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Holy, Holy, Holy

One of the classic hymns for Trinity Sunday is our opening hymn this weekend: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty. The text was written by Reginald Heber (1783-1826). Heber was educated at Oxford and served as a priest in Hodnet in the west of England before he was appointed Bishop of Calcutta in 1823. He wrote several other hymns which are still in use today including #403 in Worship, Virgin-born, We Bow before You.

In 1861 by John B. Dykes composed the tune NICAEA for Heber’s text. They were first published together in Hymns Ancient and Modern and have been closely associated ever since. The tune is named for the Council of Nicaea. This council was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 and established a consensus on many issues of church doctrine, including the Trinity. The Nicene Creed that we typically recite at Mass originated at this council.

The opening line of the hymn references Isaiah 6:3, and the entire hymn paraphrases Revelation 4: 1-11. Both passages relate visions of worshiping God in heaven and provide the text for our Eucharistic Acclamation: Holy, Holy, Holy. Last year at this time, we began singing a new musical setting for this text using the Mass of Wisdom.

The Eucharistic Acclamations are the most important parts of Mass that we sing. The music for these texts generally stays the same so that you become familiar enough with them to actually pray them as you sing. We will continue to sing the Mass of Wisdom throughout the summer, and I hope these will become the best singing I hear from you.

Whenever we gather to worship, using hymns or acclamations, raise your voice in song like the cherubim and seraphim to praise the Trinity and acclaim: Holy, Holy, Holy!