I have been singing songs in worship for nearly 50 years. In the maroon colored Hymnbook (the hymnal of the churches of my childhood and youth) Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty! was hymn #11. It was located part way through the section for Hymns of Adoration and Praise. In the blue Presbyterian Hymnal, (which our church adopted about 20 years ago to help us raise our voices to God in worship) Holy, Holy, Holy was moved to hymn #138. This hymnal was arranged to open with songs for the church year – Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, etc. – and Holy, Holy, Holy founds its place under Trinity Sunday. One of the things that sold me on our new purple Glory to God hymnal, is that Holy, Holy, Holy is hymn #1. Someone finally got it right!
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty! is where many of us get our theology of the Trinity.
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!
Reginald Heber wrote the words to this hymn in the early 1800’s, and over the years Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty! has been sung throughout the western church. The second and fourth stanzas remind us that by singing praises to God we join the angels and the saints in what we are called to do:
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! 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 we sing this hymn in worship, with the organ in full voice and the sopranos breaking into the descant on the last verse, I could swear that I was in the midst of the angelic chorus. In this hymn, Revelation 4:4-8 seems to come alive again and again.
After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.
Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing,
“Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” (Rev. 4)
Let’s all make sure that we take our places praising the Holy, Holy, Holy God.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we praise you for your power and love. Help us to look for opportunities to bow before you often in worship. Amen