Music for The Most Holy Trinity — Sunday June 12, 2022

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty – Text: Reginald Heber (1783-1826) / Music: John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876)

View video here

Written by Reginald Heber (1783-1825) when he was vicar of Hodnet in England, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty, this Sunday’s entrance hymn in church, is a free paraphrase of Revelation 4:8-11. It appeared after the author’s death in A Selection of Psalms and Hymns for the Parish Church of Banbury 1826. Lord Tennyson is said to have identified it as one of his favourite hymns. One can readily appreciate that statement, for the hymn captures the holiness of God in a simple, direct way and translates it into commitment: “there is none beside thee.” The reiteration of the word “holy” and the climax in the final line have invested the hymn with a particular significance for Trinity Sunday.

Not one note of Nicaea has been altered since it was composed to these words by John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876) for Hymns Ancient & Modern 1861. The first phrase of this tune somewhat resembles the opening of Wachet auf; it is considered one of the best tunes Dykes wrote. The noted hymnologist Erik Routley said that it earned Dykes “immortality in the annals of hymnody.” The name Nicaea is appropriate, for the ancient city of Nicaea in Asia Minor was the seat of the first general council of the Christian church, convened by Constantine in 325. Here the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in the Nicene Creed was formulated.

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,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide thee,
though our sinful human gaze 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.

Gerald Harder