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Danish: Hellig, Hellig, Hellig

English: Holy, Holy, Holy

Norwegian: Hellig, Hellig, Hellig

Swedish: Helig, Helig, Helig

Isaiah 6:3: Revelation 4:1-11

Icon on the Old Testament Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev

Text: Reginald Heber (1783-1826) Tune: John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876)

1.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!

2. 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 shall be!

3. 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.

4. 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!


When those of us of a certain age hear the strains of this hymn, we are brought back to full churches with robed choirs standing in the back singing the first stanza of this as a call to worship and then processing up to choir loft as we all sang the next stanzas. It set the stage for worship.

The sense of the holy quieted us down and prepared us for an encounter with God. Even in the simplest, most spare settings, the hymn spoke of a grandness that could not be pictured in the furniture around us, but richly in the words.

One longs for things holy these days. Something, anything, that would cause people to bow their knees to something they sense is greater than they are. We hear in Scripture that when people meet Jesus they fall to their knees and cry out that they are unworthy and repent of their sins. Even the demons cry out when they sense his presence—they even name the name.

Some have argued that we do not know the holy if we do not know the unholy. I have heard the argument that children who have had their mouths washed out with soap for uttering an obscenity have a much clearer sense of the holy. The more we use gutter language, which in the olden days we suppressed, we make it less shocking and as we do that, we also erode the sense of the holy.

Teepa Snow, an expert in how to care for those suffering dementia, has a wonderful Youtube demonstration of why people who have been emblems of good manners and fine speech during their lives suddenly, in their decline begin, to swear and use terrible language. She noted that when those who had learned not to say something and remembered that rule for decades began to lose control over their speech, these words would come out in either frustration or rage.

She then imagined that the current generation, which has been free with their obscenities and coarse language, when frustrated and outraged in their declines, will shout, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Civilization cannot flourish without people who know to repress their bad manners and filthy language. Repression, in fact, Freud argued, is what builds civilization because people learn to delay gratification for a higher goal. Most want instant gratification today, trusting in their own hearts to find life.

As Christian, the main character in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress approaches the Heavenly Jerusalem, or Mount Zion, he meets Ignorance, a callow youth, whose faith is in his own heart. This appalls Christian who remembers Proverbs 28:26, "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” As the conversation continues, Christian exclaims, “true justifying faith puts the soul, as sensible of its lost condition by the law, flying for refuge unto Christ’s righteousness.” Ignorance is appalled by this and retorts “would you have us trust to what Christ in His own person has done without us? After further conversation, Christian proclaims that Ignorance is ignorant of true faith. “Be awakened, then; see thine own wretchedness and fly to the Lord Jesus; and, by His righteousness, which is the righteousness of God…thou shalt be delivered from condemnation.” This is too much for Ignorance, who falls behind. In the last paragraph of this classic, Ignorance, who has made it easily across the river, comes to heaven's gate, but, like the unfortunate guest in Matthew 25, is sent packing away down into hell, “even from the gates of heaven!”

One of the things Ignorance was ignorant of was holiness. He seemed not to be stopped by the holiness of God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the Psalmist says. Some people quibble at the notion of fearing God—but here again we are talking of God’s otherness, his holiness, something we lack. We cannot be holy without him. He sent his Holy Spirit to make us holy, but we cannot receive that holiness and be made anew if we are not sent to our knees in awe, aware that we are not what we should or could be without his Spirit working in us every day.

Maybe upon reflection we can remember fondly this hymn turning our minds to the holiness of God, the Trinity, in the simplest places, painting for us a reality far more grand and glorious than anything we could see around us, "golden crowns around a glassy sea." In these glimpses we hear tell, once again, the glory of God. Holy! Holy! Holy!


Reginald Heber attended Brasenose college at Oxford, and became an Anglican parish priest. In the meantime, he had developed an interest in India. In 1823 he was appointed Bishop of Calcutta. He took to his calling with great vigor, traveling through the diocese of Calcutta, hither and yon. On his visitations, he traveled through Bengal, Bombay and Ceylon. During that time, in Dehli, he became ill with a fever. After confirming forty-two natives into the Christian faith in Trichinopoly on April 3, 1826, he took a cold bath as he had done before and died, probably of exhaustion.

This text, with its tune by John Bacchus Dykes, named Nicea after the place where the Nicene Creed was written in 325, shows the interest in the early church that would mark the movement that was stirring in England toward what became the Oxford Movement.


The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra

Oslo Gospel Choir/ Salmeskatt

Danish Christian pop singer Signe Walsøe

Swedish meeting of a Pentecostal type group, Oasmöte/the first part

NB Another lovely tune for the day by Daniel Damon

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