Doxology and the Power of Praise

A few weeks ago, I was visiting a church on a Sunday evening, and we closed the service by singing the doxology. I began singing, almost without thinking, but then I wondered, “When did I learn the doxology, and how did this short song become known as ‘the doxology’?”

I mostly grew up in Baptist churches, graduated from a Methodist college, and frequently visit a nearby Reformed Presbyterian church. In all of these, I have sung the doxology, usually either to begin or end a service. I don’t remember learning it, and assume I picked it up through repetition.

So, who wrote the doxology, where did it come from, and why do so many different denominations include it as a matter of course? And what does doxology mean anyway?

The word doxology comes from the Greek word doxologia meaning a short hymn of praise to God. Different religions have their own doxology hymns, so my search will focus on the doxology I’m familiar with which was written by the Anglican priest, Thomas Ken.

Thomas Ken was ordained in 1662 after obtaining degrees from Oxford. He would eventually serve as chaplain to Princess Mary of York, then royal chaplain to King Charles II before serving James II (who would lock Ken and six other bishops in the Tower of London for refusing to publish the king’s Declaration of Indulgences). Before his royal commissions, however, he spent ten years at Winchester College.

Ken felt it was important for his students to spend time in private worship, so in 1674 he published A Manual of Prayers For the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College. This pamphlet included two long hymns: “Awake, My Soul and with the Sun” and “Glory to Thee, My God, This Night.”  Both these hymns ended with what we now sing as the doxology as their final stanza. The manual remained in private circulation as the hymns could not be sung publicly for fear of “adding to the Word.” In fact, hymns were not officially approved by the Church of England until 1820. Apparently, Ken disagreed with the thought that hymns could be dangerous as he instructed his students to “be sure to sing the Morning and Evening Hymn in your chamber devoutly.”

Skipping ahead almost two hundred years, a story from across the ocean demonstrates the power of praise through the doxology. At Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, (a Confederate prison during the Civil War), a group of new prisoners was marched to the door about ten o’clock one night then left outside until arrangments could be made for them. In the company, was “a young Baptist minister, whose heart almost fainted when he looked on those cold walls and thought of the suffering inside. Tired and weary, he sat down, put his face in his hands, and wept. Just then a lone voice sang out from an upper window. ‘Praise God, from whom all blessings flow’; a dozen joined in the second line, more than a score in the third line, and the words, ‘Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,’ were sung by nearly all the prisoners. As the song died away on the still night, the young man arose and sang, ‘Prisons would palaces prove, If Jesus dwell with me there.'” (From One Hundred and One Hymn Stories by Carl F. Price)

That the words written by the Englishman Thomas Ken for his students in 1674 ended up on the lips of a group of Americans in the middle of a war in the nineteenth century and are now sung in countless congregations across the world amazes me. How even more remarkable is it that lines which could originally only be sung in private are now known and sung in different denominations throughout the world in public worship and praise.

Advertisements

Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody/book review

 

20161106_075045As you all know, I enjoy historical mysteries, and thanks to goodreads and the historical mystery group I’m in, I have found another series to relish. Dying in the Wool is the first of eight mysteries set in England after WWI which introduce Kate Shackleton.

Kate’s husband went missing four years before during WWI, and though most presume him to be dead, Kate has not given up hope for his safe return. In the meantime, Kate is trying to establish herself as a photographer, and she has also solved several mysteries involving missing persons. When a good friend, who is soon to be married, asks her to look for her father who went missing several years before, (wanting him to be there at her wedding), Kate agrees and is soon involved in learning the secrets of a mill town in an otherwise quiet Yorkshire village.

I usually try to avoid comparisons with other books as they are often misleading and disappointing. I don’t like to be told a book or an author is like another and after reading it, discover it’s not in any shape, form, or fashion like the one it has been compared to. In fact, it can take away whatever enjoyment I might have had if my expectations had been different. However, I do believe readers of both Jacqueline Winspear and Charles Todd will find this series entertaining in a similar vein. Having only read the first book, I can’t say how well the series continues, but I hope to find out soon.

How about you? Reading any new mysteries? Or have any of you read anything else by Frances Brody?

 

Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

Mistmidnight

Mist of Midnight is the first in the series, Daughters of Hampshire, by Sandra Byrd. An historical romance, this book takes place in England in 1858. Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries to India, has returned home after the tragic death of her parents in the Indian Mutiny. Unfortunately, she has no time to grieve for her parents and to adjust to life in England as upon her arrival, she learns that someone else has been in her home claiming to be Rebecca. Having to prove that she is, indeed, Rebecca Ravenshaw and the true heir to Headbourne House is her first order of business. Dealing with identity theft in any century is both frustrating and scary. Besides clearing her name, she must learn who the imposter was, how she knew about her family, and what happened to her. Did she really commit suicide or was the cause of her death more sinister?

I enjoyed the suspense in this novel and the historic detail. I especially found interesting learning a little bit about missionaries in this time period. Leaving your home is never easy, but especially in a time when travel and communication were much slower and less reliable than we are accustomed to in the 21st century.

Though the first in a series, the book is a stand-alone. The second book, Bride of a Distant Isle, released earlier this year also takes place in Victorian England, but is a different story with different characters. The third book, A Lady in Disguise, is scheduled for release in 2017.

This is not the first book I have read by Byrd. She is a writer of different types of romance, and I have read her first two books in the French Twist series, which are contemporary romance. These books are fun and lighthearted romances, following the character of Lexi, who is learning to be a pastry chef. In the first book she is in Seattle and in the second book, she is able to follow her dream to study and work in France. French-Twist,

Sandra Byrd writes as a Christian writer, and for romance readers that means, you can expect some good, ‘clean’ fun. Anyone else read any books by Byrd? If you read romance, do you enjoy reading historicals or do you prefer stories set in more contemporary settings?