Liturgy of the Eucharist – Part 4

May 1st, 2011  |  Published in New Roman Missal

Dear Friends,

Having journeyed through Holy Week celebrating the Sacred Triduum and Easter, it is time to return to the revised edition of the Roman Missal. A few weeks ago we began reviewing the Liturgy of the Eucharist, namely the Preface. The Preface comes before the Eucharistic Prayer, concluding, as you may recall, with the Sanctus, a Latin word that means Holy. The Sanctus, like the Gloria, is intended to be sung. The revised translation of the Sanctus is as follows:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

The only difference between the revised translation and the one we are currently using is that “God of power and might” becomes “God of hosts.” The word hosts refers to a great gathering, a multitude. In this setting it refers to God’s command over the heavenly hosts of angels. This reference has a biblical foundation in Isaiah 6:1-3, where the prophet writes: “I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne . . . Seraphim were stationed above . . . ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!’ they cried one to another. ‘all the earth is filled with his glory!’” Then in Luke 2:13 we read at the birth of Jesus, a “multitude of the heavenly host” announced His birth to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks.

The words of the last three lines are found in the Gospel of Matthew. You may recall them from the entrance Gospel of Palm Sunday two weeks ago. As Jesus entered into Jerusalem before His suffering and death the crowds shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest” (Mt. 21:9). Versions of this also appear in other Gospels, and the “Blessed is He . . .” line comes from Psalm 118, from a passage that is understood as a reference to Jesus Christ.

The Sanctus is a reminder to us that all creatures on “heaven and earth” owe thanksgiving to God (remember, the word Eucharist actually means thanksgiving). If we believe – as the Church does believe – that the angels of God are also with us, present and worshiping as we celebrate the Mass, then everything we do and say should reflect this belief. The Sanctus aids in the expression of this belief.

Fr. John