Many people wonder why sanctus, or holy, is recited three times. It has nothing to do with the music, it is a language thing.
For an english speaking person to say "the holiest" they just say "the holiest." However, the Hebrew language does not allow for words like holier or holiest. Instead, to create a comparison word like holier, they just repeat the root word. Therefore holier is really holy holy. The word holiest is holy holy holy.

Sanc"tus (?), n. [L. sanctus, p.p. of sancire.]

1. Eccl.

A part of the Mass, or, in Protestant churches, a part of the communion service, of which the first words in Latin are Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus [Holy, holy, holy]; -- called also Tersanctus.

2. Mus.

An anthem composed for these words.

Sanctus bell, a small bell usually suspended in a bell cot at the apex of the nave roof, over the chancel arch, in mediaeval churches, but a hand bell is now often used; -- so called because rung at the singing of the sanctus, at the conclusion of the ordinary of the Mass, and again at the elevation of the host. Called also Mass bell, sacring bell, saints' bell, sance-bell, sancte bell.


© Webster 1913.

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