Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Holy, Holy, Holy

Br. Athanasius Murphy, O.P., of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, reflects on the Sanctus (English: Holy, Holy, Holy) of the mass.
When I was in college I was invited to attend an Armenian divine liturgy. While the whole celebration of the rite in the classical Armenian language was beautiful, there are only three words that I distinctly remember from that liturgy – or rather the same word said three times: “Sorph, Sorph, Sorph!”

Whether it is the Armenian Sorph, the Greek hagios, or the Latin Sanctus, Christian liturgies around the world have derived their prayer of “Holy, Holy, Holy” from the sixth chapter of the Book of Isaiah. In one of his visions, the prophet Isaiah is confronted by the Lord, whom Isaiah sees in a temple, high and lifted up upon a throne (Is 6:3). Above the Lord are six-winged seraphim, or angels, calling to one another and saying:

“Holy, Holy, Holy LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

This angelic prayer can be found as early as the 4th century in the liturgies of Alexandria and Jerusalem, mentioned by Athanasius and Cyril, bishops respectively of those cities.
The translation of the Sanctus will change slightly with the new English translation of the Roman Missal that will come into use on the First Sunday of Advent (November 27th, 2011). Read the whole post.

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