We sang this ancient song from the St. James Liturgy during communion this morning:
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.
Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.
At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Lord Most High!
This one could be a Chrismas carol, or an Advent hymn, but really its a Eucharistic hymn celebrating the good gift of God himself given for us. Jesus the Christ–the Messiah–given for us! This really is incredible, when you think about it: we are sustained by Jesus’ body broken for us, and his blood shed for us. This is where the Nativity ends up, where the Christmas story concludes, in the risen Christ feeding his people on himself from his throne in heaven.
What’s up with the six winged seraphs in the final verse, the cherubim? When our church small group was studying Revelation this past summer, the best we could come up with was that God is so incredibly glorious that he surrounds himself with these magnificent, incredible, mind-boggling creatures, whose apparent purpose is to accentuate the glory of God. Revelation 4:6-8 describes the scene:
And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
Jesus is God. He was and is and is to come, and this is what we recall and anticipate in celebrating Advent. Come, Lord Jesus, come!