Text: Habakkuk 2:20; Isaiah 6: Tune: George Frederick Root (1820-1895) Quam Dilecta
The Lord is in his holy temple, The Lord is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence, Let all the earth keep silence before him -- Keep silence, keep silence before him.
Many of you remember this as the beginning call to worship in your congregation. The choir would stand in the back and sing this song, and things would quiet down. I remember seeing the sleeves of the maroon robes in one of our little country churches out of the corner of my eye—we were not to look back—and then the organ would begin “Holy, Holy, Holy” and the choir would process in to take their place in the front choir loft. The service would begin.
These little rituals were as important as the main part of the liturgy: the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Sanctus and Agnus Dei and the sermon. Now we call them the gathering part of the service. Whatever, they settled us down and got us ready for the service.
Later, as a teenager, when I started reading the Bible through, I was astonished to find the complete text of this hymn in the Bible, in Habakkuk. A wonderful, short book, it has two verses that have made it into Christian parlance—this one that comes at the end of a list of woes that assures the people the Lord is still in his holy temple, and the last verse in the book, "hind’s feet on high places." Many people are surprised when they realize that much of the liturgy is biblical texts put to music. It it we remember the major times in Jesus’ life—the Gloria: the Angel’s song on Christmas night; the Lord’s Prayer—the Sermon on the Mount; the Sanctus—Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the donkey; and the Agnus Dei—the institution of the Lord’s Supper in the Upper Room and the Crucifixion.
This hymn also refers back to the Sanctus from Isaiah 6:1--where the train of the Lord's robe fills the temple. The hymn rightly focuses us on what is to come—when the Lord will appear as he promises to wherever two or three are gathered In his name. People are sometimes surprised to be reminded that as they are sitting in church listening to the Word. Jesus, as he promised, is there riding on the words and music we say and sing, working on us, breaking into our stony hearts, healing them, feeding us with his Word so we can live. He is there among us—although we know he is also with us in our isolation—we long to be together so we can see the Lord in each other as we receive him. Come, Lord Jesus!
NOTE: Today it is a half a year since I began writing these blogs! It is difficult to imagine all that time has gone by, but it has. I have been praying about what I should do—and asking friends. Should I continue? Should I be done?
For now, I have decided to continue. I have dealt with many favorite hymns but am always surprised to remember another one that is a favorite. I notice that about one-third of those on the contact list click on the hymns. It is always interesting to see which are the most read, and those which are not. Because some reading the blogs are in Scandinavia and many other readers have Scandiavian roots as well, I do share more Scandinavian hymns than most American hymnologists might think appropriate, but it is where I began and even if you don’t know the hymn, I love introducing them as I love doing the blogs--they use my knowledge of hymns, my desire to share them and teach about them. Meanwhile, God bless you all. Thanks for your interest, and have a blessed Sunday. The Lord is in his Holy Temple!
George Root was a major figure in 19th century popular American song. He, like many of his compatriots, worked with Lowell Mason, the father of main-line American hymnody. Born in Sheffield, MA, he was something of a musical genius—he announced he wanted to play as many instruments as he was old, so for his thirteenth birthday he could play thirteen different instruments. He played the organ in church, and taught music in one of Lowell Mason's schools and then at several schools in New York among them the New York Institute for the Blind, where he met Fanny Crosby. Overworked, he left for Europe in 1853 to rest and study. When he returned he established his Dr. Geo. Root's Normal Musical Institute. Most of the 19th century popular musicians studied there. He was also a publisher of music. During the Chicago Fire in 1871 his company was burned to the ground. The reports are that he lost a quarter of a million dollars of inventory and machinery from the disaster. He sold the plates and remained in Chicago where he continued his school, publishing some seventy-five books and two hundred sheet music songs, plus gospel songs. He died while on a vacation in Maine.
A violin solo