The Sursum Corda is a Latin phrase that means “lift up your heart”. It comes from an ancient hymn used in synagogue worship. This phrase has a double meaning. Traditionally it was when the people would stand for prayers. The first ecumenical council of Nicea tells us that standing for prayer is the most appropriate posture. This is why the Othodox church typically has no pews or chairs. They follow the ancient tradition of standing for prayers. To lift your heart was a call to stand. To literally bring your heart higher up.
In addition to this, the Sursum Corda has taken on a deeper meaning. The people respond that they will “lift them up to the Lord”. This is more than just standing. The heart was seen by the early church as the “essence of human identity”. Jesus “came down” and was “made man” as the Nicean creed states. He shared in all that it means to be human, including death. When we lift our hearts to the Lord we are asking to be lifted up and share in all that it means to be Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. This includes his life and his special relationship with the Father. In the Eucarist, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man become one thing. God comes down and we go up and together we Give Thanks. This image of heaven and earth worshiping alongside one another is made even more clear in the Sanctus which we will address later.
The final section of the Sursum Corda is the celebrant inviting the people of God into the action of Eucarist. The celebrant says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” We remember that Eucarist means, to give thanks. The Celebrant is requesting “permission to offer thanks in the name of those present.” The response of the people is a consent for the priest to speak on behalf of the gathered people of God.