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Holy, Holy, Holy

Reginald Heber.

Do you recognize the name?

No? Then let me tell you his story.

 

 

     Reginald Heber was born in 1783 to a wealthy family in west England. Privileged to attend  Brasenose College, Oxford, he won several awards for his poetry and later became rector for his father’s church after his passing

During his sixteen years as a parish priest, he wrote a hymn for nearly every Sunday, and for each solemn day and feast day in the Calendar of the Church of England. His love and dedication for penning songs of faith earned him the designation of the greatest writer of English hymns, second only to Charles Wesley. 

With a desire to celebrate a triune God, Heber wrote the hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy" for Trinity Sunday—a day that reaffirmed the doctrine of the Trinity and was observed eight Sundays after Easter.

 

     Based on the words of Revelation 4:8: “…Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come, he used the symbolism of three repeatedly throughout his hymn: 

 

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!

Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;

Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!

God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

 

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,

Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;

Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,

Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

 

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,

Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;

Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,

Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

 

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!

All Thy works shall praise Thy Name,

In earth, and sky, and sea;

Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!

God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

 

     Through these consistent units of three, this hymn describes and worships God, in three persons, blessed trinity.

 

     In 1823 Heber accepted appointment as the second missionary bishop of Calcutta, India. There he labored hard for the spread of the gospel. It was in Calcutta where he served the final three years of his life, ending tragically at the age of 42. After preaching and baptizing new saints on a stifling, hot day in April, 1826, Heber retired to his room and stepped into a cool bath. It is believed that the cold water of his bath, juxtaposed with his body heat, sent Heber’s body into a massive fatal stroke.

After his death, his wife gathered his songs and had them published. Holy, Holy, Holy was first published in 1826, the same year as his death. Years later, John Dykes composed the tune Nicaea especially for Heber's "Holy, Holy, Holy."

Text and tune were first published together in 1861. Since that time, this popular hymn has appeared in hundreds of hymnals and translated into dozens of languages.

 

 

     Consider this:

     God’s creation showcases His holiness. It’s everywhere! We can see it if we just open our eyes. When we do, we can’t help but raise our voices and sing with the angels, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

     1 Peter 1:15: "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” 

     The words in this beloved hymn should stir within us to live holy lives. Today, as you go about your daily activities, take the time to see God’s holiness.

     Then ask yourself an important question:

      “Can others see God’s holiness in the way I live?”

Holy, Holy, Holy - Trinity Sunday original hymn.jpeg

Original hymn page from the 1861 “Hymns Ancient and Modern”