STJ#1041, Santo

I suspect this piece doesn’t get used much in our congregations.

The reason is probably that it’s in Spanish and is unfamiliar. And that’s too bad. I’d rather the reason be that we don’t often preach on Oscar Romero and liberation theology, or that we don’t often use any part of a Catholic mass in Unitarian Universalist services.

Because that’s what this is – a Sanctus from a Catholic mass. In this case, it’s the Misa Salvadoreña by Guillermo Cuéllar, which blends the folk music of Central America with the traditional words and a heavy dose of liberation – not surprising, as it was commissioned by Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated while conducting mass, for his anti-poverty and human rights work that criticized an oppressive government. (Quick memory: I attended a service at Union honoring Romero, where Dr. Daisy Machado purposely stood with her back to the door as she preached and officiated communion, evoking Romero’s final moments.)

In the 1990s, Cuéllar described the political context in a letter to the Rev. Gary Campbell, a Presbyterian minister:

“I know what peace is; I can enjoy it now with all my being after a long drawn-out war that I suffered in my own flesh, in my time and my country. . . . I saw babies thrown into the air and caught on military bayonets. I had to bear the howling of women machine-gunned en masse; the roaring of rockets launched by human beings at other human beings. And I stood and watched while entire towns were swept away by showers of bombs; starving old men blown to pieces by the explosions.

“ . . . For thirteen long years I lived with my bitterness and consternation. It seems a miracle to me that I am alive now, sharing my sufferings with you. But now the warm sun of peace comforts me again, and I know that I could not be different for anything in the world. I rediscovered peace, not only because the arms fell silent, but because in my heart I renounced hatred and vengeance. That peace that springs up inside of each of us is the peace that our Lord Jesus promised to all people of good will.”


Here are the lyrics:

Santo, Santo, Santo, Santo,
Santo, Santo es nuestro Dios.
Señor de toda la tierra, Santo,
Santo es nuestro Dios.

Santo, Santo, Santo, Santo,
Santo, Santo es nuestro Dios.
Señor de toda la historia,
Santo, Santo es nuestro Dios.

Que acompa ña a nuestro pueblo,
que vive en nuestras luchas,
el universo entero, el único Señor.

Benditos los que en su nombre
el Evangelio anuncian,
ta Buena y gran noticia de la liberación.

And the lyrics in English:

Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy,
Holy, Holy is our God.
Ruler of the earth and heavens.
Holy, Holy is our God.

Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy,
Holy, Holy is our God.
In our present, past and future,
Holy, Holy is our God.

Who companions all the people,
who lives within our struggles,
the universal Sov’reign, One God leading us on.

Blessed are those who, in God’s name
give witness to the Gospel,
the news of liberation, for all peoples of earth.

You see, it’s pretty much your standard Sanctus. If it were translated into Spanish. With an eye toward liberation. And written by a San Salvadoran.

And it’s a song we shouldn’t shy away from. Because we should be preaching liberation. And really, it’s a joyful and easy song to sing once you learn it. Here’s a YouTube video to help:

2 responses to “STJ#1041, Santo”

  1. Yeah. I grew up with services in which the prayers were pretty much variations on “God, you are great and powerful and good and holy!” (“Holy, holy, holy” comes from that tradition.) They seem pretty weak on content now. I like the third verse though.

  2. I am preaching on liberation theology, and while I won’t be using this hymn, I am hoping to use a few others. But this hymn- I will meditate on as I am still engaging with my catholic upbringing. God bless you Rev Kimberley!

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