Holy, Holy, Holy!

The hymn is based on Revelation 4:4-11.

Though born just over the Cheshire border in Malpas in 1783, Reginald Heber was educated in Whitchurch before going up to Oxford where he showed himself to be a brilliant scholar.  Heber was ordained in 1807 and became Rector of Hodnet where he was a model parish priest.  In 1822 he accepted, with much reluctance, the bishopric of Calcutta, where he worked tirelessly until he died suddenly in 1828.  His chief title to fame is his skill as a hymn-writer.  He was the first to write hymns for the Christian year.  Perhaps the most famous of all his hymns, although now considered politically incorrect, is “From Greenland’s icy mountains” hastily written one Sunday afternoon in time for the evening service at Wrexham where his father-in-law was engaged to preach a missionary sermon.  On another occasion in 1826, while still Rector of Hodnet, when the lesson was read in church he wrote a hymn to compliment it.

If you visit the gardens of Hodnet Hall, walk along the path beneath those magnificent trees and think of Heber, because that is where he had his inspiration to write the hymn.  He rushed into the house and committed to paper the hymn that has appeared in more hymn books than any other. “Holy, Holy, Holy”.

Christopher Jobson

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 an 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

(Reginald Heber, 1783-1826)

Taken from Ancient and Modern, Full Music Edition, Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd, 2017. Christopher Jobson is our local historian and Organist of Colemere Church for 64 years.

Bishop Heber

The feature image for this post is “Portrait of Reginald Heber” by Thomas Phillips c.1822 (WikiCommons, P.D.)

Leave a Reply