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Out of the question: The Gloria Patri after psalms

20 December 2010

Your answers

It was Charles Wheatly, an eminent 18th-century divine, best remembered by his commentary A Rational Illustration of the Book of Common Prayer, who gave a full and classic explanation of the custom of singing the Gloria Patri at the end of Psalms.

He wrote: “The Gloria Patri is not any real addition to the Psalms, but is only used as a necessary expedient to turn the Jewish Psalms into Christian Hymns, and fit them for the use of the Church now, as they were before for the use of the Synagogue.”

The familiar words of this Trinitarian doxology give the psalms a distinctively Christian setting, and serve to draw them within the intention and realm of the Church’s worship.

The use of the Gloria Patri as a concluding doxology to the psalms dates from the end of the fourth century in monastic communities in Gaul, according to Cassian (c.360-435). In his notably famous De Institutis Coenobiorum (“The Institutes”), he described the method of reciting the psalms as derived from Egyptian practice, in which one monk sang the appointed psalm as a solo, while the others sat silently, until, at its conclusion, everyone responded with the Gloria.

It was similarly used at Rome in the fifth century, and St Benedict in his monastic Rule refers to the recitation of the Gloria Patri as a sort of “common antiphon” to the psalms in the daily offices of the opus Dei; and this custom became practically universal throughout the Church.
(Canon) Terry Palmer
Magor, Monmouthshire

In the Scottish Episcopal Church, cathedrals have provosts, and dioceses have deans. What are the deans’ responsibilities?

The short answer: much the same as an archdeacon in England, although there is normally only one such appointment in each of the seven Scottish dioceses. With one or two trifling exceptions, the title of archdeacon has not been used in within the Episcopal tradition of the post-Reformation Scottish Church.

Vestries (not PCCs) north of the Border learn to expect, with trepidation or otherwise, decanal rather than archdiaconal visitations.
Richard Crockett
Galashiels, Selkirkshire

The responsibilities of Scottish deans are analogous to the role of an archdeacon in the Church of England. The provost has respons­ibil­ity for the cathedral and is junior to the dean, with the Dean having a very clear part to play as second in command of a Scottish diocese.
(Dr) Clive Morgan
Radyr, Cardiff

Your questions

If you do not have a church choir (and maybe if you do), what is the best way to prevent the worship from including an ever-diminishing range of hymns? I notice that even when there are a variety of texts, there is a tendency to sing them to an ever smaller range of tunes, and the tunes long associated with hymns sung less often (e.g. for saints’ days) are being lost. A. M.

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