A Hymn For All Seasons
The concept of God as being perfect in goodness and righteousness and worthy of complete devotion is a central theme of the Bible. The book of Isaiah, Chapter 6, verse, 3, states this concept in poetic form, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
Revelation 4:8 offers this apocalyptic statement on the holiness of God: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”
From the earliest days of Christianity, the Sanctus (the Latin word which translates as “holy”) has been a part of the liturgy of the Mass. Today, every Mass of the Catholic Church throughout the world includes the Sanctus sung or spoken in the vernacular.
Holy Holy Holy Sung Most Often
Because of its universal use in the Mass, “Holy, holy, holy” is the hymn text that is probably sung or spoken more often than any other.
Reginald Heber (1783-1826), the pastor of a small Anglican church and a scholar of ancient Greek and Hebrew and Christian doctrine, combined his scholarly and liturgical knowledge with his considerable poetic gifts in writing his greatest hymn—“Holy Holy Holy.”
The hymn is written in the rather unusual meter of 12. 12. 12. 10. Composer John Bacchus Dykes recognized the beauty of these verses and composed a tune for them, which he aptly named, “Nicaea.”
Heber forged poetic references to the Nicene Creed and the doctrine of the Trinity, the sovereignty of God, Psalm 19 and to the books of Isaiah and Revelation to create a hymn which the great poet Alfred Lord Tennyson is said to have considered one of the finest hymns ever written.
Whatever the season, “Holy Holy Holy” is an ideal hymn for both corporate worship and individual reflection and meditation.