In Western Christianity, the Sanctus forms part of the Ordinary and is sung (or said) as the final words of the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer, the prayer of consecration of the bread and wine. The preface, which alters according to the season, usually concludes with words describing the praise of the worshippers joining with the angels, who are pictured as praising God with the words of the Sanctus. In Byzantine Rite Christianity, the Sanctus is offered as a response by the choir during the Holy Anaphora.
It is loosely related to the Trisagion, another invocation sometimes referred to in the West as the Tersanctus or Ter Sanctus (Latin: Thrice Holy). The latter name though, is also sometimes used to refer to the Sanctus.
In the Roman Catholic Church, a partial indulgence was once specifically granted for recitation of the Sanctus prayed once a day together with the Trisagion, with a contrite heart to adore the Holy Trinity. The present Enchiridion Indulgentiarum grants a partial indulgence to Christians who, in carrying out their tasks and undergoing the difficulties of life, raise their minds to God in humble trust, adding, even if only mentally, some pious invocation.
The Sanctus or Epinikios Hymnos in the Koine Greek reads as follows:
Ἅγιος, ἅγιος, ἅγιος Κύριος Σαβαώθ· πλήρης ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ τῆς δόξης σου, ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις. Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι Κυρίου. Ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις.
- Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
- Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
- Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
- Hosanna in excelsis.
- Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
- Hosanna in excelsis.
- Holy, holy, holy, Lorde God of Hostes:
- heaven (& earth) are full of thy glory:
- Hosanna, in the highest.
- Blessed is he that commeth in the name of the Lorde:
- Glory to thee, O lorde in the highest.
In the 1559 BCP it appears without the Benedictus:
- Holy, holy, holy, lord god of hostes,
- heven and earth are ful of thy glory,
- glory be to the, O Lord most hyghe.
English version of some Lutherans:
Since 2011 the Roman Missal in English has:
- 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.
As Enrico Mazza writes:
The Sanctus became part of the Roman Eucharistic Prayer only in the first half of the fifth century; all in all, this was a fairly late period, inasmuch as by then the text of the Roman Canon had become fixed and was regarded as a text possessing great authority.
There exist two fundamental types of Sanctus: the Alexandrian and the Antiochene. The Sanctus of the Roman Eucharist derives from the Antiochene liturgy and has two parts: (a) the Sanctus true and proper, consisting of the acclamation from Isaiah 6:3; and (b) the Benedictus, a christological acclamation taken from Matthew 21:9. The Sanctus has been given a christological interpretation and a trinitarian interpretation, and this in both the East and the West. These differing interpretations may be due to the presence, in the text of the Sanctus, of a theological section, namely, the acclamation from Isaiah 6:3, and a christological part, namely the acclamation from Mattthew 21:9.The text of the Sanctus passed from Jewish use to Christian use at a very early time, since it cited in the Apocalypse of John and in the letter of Clement to the Corinthians.
As can be read in the same source, in the Alexandrian tradition on the other hand:
the Sanctus consisted of only the first part, the citation of Isaiah 6:3, and lacked the Benedictus; this was the earliest form taken by the Sanctus in the Eucharist. This early state can be seen in the testimonies of Eusebius of Caesarea, the Mystagogical Catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem, and, above all, the Ritual used in the Church of Theodore of Mopsuestia. In the latter, too, that is, in the archaic stage of the Syrian liturgy, the Benedictus was unknown, and the Sanctus consisted solely of the acclamation from Isaiah 6:3.
The first part of the Sanctus, the adaptation from Isaiah 6:3, describes the prophet Isaiah's vision of the throne of God surrounded by six-winged, ministering seraphim. A similar representation found in Revelation 4:8 appears to be the basis of the Trisagion, with which the Sanctus should not be confused. In Jewish liturgy, the verse from Isaiah is uttered by the congregation during Kedusha, a prayer said during the cantor's repetition of the Amidah (18 Benedictions):
- Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh Adonai Tz'vaot
- Melo Kol Haaretz Kevodo.
The text of the second part, beginning with the word Benedictus (Latin for "Blessed") and taken from Matthew 21:9, describes Jesus' Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, which is in turn based on the first half of Psalm 118:26.
The Sanctus has been set to numerous plainchant melodies, many of which are given in the Roman Missal, and many more composers have set it to polyphonic music, both in single settings and as part of cyclic mass settings.
In the Tridentine Mass the priest joins his hands while saying the word "Sanctus" and then, bowing, continues to recite the whole of the Sanctus in a lower voice, while a small bell is rung; then, on reaching the words "Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini", he stands erect again and makes the Sign of the Cross. He then continues immediately with the Canon of the Mass, while the choir, if there is one, sings the Sanctus, pausing for the Consecration and continuing with the Benedictus part afterwards. As a result of this division, the Sanctus has sometimes been spoken of as "Sanctus and Benedictus".
In the Mass as revised after the Second Vatican Council, the only ceremony prescribed for the priest is to join his hands. He and the people sing or recite together the whole of the Sanctus, before the priest continues the Eucharistic Prayer.
- Joseph P. Christopher et al., 2003 The Raccolta St Athanasius Press ISBN 978-0-9706526-6-9 page 1
- General Grant I in Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, fourth edition (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1999 ISBN 88-209-2785-3), p. 33
- Missale Romanum 2002, p. 517 (electronic text)
- The Ordre for the Administracion of the Lordes Supper, or Holy Communion
- Lutheran Service Book, Divine Service III
- Liturgy of the Eucharist
- Book of Common Prayer
- THE ORDER OF MASS Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 2010, International Committee on English in the Liturgy
- Enrico Mazza (1999). The Celebration of the Eucharist: The Origin of the Rite and the Development of Its Interpretation. Liturgical Press. p. 285.
- Perspectives on Christian Worship by J. Matthew Pinson, Timothy Quill, Ligon Duncan and Dan Wilt (Mar 1, 2009) ISBN 0805440992 pages 64-65
- Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae, VII, 8
- Adrian Fortescue, "Sanctus" in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 1912)
- Gail Ramshaw, "Wording the Sanctus"
- Library of Congress