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Week 14

Liturgical note: Why are there only two Sacraments and what distinguishes these from other rites in the Church? Simply put, a sacrament is a sign and seal of the covenant of redemption. As such, those who do not partake of the reality signified by the sacrament are not saved. Such cannot be said of the other five rites often called sacraments. Thus while these other rites are instituted and blessed by God for the well being of His people throughout life, they are not signs and seals of redemption. For example, if one is not incorporated into the body of Christ (the reality signified by baptism) he is not saved. However, no one is excluded from God’s Kingdom because they are not married.

 

Liturgical location- We have heard God’s Word, we’ve prayed for the Church, repented of our sins, and been assured of God’s pardon. With the Sursum Corda (“lift up your hearts”) the Eucharist proper has begun. The preparation is over and now we turn our attention to the Lord’s Table. Not only that, remember the Sursum Corda reminded us that as we come to the Table we are entering the Holy of holies of God’s presence (therefore we are to lift up our hearts) and that our response is to be one of celebration and thanksgiving.

 

The Preface and Sanctus

(Preface) IT is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God. THEREFORE with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying,

(Sanctus) HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, Lord God of, hosts, Heaven and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High. Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.

 

Notice at once that with the Preface and the Sanctus, we respond to the Sursum Corda’s call to praise and thank God {The Sursum calls, the Preface explains that call, and the Sanctus undertakes the call}. Importance: again we see the active nature of the liturgy. At each point of the service we are doing something and at each point in the service the liturgy tells us what that something is.

 

A] The Preface is so called because it introduces (or prefaces) the praise and thanksgiving called for by the Surum Corda and begun by the Sanctus. In doing so, it explains why we are to praise and reminds us of who we are praising.

 

Notice then, in stark contrast to the world’s notion of what is politically correct, the preface reminds us that “the earth is the Lord’s and all it contains”. Therefore, it is very meet (i.e. extremely fitting) and morally right to praise God in all places and at all times. Not only that, the Preface also reminds us that this witness of praise and proclamation of thanksgiving is our bounded duty, given to us by God’s command. In fact, the Preface points out that the content of our praise is the very content of our witness. In both cases we are proclaiming the Gospel of God’s amazing love and mercy (our praise is a witness and our witness is praise). As such, the Preface prepares us for one of the chief reasons we are coming to the meal. The Preface prepares us to come to the Table to be quipped and nourished for our week’s mission.

 

Next, the Preface also reminds us of the glory and majesty of the one we serve and in whose presence we are coming. He is the Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God. Therefore, as the doors swing open to the very throne room of God, the Preface imparts to us just how sacred this time is and how important our right participation is.

 

However, please note: while the Preface introduces the praise and thanksgiving begun by the Sanctus, our praise and thanksgiving do not end with this portion of the service. Instead, they continue unbroken in the Eucharistic Prayer (Eucharist means thanksgiving). As such, the Preface and Sanctus serve to set the tone for and further reinforce the notion that the service we are entering is a celebration of our salvation and fellowship with God.

 

B] The Sanctus is a hymn of the heavenly court recorded in Isaiah 6:1-3 and heard again in Revelation 4:8.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory."

 

Notice at once, the threefold “Holy, Holy, Holy” corresponds to the three persons of the triune God (Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Spirit); one God, three persons.

 

Next, notice the Sanctus was first used in Jewish liturgies and then carried forward by the Church in its earliest liturgies. At that time, the messianic proclamation (“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”) taken from Matt 21:9 and again Matt 23:39 was universally added to the Sanctus. Importance: by adding the Messianic proclamation of Matt 21:9, the early Church was proclaiming that Christ is the very eternal God of the Sanctus (the second person of the Trinity) made flesh.

 

Not only that, the early Church was also proclaiming that just as Christ came the first time to accomplish salvation so He would return to implement that salvation in full (Matt 23:34-39). Thus, like the Old Testament Church, believers today anticipate Christ’s coming and are to be preparing His way.

 

Notice the result: as the Preface and Sanctus begin our response to the Sursum Corda’s call, we join our voices with those of the heavenly court (with Angels and Archangels and the Church down through the ages), using the very song of that court.

 

Bottom line: notice the overall narrative this portion of the liturgy provides:

·       The Corda calls you to lift up your hearts in praise to God

·       The Preface explains that call- we are entering the heavenly court, the Holy of holies of God’s presence

·       As we do so, a service of praise and worship is already underway

·       Therefore, we are prompted by the Sanctus to grab a hymnal (as it were) and join the song the heavenly court is singing

·       As we do so, the song we offer, sings the very essence of reality and is our witness to that reality

 

 

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