holytrinity.jpg Today is Trinity Sunday, and although we didn’t really observe the church calendar in the churches where I grew up, it still made sense to feature a hymn that was originally written for Trinity Sunday in 1826. This week’s hymn for my ongoing feature Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth is “Holy, Holy, Holy” with words penned by Re­gi­nald He­ber while he was Vi­car of Hod­net, Shrop­shire, Eng­land. The tune is called “Nicaea” after the Nicaean Council in 325, and was composed by John Bacchus Dykes in 1861 specifically for these lyrics.

As a youngster, I’d never heard of the Athanasian Creed, but I was somewhat familiar with the trinity, of course. My memories of this hymn are of the way that each of the first three lines in the stanzas build. The third line in particular starts low and quiet and builds with intensity. Given the lyrics and the grandeur of the hymn’s theme, this makes sense and encourages singers to reach a little as they sing. I also have a recollection of very loud organ playing in the background, as the accompanist seemed to see fit to hold some kind of loud and sustained chord.

Holy, Holy, Holy

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, blessèd Trinity!

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! 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, blessèd Trinity!

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