Lift Up Your Hearts

I came across an unfamiliar term in my reading this week. Looking up the definition brought me to another unfamiliar term. Looking up the definitions to both terms brought me to a goose-bumpy, breath-holding, sense of holiness.

The terms I did not know will be familiar to Anglo-Catholics and other high church types, so familiar, that they will laught at my ingnorance. Laugh away- I had the joy of learning a new word and learning a new way of thinking of things, which is not to be scorned and well worth a jeer or two.

The first word I met was the phrase sursum coda. The definition I found said it was part of a versicle, which made me no wiser, so I hunted further. Here are the results:

In Episcopalian and other ‘high church’ services, there is something called a ‘versicle.’ This is, according to the 1913 Websters, “ a little verse; especially, a short verse or text said or sung in public worship by the priest or minister, and followed by a response from the people.’
Sursum Corda is the name of a particular versicle in the service- it is the ‘lift up your hearts’ versicle. So Sursum Corda refers to the portion of the service when the minister says to the church “Lift up your hearts” and the congregation responds “We lift them to the Lord.”

It appears in the Book of Common Prayer and is used for thanksgiving for the Eucharist.

I read the phrase in a passage about math in volume six of Miss Mason’s six volume series, Towards a Philosophy of Education.

On page 231 Miss Mason says that we should communicate to our children the beauty and truth of mathematics. They should understand that it is a “great thing to be brought into the presence of a law, of a whole system of laws, that exist without our concurrence, — that two straight lines cannot enclose a space is a fact which we can perceive, state, and act upon but cannot in any wise alter…” and this “should give to children the sense of limitation which is wholesome for all of us, and inspire that sursum corda which we should hear in all natural law.”

Miss Mason is pointing out that all natural law is God’s law, and is part of God’s voice to us. Whenever we learn of one of God’s natural laws, whether it be that two and two make four and never three or five, or that apples fall down and not up, or that all things reproduce after their own kind, or that a blade of grass produces food from sunlight in a process we now call photosynthesis- it should be to us as though that natural law were the voice of God (which it is) saying to us “Lift up your hearts,” and we should feel our hearts naturally, gratefully, and willingly responding to the voice of God in affirmation- “We lift them up to the Lord.”

This is a magnificent approach to math and to all other natural law. Let us lift up our hearts to the Lord.

Updated: to make the spelling more consistant. Miss Mason refers to Sursum corda, but in an inattentive moment, I altered the spelling in the rest of the post to sursum coda. According to google, I am not the only one to do that, but Miss Mason probably had it right.

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One Comment

  1. Posted January 28, 2006 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    That was beautiful! I can’t wait to share this with my daughter is struggling to know why she must learn algebra! Blessings in Christ! Patricia

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