Fauré’s “Sanctus”

“I never had a mother,” Emily Dickinson wrote. “I suppose a mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled.” But where mothers fail, God never fails. His is a mother’s touch that is always ready to receive, ready to lift and comfort, ready to provide what is needed. “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Is. 49:15).

From Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, “Sanctus” is an irresistible invitation to the hallowed ground of God’s presence. Here, wrapped in the garments of Christ’s righteousness, troubled spirits come, restless, beset by sin & anguish. The music washes over you in a cleansing fountain of peace. The words speak of the glory of God in its power and holiness with sanctifying assurance.

But to me, the true genius of Fauré’s composition resides in the moments when the plaintive notes of the violin soar above our dark, circumscribed world in search of God’s mercy. On the wings of the supporting choral voices, this singular flight becomes bolder until it in turn empowers the whole assembly of voice and brass to triumphantly receive what God freely offers in Christ, mercy without measure, glory eternal.

As the soul stills in thankfulness before her God, we hear once again the strains of the violin. This time its mood, far from being plaintive, is one of joyful resolve to happily dwell in God’s presence with trust.

There is immeasurable beauty and grace and mercy to be found before God. Fauré provides us an altogether inspired glimpse of it in this 3½-minute piece based on the words of the angelic seraphim around the throne of God in Isaiah 6:3.


Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Holy, holy, holy Lord, Lord God of Sabaoth.

Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua. Hosanna in excelsis.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.


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