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Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty

Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

God’s children are called to and gathered to give worship to all three members of the Trinity. Belgic Confession, Article 8, gives the clearest explanation of the three persons of the Trinity, including not only their identity, but also their nature and tasks: “The Father is the cause, origin, and source of all things, visible and invisible. The Son is the Word, the Wisdom, and the image of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son.”
 

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 8, Questions and Answers 24 and 25 does so in much briefer form. As does the Belhar Confession, Section 1: “We believe in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects and cares for the church through Word and Spirit. This, God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end.”

Additional Prayers

A Prayer for the Opening of Worship
Lord God Almighty, our prayer rises to you in all your mercy and power. Your inner life is a dazzling mystery of glory and love, and we have beheld your glory in the One incarnate. You are God in three persons, blessed Trinity, and we worship you in the power of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

A Prayer for the Opening of Worship
Holy God, lifted in purity above sin, all the saints adore thee. Yet, for us and for our salvation, your Son plunged into sin, that sin should be removed from us. For this amazing grace, all your works shall praise your name in earth and sky and sea. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

A Prayer of Confession
Holy God, perfect in power, in love, and purity, our shabby lives cannot withstand your scrutiny. You are perfect in power; we are impotent in the face of evil. You are perfect in love; we ignore the very persons we should embrace. You are perfect in purity; our thoughts and fantasies are so often corrupt. So, in your power, love, and purity, forgive us, we pray. Forgive, correct, and heal us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

A Prayer for Illumination
Gracious God, knowing the end from the beginning, forever old, forever new, you were and are and evermore shall be. Our lives are only a breath, withering like the grass, fading like a flower, but your Word stands forever. So illumine it now for our reading and listening, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

Hymn Story/Background

Using reverent and apocalyptic language, "Holy, Holy, Holy!" alludes to Revelation 4:6-11; 5:13; 15:2-4; and Isaiah 6:1-3 to sing the great majesty of the triune God. Note the cosmic scope of the text: human beings (st. 1), saints and angels in glory (st. 2), and all creation (st. 4) praise the name of the Lord! Though God's holiness, love, and purity are cloaked in mystery, we can still experience God's mercy and mighty power, and we can participate in praising God. The text is trinitarian in theme, but not in structure.
 
Reginald Heber wrote the text for Trinity Sunday, the day for which the lectionary in the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer prescribes the reading of Revelation 4. It was first published in the third edition (1826) of A Selection of Psalms and Hymns for the Parish Church of Banbury and was also published posthumously in Heber's Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Services of the Year (1827). The unusual single rhyme (all on the "ee" sound) and the uneven number of syllables in some lines have not detracted from the hymn's popularity.
 
The tune NICAEA is named after the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) at which church leaders began to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity to oppose the heresies of Arius. NICAEA is one of the finest tunes composed by John B. Dykes and the only one of his many tunes that resembles the style of the Lutheran chorale—its similarity to WACHET AUF is noted by various scholars. Dykes wrote NICAEA as a setting for Reginald's text, and ever since their first publication together in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861), the text and tune have been virtually inseparable.
 
Organists should articulate the repeated melody notes clearly but tie over a number of the repeated accompaniment notes. Sing at a stately tempo with solid organ tone. 
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, Reginald Heber (b. Malpas, Chesire, England, 1783; d. Trichinopoly, India, 1826) was ordained in the Church of England in 1807. He first served his family's parish in Hodnet, Shropshire (1807-1823), and in 1823 his dream of being a missionary was fulfilled when he was appointed bishop of Calcutta. He worked and traveled ceaselessly until his sudden death in 1826. Heber began writing hymns partly because of his dissatisfaction with the poor psalm singing in his congregation and partly because he was influenced by the vital hymn singing among Methodists and Baptists. He wrote hymns while in Hodnet and ex­pressed a desire to compile a hymnbook with its contents appropriate to the church year. His fifty-seven hymn texts were published posthumously by his wife in Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Services of the Year (1827), a hymnbook that began a tradition of arranging the contents of hymn collections according to the church year.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

As a young child John Bacchus Dykes (b. Kingston-upon-Hull' England, 1823; d. Ticehurst, Sussex, England, 1876)  took violin and piano lessons. At the age of ten he became the organist of St. John's in Hull, where his grandfather was vicar. After receiving a classics degree from St. Catherine College, Cambridge, England, he was ordained in the Church of England in 1847. In 1849 he became the precentor and choir director at Durham Cathedral, where he introduced reforms in the choir by insisting on consistent attendance, increasing rehearsals, and initiating music festivals. He served the parish of St. Oswald in Durham from 1862 until the year of his death. To the chagrin of his bishop, Dykes favored the high church practices associated with the Oxford Movement (choir robes, incense, and the like). A number of his three hundred hymn tunes are still respected as durable examples of Victorian hymnody. Most of his tunes were first published in Chope's Congregational Hymn and Tune Book (1857) and in early editions of the famous British hymnal, Hymns Ancient and Modern.
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

In 325 AD, Church leaders convened in the town of Nicaea in Bithynia to formulate a consensus of belief and practice amongst Christians. What resulted was the Nicene Creed, a document passed on through the ages as one of the ecumenical confessions of the Christian church. The primary function of this creed was to establish a firm belief in the Trinity, countering the heresy of Arius, who believed that Jesus was not fully divine.  It was this creed that inspired Reginald Heber to write this great hymn of praise to the Trinity God, with the intent that the hymn be sung before or after the creed was recited in a service, and on Trinity Sunday, eight weeks after Easter. The tune, composed by John B. Dykes for Heber’s text, is also titled NICAEA in recognition of Heber’s text. The words evoke a sense of awe at the majesty of God, and call on all of creation—humans, saints and angels, and all living things—to praise the Godhead three-in-one. 
— Laura de Jong