We’re singing what the hosts of the heavenly court chanted before God
The Sanctus, or “Holy, Holy, Holy,” helps us distinguish something important about our faith in God. Here all sing the hymn that Scripture reveals is the song of heaven. Everyone in heaven and those who desire to be are so excited about God that they cannot stop singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord …”
Our faith is so believable and rational because its foundation is the bedrock of both the Old and New Testaments, which were written by diverse men and women of different times and places while simultaneously saying the same things.
Its consistency makes it more credible than other so-called divinely inspired works because, for example, the Prophet Isaiah says the same things as the Book of Revelation.
Isaiah 6 records the Prophet’s selection as God’s messenger in the context of a vision of the Lord in heaven.
He says that those he sees in the Lord’s presence sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of Hosts!”
At first Isaiah is reluctant to join in this hymn because he fears that his sins are too great, but his lips are cleansed by one of God’s angels and he is commissioned to go forth to preach to the nations.
“God of hosts” is a title used throughout the Bible to emphasize that God is creator of everything. In the Book of Revelation, St. John also describes heaven. It is vogue to regard the Book of Revelation as a “book of revelations,” wherein the end of the world is predicted, but this robs it of a deeper significance.
St. John, like Isaiah, has a vision of heaven and sees a huge throne, around which stand a countless host of angels and holy ones praising God.
They sing the same hymn reported by Isaiah: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of Hosts!”
St. John’s testimony is given in the first Christian century, but it corresponds exactly to that of the Prophet Isaiah from four centuries earlier.
Skeptics argue John is repeating what he knew Isaiah had written, but for us who believe, it is a confirmation that the same hymn we sing in Mass is the one that two witnesses say the hosts of the heavenly court chant before God.
Our faith has classically distinguished between the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant.
The Church Militant is God’s people on earth who fight against sin. The Church Suffering, or “the Church Expectant,” is comprised of the deceased in Purgatory who await entrance into God’s presence.
These are the ones Catholics remember when they pray for the dead. The Church Triumphant is the multitude of heavenly hosts already in God’s presence, praising Him and interceding for us.
The Church makes these distinctions to show its faith, as do the visions of Isaiah and St. John, that our God is the God of everyone, no matter their faith, and everything.
In using that little word “hosts” in the Holy, Holy, Holy, we are reminded that God is not simply powerful and mighty, but is rather the God of the whole universe.
In the Mass, heaven opens its doors to us lowly mortals and allows us to join the heavenly hosts in praise of God. Indeed, the song of the angels becomes the song of those who want to be there.
Father Bryan Babick, SL.L., is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston.