A Question. . . about the Our Father

For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory . . .

Every time I go to a funeral or wedding where Protestants come and join us at Mass, I observe that our guests seem a bit lost and ill at ease. They find a seat, look around, see someone who seems to know what is going on, and try to follow them to know when to sit, stand, etc.  When we reach the part in the Mass where we pray the Our Father, they are happy to finally be able to participate.  They KNOW this part . . . but then we get to those last sentences . . .  and it is awkward.  What was a moment of shared prayer becomes a moment of embarrassment for our Protestant friends.

When I read a post on New Things a while back, I got to thinking about that again.  Why is it that Protestants have that (rather beautiful) sentence added on, and Catholics do not?

I was curious as to when the change happened, historically speaking. I did some quick research, and found some interesting things.  I discovered that most Protestants, some Anglicans, and the Eastern Orthodox churches all include the doxology. The Orthodox liturgy has the entire congregation say the prayer together, but the priest alone says that last line.  After Vatican II, it was included as part of the Mass in the Roman Catholic tradition, not directly as part of the Lord’s Prayer, but after a separate brief prayer by the priest.

Old translations reveal mixed results.  A German translation from 380 AD includes it.  English translations from 995 AD and 1389 AD do not.  These latter were translated from the Latin Vulgate, which also did not include it.   The Latin Vulgate agreed with ancient Greek texts. It was translated between 382 and 405 AD from Hebrew and Aramaic texts by St. Jerome.

The King James translators sought to return to the original languages rather than use the Latin version for their source.  By 1526, the King James Bible had the added verses.   At the time, those translators relied on manuscripts which were thought to be the best and oldest available.  Since that time, other original Scripture manuscripts were found that were even more ancient and considered to be more reliable transcriptions.  These older texts, often dating from the early Byzantine times, were written in Greek and consistent with the translation work of St. Jerome. They generally did not include the doxology at the end of the prayer.

It looks like that last line was not part of the original transcribing of the Lord’s Prayer, although occasionally some ancient scribes added it as the next verse.  Habits are hard to change, and no doubt this will continue to be a difference between us for a long time.  I wonder if the Catholic Church would ever be able to be the one to acquiesce and make a change.

Part of me wishes that we, as a church community, might indeed be the ones magnanimous enough to make that change, and add that last verse to our recitation for the sake of unity and brotherhood. It seems a small gesture to make, at least to my simple mind.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all Christians said that most important prayer the same way, in unity and harmony, praying together as brothers and sisters, without hesitation or stumbling?

About reinkat

I am an iconographer, and have been studying Russian/Greek icons since 1995. I'm married with 3 children. I love hiking, camping, animals, my family and church--and icons.
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3 Responses to A Question. . . about the Our Father

  1. Biltrix says:

    I think it is certainly possible and in line with what Pope’s John Paul II and Benedict XVI had in mind with their efforts toward ecumenism. If we seek Christian unity, we need to find common ground in prayer. The Lord’s prayer is common ground, up until that awkward moment, and even then the last part is easily amendable.

    I’m pretty confident that we will see adaptations to our prayers and liturgy in places where those adaptations are licit and feasible. Will the recital of the doxology as part of the Lord’s prayer be one of those changes? I guess we will have to see. I agree it would make our Protestant brothers and sisters more comfortable when they attend Mass with us.

    Thanks for sharing your research on the history of the texts with us. I did not know that this part of the prayer was not included in all texts. Unfortunately, that does make it problematic. Textual criticism generally adds more to the confusion than it does to abate it. That aspect of classical studies was the one that drove me out of the field, for good. You’d be amazed how many hours people can spend discussing the significance of the word “and” (et or kai) because they can’t opt for the simplest solution — it’s only a conjunction. Now, bring in the prospect of copyist errors and see how the discussion never ends.

    And if the question of adapting the Lord’s prayer in the way you suggested were seriously considered, you can bet that discussion would take place — and we’d never see the end of it. The price we pay for original sin!

    • reinkat says:

      Thanks, Biltrix, for your thoughtful reply. Yeah, I figured it wouldn’t be simple, especially when I saw that the oldest manuscripts did not include that last sentence. And the endless discussions and arguments. Unfortunately, people not only want to be right, they want to WIN and make sure everybody knows they are right. “The price we pay for original sin” is a good way to put it! It will be a stumbling block to peace efforts and ecumenism for many centuries to come, this need to be on top.
      But I am heartened that you think it is even possible, at least for some prayers and parts of liturgies.
      I wonder if they would at least consider an ecumenical version/translation of the Lord’s Prayer just for weddings and funerals.
      I was at a funeral Mass yesterday and noticed that same thing happen again, those Protestant voices continuing on then fading away in embarrassment. Really, there should be a loving and compassionate way to bridge that gap for the sake of our brotherhood in Christ. Thanks for listening to me, and I am glad you enjoyed the post.

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