September 27, 2012


Filed under: Lectionary,Legacy,Social Gospel,Stewardship of the Environment,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 1:36 pm

Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your name…[i]

It never gets old, does it?

I arrived in the Episcopal Church 18 years ago this season and I still remember my fumbling attempts to master the Sanctus. It’s tricky. If I tried to get the hang of the tune, the words passed me by. If I focused on praying the words, the music messed me up. I loved the idea of the liturgy; I just couldn’t get the hang of doing it. I struggled to be present in its beauty.

My relationship with the Sanctus changed in a twinkling, during a sermon on the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels. The Anglican celebrant put the question to us: If you knew right now that you were to spend all of eternity in the company of heaven, surrounding the throne, singing praise without pause or ceasing, would you dread the boredom or would you anticipate the joy?

Well that’s a no-brainer. But what a question! What wonderful images it brings to mind, what wonderful dimension it brings to how I experience the Sanctus in the larger context of Holy Eucharist.

The first thing I remember about that evening is the impulse to look around. The priest in his cope, the beautifully dressed altar, the lighting, the incense, the gathering in worship and fellowship… If God’s abundance as I experience it in this life is seen in mirror dimly, if my friends and family and closest relationships are made in God’s image, how insanely amazing must it be to behold God face to face? How precious it truly is to honor God in all I that do, with all that I have, seeking and serving Christ in all persons in this life, knowing that there is yet another dimension of that experience yet to come.

The second thing that I carry with me from that moment is a deeply comforting sense of fellowship and an overwhelming sense of the present. Joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven: It is a far more satisfying image for me to join with those whom I treasure, those I have loved, those giants of faith and witness on whose shoulders I stand than to attempt to name them, or even remember them all, during Prayers of the People. There is something about the image in this phrasing that brings me deeply into a mindfulness of the vast fellowship we honor in the breaking of the bread.

But it’s a both/and. Along with the headiness of the communion of saints comes a deep sense of the present. Forever is in the now. We hold within ourselves the power to live lives that proclaim the glory of all who come in the name of the Lord. We are truly stewards, entrusted in our time with all that has been, with all that is, and with all that is yet to come.

And to that I can only say, Hosanna in the highest.

[i] The Book of Common Prayer, p. 334


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