It is funny how long it can take one, namely me, to notice something both obvious and important. But at Mass last Sunday at Pusey House I noticed how well the Benedictus fits with the Sanctus even if it was appended about a thousand years ago or more.
I therefore consider it an innovation . . . but a good one.
Perhaps the good fit of the Benedictus eluded me because my parish does not use it. The Reformed Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer is traditional low church (even as we have become slightly higher church) and follows the 1662 BCP in not having the Benedictus with the Sanctus. My memory is fuzzy on whether REC parishes are allowed to use the Benedictus, but my parish does not.
Back to this past Sunday’s Mass, the musical setting was Herbert Howells’ Collegium Regale. That, sung by the very good Pusey House choir, drew my mind well to the holiness of God expressed in the Sanctus.
But then as the Benedictus was sung, I remembered that Christ is our holy King, yet he comes to us “lowly and riding on a donkey” and he comes to us in the Holy Communion. And I finally but immediately saw what an excellent summation the Sanctus with the Benedictus is of the Eucharist – God is “holy, holy, holy”; yet he graciously and humbly comes to us in the incarnation and in the Holy Communion.Yes, as wonderful as this is, it should be obvious to the catholic Christian. But it is no less good for me to see it this past Sunday at Pusey House.