer

The traditional Prayer says,

“Glory be 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”

However, the translation used now for modern worship says,

“Glory to the Father,

and to the Son,

and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

The words in Latin say,

“Gloria Patri,

 et Filio,

 et Spiritui Sancto.

Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum.”

The Glory Be Prayer Origin

This prayer traditionally originated in the Roman Catholic church.

The concept of a doxology comes from Judaism where it is called a Qaddish. They were recited at the end of key sections of the synagogue services. Apostle Paul also used them a lot at the beginning and end of many of his letters.

The Glory Be prayer was first used by Catholic monks as early as the fourth century to end every Psalm of the Breviary. It was to portray again in a shorter form, the glory of God exalted in the doxology of the Gloria Excelsis during Mass.

Another notable use of it was centuries later, in 1608. Something similar appeared in a book of the famous bishop St. Francis de Sales. His book, ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’ ended with the words,

“Glory be to Jesus, to Whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, now and ever, and to all Eternity. Amen.”

This is very similar to the words of the Glory Be.

After the first monks used it, this prayer seeped into many hymns, and as a result, became very popular in the Catholic church. It was eventually used to conclude each decade of the rosary.

Meaning of the Glory Be Prayer

To gain a full understanding, we will take the prayer in sections;

“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”

The meaning of this part is quite clear. It is saying that glory should be ascribed to the Trinity, to the three in One. It recognizes that they are separate entities, but still one God and all glory in the world belongs to God.

“… As it was in the beginning,”

This means that this glory has always been given to God since the beginning of time. From the angels to the first humans, generations upon generations had given God the glory because they had seen His majesty and recognized Him as the originator of all things, living or nonliving.

“…is now”

In the same way, we give Him glory now, at the present moment because we understand that God is more than worthy of it. He is simply too marvelous to not receive glory and worship.

“… and ever shall be”  

It simply means that He will always receive worship, regardless of time, circumstances, and every element of change or consistency. 

“…world without end.”

These words in the Glory Be tend to confuse people because according to Scripture, the world will end.

Actually, these words are a rough translation of the original Latin words “et in saecula saeculorum.”

In Hebrew culture, repeating words is used for emphasis. An example is found in verses like Psalm 90:2 where “everlasting to everlasting” is used to stress God’s eternity.

Even in the New Testament, it was common to see repeated phrases like glory to God “forever and ever”.

That is why in Latin,  “saecula” which means ‘an age’ is repeated twice for emphasis. So we can take “et in saecula saeculorum” to mean “from age to age”.

The translation issues originated in 1541 under Henry VIII when the Cramer’s Book of Common Prayer translated “saecula saeculorum” as “world without end”.  It tried its best to capture eternity in the English of that time as a never-ending world.

This word choice was also picked up by the Catholic and Anglican translations of the Bible and that is why it is still used to date.

When Can I Say The Glory Be?

The Glory Be prayer is most popularly used at the end of each decade of the Hail Mary in the Rosary.

But, we can also use it to benedict a worship session or service. You can also use it to just praise God during your personal devotion. There are no limits to how or where you can use it, as long as it is in the worship of the Lord.

Other Doxologies (Short Praises) in The Bible

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

“To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

“Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who alone works wonders. And blessed be His glorious name forever; And may the whole earth be filled with His glory Amen, and Amen.”

Final Thoughts

The Glory Be as the name suggests is a prayer that acknowledges that all glory belongs to God because it is from His majestic glory that any other glory comes. His glory has always been and always will be. 

It is a reminder that worship and reverence for God should always proceed from our hearts and our lips. When things go well and when we ourselves are exalted, we must know that it comes from God. Our natural response would be to return the glory to Him, never seeking it for ourselves.