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Hausvater: /HAUS-fah-ter/
noun (German)
1. Housefather.
2. Spiritually responsible head of household, including the housefather as assisted by the housemother.
>> Example: "As the Hausvater should teach it [Christian doctrine] to the entire family ..."
(Martin Luther, Small Catechism, 1529)

Upon hearing the pastor’s invitation to join their hearts and voices with “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven,” the congregation sings the Sanctus. The Sanctus, which is Latin for “holy,” is an ancient Christian hymn found in the church’s earliest liturgies (as early as the 200s A.D.). The text reads as follows:

Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth [literally: Commander of the Heavenly Armies];
heav’n and earth are full of Thy glory.
Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He, blessed is He, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.

The hymn is composed of two sections or verses. The first verse is drawn from Isaiah’s soul-shaking vision of heaven’s throne room in Isaiah 6. Isaiah recounts:

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

Through the words of the Sanctus the congregation is invited to join heaven’s song! With the hosts of heaven we acknowledge the Lord as the “holy, holy, holy” God. In all creation, whether in heaven or on earth, He stands unrivaled in holiness. Our thrice repeated holies also make a bold confession about the Sacrament that the congregation is preparing to receive. In heaven the saints are worshiping Jesus, the Lamb of God. In Holy Communion we receive Jesus, the Lamb of God, and sing His praises with the hosts of heaven. St. John tells in his Gospel that Isaiah’s vision was, in fact, a vision of the pre-incarnate Jesus. The Seraphim were glorifying Jesus! The Sanctus confesses that these realities are connected to the Sacrament of the Altar.

The first verse recorded heaven’s song of praise; the second verse reflects earth’s. In chapter 21 of his Gospel Matthew records Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Upon His coming people shouted, “Hosanna [literally: “save, I pray”] to the Son of David [i.e., to the Promised Messiah]! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Through the Sanctus we acknowledge Jesus as our Savior and Deliverer. Furthermore, we acknowledge that He is about to do His work of saving and delivering in the Sacrament of the Altar. Through the gift of His body and blood He forgives our sins, and as the Small Catechism expresses, “where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation.”

Upon the completion of the Sanctus worshipers prepare to pray the prayer Jesus gave us and to hear the Word of Institution, both of which we’ll discuss in the next article.


Pastor Jonathan Conner of Zion Lutheran Church in Manning, Iowa, is a former board member for the Hausvater Project.

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