The Liturgy & the Lord's Supper

Since the times of the New Testament, the Christian service of worship, or, liturgy—a word that means the “work of the people” in the worship service—has consisted of three fundamental elements: Word (Scripture), Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and Prayer (see Acts 2:42). With the Church global and historic, we believe that the Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist) is the culminating act of Christian worship.

The Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist) could be defined in the following way:

    It is the participation of the people of God, 
        in the power of the Holy Spirit, 
        through union with Jesus Christ, 
    in the partaking, 
        by faith, 
    of the once-for-all, eternal sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood,
        who forever ministers on our behalf in the heavenly temple
        at the right hand of the throne of grace 
    for our communion and peace with the Father,
        our nourishment and strengthening in the faith,
        our transformation into the Image of God in Christ
        and our continual remembrance of Christ until he returns.

(see Matthew 26:20-20 and pars.; John 6:41-59; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; Hebrews 8:1-2, 9:23-26, Ephesians 1:3, Revelation 4-5)

It is no less than the Church being brought into holy communion with the eternal life and love of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and responding with joyous thanksgiving (from the Greek eucharistēo, “to give thanks”). It is no less than the Body of Christ being mystically lifted up into the heavenly temple and into the new Jerusalem, where we join with the angels and all the saints of God in worship around the Throne. 

Since this past summer, our format of celebrating the Lord’s Supper at Grace Mosaic has changed. Why did we do this? It was born out of a desire that the liturgy of Grace Mosaic represent our congregation’s unity with the majority of the global and historic Church that has long practiced the Eucharist in a familiar way across place, time, language, and culture. Our current format approximately and contextually reflects the tradition of the Church stretching back into the earliest of times. The elements of the liturgy are the Invitation, the Great Thanksgiving and Eucharistic prayer (pastoral prayer of thanksgiving, also known as the Preface), the Sanctus, the Blessing (historically known as the epiclésis), the Words of Institution, and, finally, the partaking of the body and blood of Christ.

 

The Sanctus

Much more can and will be said about each part of the Lord’s Supper, but for our purposes this week, I want to focus on the Sanctus. This coming Sunday we will begin the practice of singing it together using a tune that we have developed to fit our local context. Sanctus comes from the Latin word that means “holy.” This traditional title is taken from the first line of the prayer: “Holy, holy, holy,” a prayer which appears in the Scriptures during scenes of God’s heavenly throne room (Is. 6:3, Rev. 4:8). This traditional, biblical prayer—known as the Ter Sanctus (“thrice holy”)—is combined, in the Sanctus, with what is called the Benidictus Qui Venite, the “Hosanna!” taken from Matthew 21:9.

In the Sanctus, we enact the reality that as we--the local congregation in Northeast DC--engage in worship, we join a vastly larger congregation: “choirs of angels, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and all the faithful of every time and place,” as the pastor says every week. As I have said, the liturgy of the Church is where earth meets heaven, where earthly sanctuary is mysteriously “lifted up” into the heavenly temple above; the Sanctus brings this meaning to life in the liturgy through prayer and song.

At the conclusion of the Eucharistic prayer, the pastor says the following lines: 

Therefore we praise you,
joining our voices with choirs of angels,
with prophets, apostles, and martyrs,
and with all the faithful of every time and place, 
who forever sing to the glory of your name:

(All Sing)
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, 
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. 

We will sing the Sanctus in a call-and-response format (leader followed by people). Below is a recording and sheet music for it so that you can learn it in preparation for worship.

You can listen and read the Sanctus below: