The Sanctus is in the Communion part of the Divine Service. The text comes from Isaiah’s vision of heaven (Isaiah 6) and John’s vision of heaven in Revelation (Revelation 4) and includes a phrase from the Palm Sunday Gospel, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9). It is thought to have this place in the liturgy, at the end of a prayer of thanksgiving before the words of institution, since the fifth century. It’s origins in Christian worship may go back to the second century.
The use of “Holy, holy, holy,” together with “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” has some doctrinal implications. When they heard the song or shout of the angels, “Holy, holy, holy,” Isaiah and John were in the presence of God. The Palm Sunday acclamation also states, “Your Savior is here.” There is a connection between the Sanctus and the doctrine of the real presence in the Lord’s Supper. (More on that below.)
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.
Some arrangements use the phrase: “Lord, God of hosts.”
And the older English text from The Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church. “Sabaoth” is a Hebrew word meaning ‘armies’ or ‘hosts,’ as in the heavenly hosts of angels and all the power of nature. I’ll mention something more about this with the Greek text below:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory; Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
The Book of Common Prayer inserts “Glory to thee,…” and makes “Blessed is he…” optional. This is because some Anglicans taught real presence and some taught representation in the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. (I told you it was doctrinal!):
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts: Heaven and earth are full of thy Glory. Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.
Here may be added
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
The Greek text in Revelation 4 has παντοκρατωρ (pantokrator)instead of Σαβαώθ (Sabaoth).Pantokrator is a word that means “powerful over all.”
Text in Latin:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt cæli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Some musical arrangements try to portray these words with the sublime bliss of heaven. Here’s one based on Pachelbel’s Kanon that is similar to the style of Enya:
Some arrangements seem to focus on the Pantokrator or Sabaoth, that the God who is present, our Saving God who comes to us, is powerful over all. Here it is as it appeared in The Lutheran Hymnal and also in Lutheran Service Book and in Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal’s (1993) Common Service and Christian Worship: Hymnal’s (2021) The Service, Setting One.
This recording includes the Sursum Corda (a dialogue before the preface) the chant of the preface, and then the Sanctus. In different liturgy and accompaniment books, I could only find the tune credited as “traditional.” In an older German source (Choralbuch, Concordia, 1902), this tune is listed with the note “Seit c. 1848 allhier verbreitet.” (“Widely used since around 1848”).
Here is another Sanctus that has been used in many Lutheran hymnals, and a version of it is in Lutheran Book of Worship (Setting Two) and Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Setting Four).
And here is how it appeared in Service Book and Hymnal, 1959. This recording also includes the Sursum Corda/Preface.
Here is the German text with a tune arranged by Johann Sebastian Bach:
Here is Mozart’s Sanctus. (The video says its from his Requiem, but that is not correct. ):
Here is the Sanctus from Schubert’s Deutsche Messe with rich, romantic harmony:
Luther’s hymn Jesaia, dem Propheten, Isaiah, Mighty Seer in Days of Old retells the vision from Isaiah 6, and among German Lutherans, this hymn took the place of the Sanctus, or was even called the German Sanctus. Here is Isaiah, Mighty Seer sung in English at the 2017 WELS National Worship Conference. It is performed by a children’s choir, adult choir, assembly, organ, brass and percussion. I was there for the performance, and it also conveyed the awe and the power of our thrice-holy God. The recording begins with the Exhortation from Luther’s Deutsches Messe, and is followed by Isaiah, Mighty Seer: