30 May 2013

Isaiah 6:1-8

"And one (seraph) called to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.'" (v.3)


This passage is set 800 years or so before the birth of Christ, and the prophet Isaiah can pinpoint the precise time and place when he had his Temple vision. In the whole of the Bible this is the only reference to 'seraphs'. All we know about them is that, for Isaiah, they were bright heavenly beings offering endless praise to God.

The seraph's great shout of praise, beginning "Holy, holy, holy", has gained a central place in Christian worship. In matchless music - as the 'Sanctus' hymn (which translates as 'Holy') - this can be described as the greatest single verse with which to express glory to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The words are said or sung across the world Sunday by Sunday at the very heart of the Eucharist.

Something 'other-wordly' happens when great words and great music come together in praise of God. Earth is carried up into heaven and heaven comes down to earth. The great moments in the Bible are those when heaven and earth meet.

To Ponder

  • Try to listen to a recording of a 'Sanctus'. Try versions by Bach, Mozart, Schubert, or the haunting African Sanctus. What feelings does the music evoke in you?
  • This weekend, go for a walk in one of nature's great 'outdoor cathedrals' and in the vastness and beauty of sky, hills, fields or sea. As you walk, open yourself afresh to discovering that "the whole earth is full of [God's] glory".
  • Why does a deep awareness of God's presence compel so many people to admit their unworthiness or confess their sinfulness?

Bible notes author

The Revd Prebendary Norman Wallwork

Norman Wallwork is a supernumerary Methodist minister and a retail chaplain in central Exeter. He is also a prebendary or canon of Wells Cathedral.