The Divine Service – The Sanctus

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This past week a faithful charter member of our congregation passed away. For 42 years, the Lord served us through him. He held various offices and supported the work of the church in his time, talents, and treasures. Needless to say his presence will be deeply missed. But this does not mean that our church has gotten smaller. It remains the same. He is now a member of the Church Triumphant.

But what does all this have to do with a meditation on the Sanctus? Quite a bit. It helps the Sanctus come alive for us as we consider the words of the Proper Preface leading up to the Sanctus: “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud [praise] and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying…” As we pray the Sanctus, we recognize that though there is one less voice singing it among us in the congregation, we still sing with him as a member of “the company of heaven.”

As we look at the words of the Sanctus itself, noting their biblical origins will help us consider the bold claim of the Proper Preface that we sing with angels, archangels, and the company of heaven.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth [hosts];

Heav’n and earth are full of Your glory. (Isaiah 6; Revelation 4)

Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is He, blessed is He, blessed is He

who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.” (Psalm 118; Matthew 21; Mark 11; John 12)

The “Holy, holy, holy” [Latin: Sanctus] comes from the song of the angels in heaven recorded both by Isaiah and John. They continually sing this song around the throne so that when we sing these words, our praise joins with theirs.

The “hosanna”s come from the song of the Palm Sunday throng as they greeted Jesus as their Messiah, coming to the temple to present Himself as The Sacrificial Lamb (of God who takes away the sin of the world) that 10th day of Nisan (Exodus 12:3). “Hosanna” means “save now.” So it is the perfect song for God’s people, burdened by the guilt of their sin, to sing as they prepare to partake of this Lamb’s body and blood for the forgiveness of their sins.

The three-fold repetition, is not pointless repetition. It constantly directs us to account this gift of God’s grace in the Lord’s Supper to the Holy Trinity, the Father who sent His Son, the Son who willingly died and rose, and the Holy Spirit who brings the Son to us in Word and Sacrament and gives us the faith to believe and trust His promises.

So while we now may especially pray the “hosanna” part, the “holy” part is also ours to say while we await our reunification with our dear friend where he no longer needs to sing “hosanna” but continually sings “holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; Heav’n and earth are full of Your glory.”

 Rev. Gullixson is the pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church at 162 Sneden Street. The Divine Service begins at 9:30 AM every Sunday. To speak with Pastor Gullixson, please call (760) 873-6589.