Hosanna in the Highest: Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord
Who invites us into this rite of passage, this rite of mystery, is revealed by the words which follow. Hosanna! These are the words proclaimed by the crowds of Jerusalem which we incorporate into the Mass. These crowds waved palm fronds at the Lord Jesus in his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, a predicate to his sacrificial, atoning, and saving death on the Cross. The Sanctus is like a mini-Palm Sunday.
We therefore encounter the word Hosanna immediately before the Canon or Eucharistic Prayer--the most sacred part of the Mass.
We encounter it before the Lord comes to us in the Mystery of Faith which is the Eucharist.
We encounter it before we are witness to the ministry of the priest, who, acting alter Christus (as another Christ), offers Christ himself to the Father, and so brings into the present in an unbloody and yet real manner the bloody Sacrifice of the Cross.
We encounter this word before we step into the World's Greatest Act of Adoration and the very whirlwind of the love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
It is an important word, with deep Scriptural connotations, and for this reason perhaps, it traditionally is left in its original Hebrew.
The Sanctus closes off that part of the Mass that is referred to as the Preface which begins with the Sursum corda ("Lift up your hearts!"). This is the prayer that prepares us for entering the Holy of Holies to worship God, the very inner sanctum of the Temple which is Jesus' Body, and which we offer to God in a holy and pleasing Sacrifice.
Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabbaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.
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.
This prayer--or perhaps better biblical hymn which is quite ancient--is knit from scriptural yarn. It brings new and old threads out of the Scriptural storeroom, and ingeniously and harmoniously weaves them together, the warp of the Old Testament perfectly fitted with the woof of the New. (Matt. 13:52)
Here, at the very door into the Canon or Eucharistic Prayer, we are offered "all choice fruits," both "fresh and mellowed fruits," both new and old, kept in store for us by our love, the Lord Jesus. (Cf. Songs of Songs 7:14)
And, at least in the Latin (and also in the Greek liturgies where the prayer is likewise found), two choice fruits come to us in Hebrew words that are transliterated (and not translated) from the original Hebrew: Hosanna (Ωσαννά) and Sabbaoth (Σαβαώθ).
We shall address the word Hosanna in this article. In the next, we shall address the word Sabbaoth.
As a little background, we might note that the words "Holy, holy, holy" come to us from Isaiah 6:3, where the great Jewish prophet tells us of his vision of the Lord in the heavens. These words are part of the heavenly refrain of the seraphim: "'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord (YHWH, יהוה) of Hosts! (Sabbaoth, צבאות)' they cried one to the other. 'All the earth is filled with his glory.'"
These seraphic paeans of praising worship and worshiping praise are repeated in slightly different phraseology in St. John's vision of the heavens in Revelation 4:8: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come." (As we discussed in a prior article, when the Greek Scriptural text uses the term "Lord God" it is intending, following common Hebrew practice of the day, to refer to the unutterable name of YHWH.)
By these very words of the Old Testament, we are being ushered out of the antechamber of earth into the very chambers of the heavens, into the very audience hall of God most high.
Who invites us into this rite of passage, this rite of mystery, is revealed by the words which follow. These are the words proclaimed by the crowds of Jerusalem which we incorporate into the Mass. These crowds waved palm fronds at the Lord Jesus in his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, a predicate to his sacrificial, atoning, and saving death on the Cross. The Sanctus is like a mini-Palm Sunday.
"Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest," said the crowds. ...
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