6 [a]In the year that King Uzzi′ah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. 2 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. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
6 Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar.7 And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.” 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
6.1-13 This vision stresses the solemnity of the prophet’s calling. The “Holy, holy, holy” is fittingly included in the Mass. The vision also serves to introduce the Immanuel prophecies.
The Lord calls Isaiah
6:1–13. As an introduction to what is called the “Book of Immanuel” (7:1–12:6) we get this account of how the Lord called Isaiah to be a prophet, sending him to his people at the time of the Syrian—Ephraimite coalition to explain to them what is going on and how they should act.
The account begins with a theophany (vv. 1–4), which is one of the key points in this book’s message. God manifests himself seated in the manner of eastern kings, surrounded by his angelic court (the “seraphim”), who extol the holiness of the Lord: he clearly is Lord of all. In this vision, God is depicted as the thrice holy (v. 3), the highest form of superlative available in Hebrew. Being holy implies standing apart—standing above everything else. God stands far above all other beings, and he is their creator. In Hebrew “holy” includes the idea of “sacred”. It means that God has none of the limitations and imperfections that created beings have.
The holiness and majesty of God fill Isaiah with a sense of his own uncleaness and that of his people (v. 5). Typically, visions of God in biblical history induce feelings of fear in the seer; we even see this in the angel’s announcement to Mary (cf. Lk 1:30): “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.” “Faced with God’s fascinating and mysterious presence, man discovers his own insignificance. Before the burning bush, Moses takes off his sandals and veils his face (cf. Ex 3:5–6) in the presence of God’s holiness. Before the glory of the thrice-holy God, Isaiah cries out: ‘Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips’ (Is 6:5). Before the divine signs wrought by Jesus, Peter exclaims: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’ (Lk 5:8). But because God is holy, he can forgive the man who realizes that he is a sinner before him: ‘I will not sinner before him: ‘I will not execute my fierce anger … for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst (Hos 11:9)’ ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 208).
Isaiah is cleansed and consoled as soon as he humbly acknowledges his unworthiness and insignificance before God (vv. 6–7). His instinctive sense of fear is immediately replaced by a generous and trusting response on the prophet’s part: he is ready to do what God wants (v. 8). “In their one to one’ encounters with God the prophets draw light and strength for their mission. Their prayer is not flight from this unfaithful world, but rather attentiveness to the Word of God. At times their prayer is an argument or a complaint, but it is always an intercession that awaits and prepares for the intervention of the Saviour God, the Lord of history (cf. Amos 7:2, 5; Is 6:5, 8, 11; Jer 1:6; 15:15–18; 20:7–18)” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2584).
Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.
“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” St Jerome
I am a cradle Catholic, wandered in the desert of sin for 20 years and returned into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 2005. I am the founder of Joe Catholic, a lay apostolate designed by men for men. Our mission is to aid lay men in answering the universal call to holiness and equipping them to be the spiritual leaders of their families. Simply put, we help people learn, live and share their faith.
I recently completed my Masters in pastoral theology from Ave Maria University and work as the Magnet Program Coordinator at the Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet in Dallas.