HOLY, HOLY, HOLY                                                                        written in 1826

The Story

Reginald Heber was constantly trying to improve the music at the Anglican Church he served at in Hodnet, England.  His superiors frowned on anything but the use of metrical psalms, but Heber introduced hymns by Newton and Cowper, and even wrote hymns of his own.  Many modern-day hymnals still carry 3 or 4 of Heber’s hymns; his most popular is “Holy, Holy, Holy”.  The poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, called this the world’s greatest hymns.  And it probably ranks in my own top 5; I certainly am glad he wrote a song that was outside “traditional” way of singing hymns!

After serving 16 years as a parish priest in England, Heber accepted the call to become the bishop of Calcutta, India.  What a culture shift!  He served in Calcutta for only 3 years before he died at the age of 43.  On April 3, 1826, after attending an early-morning service at which he gave a blessing in the Tamil language, Heber returned to his bungalow for a cold bath.  Immediately after plunging into the water he died, possibly from the shock of the cold water in the intense heat.

Whether in England, where he was able to see all kinds of sin… or in India, where he was surrounded by the worship of all kinds of gods, Heber held to the holiness of God.

Heber wrote this hymn shortly before he died, and it was published just after his death.

The Song

            Read this hymn, and let it impress upon you the holiness of God!

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 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!


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