Let all mortal flesh keep silence

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1 Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
set your minds on things eternal,
ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descended,
come our homage to command.

2 King of kings, yet born of Mary,
once upon the earth he stood;
Lord of lords we now perceive him
in the body and the blood.
He has given to all the faithful
his own self for heavenly food.

3 Rank on rank, the host of heaven
stream before him on the way,
as the Light of Light, descending
from the realms of endless day,
comes, the powers of hell to vanquish,
clears the gloom of hell away.

4 At his feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim with sleepless eye
veil their faces to his presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry:
“Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia, Lord Most High!”

Source: Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #821

Paraphraser: Gerard Moultrie

Moultrie, Gerard, M.A., son of the Rev. John Moultrie, was born at Rugby Rectory, Sept. 16, 1829, and educated at Rugby and Exeter College, Oxford (B.A. 1851, M.A. 1856). Taking Holy Orders, he became Third Master and Chaplain in Shrewsbury School; Chaplain to the Dowager Marchioness of Londonderry, 1855-59; curate of Brightwaltham, 1859; and of Brinfield, Berks, 1860; Chaplain of the Donative of Barrow Gurney, Bristol, 1864: Vicar of Southleigh, 1869, and Warden of St. James's College, Southleigh,1873. He died April 25, 1885. His publications include: 1) The Primer set forth at large for the use of the Faithful. In Family and Private Prayer. Edited from the Post Reformation editions, 1864. (2) Hymns and Lyrics for the Seasons and Saint… Go to person page >

Notes

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Hab. 2:20,Zech. 2:13
st. 2 = Rev. 19:16,Luke 22:19-20
st. 3 = Matt. 16:27
st.4 = Isa. 6:2-3

Evidence suggests that the Greek text of "Let All Mortal Flesh" may date back to the fifth century. The present text is from the Liturgy of St. James, a Syrian rite thought to have been written by St. James the Less, first Bishop of Jerusalem. It is based on a prayer chanted by the priest when the bread and wine are brought to the table of the Lord.

The text expresses awe at Christ's coming (st. 1) and the mystery of our perception of Christ in the body and blood (st. 2). With images from Isaiah 6 and Revelation 5, it portrays the glory of Christ (sung to by angels) and his victory over sin (st. 3-4). Although it has eucharistic emphasis, the text pictures the nativity of Christ in a majestic manner and in a much larger context than just his birth in Bethlehem. We are drawn into the awe and mystery with our own alleluias."

Gerard Moultrie (b. Rugby, Warnickshire, England, 1829; d. Southleigh, England, 1885) translated the text from the Greek; his English paraphrase was first published in Orby Shipley's Lyra Eucharistica (1864) and entitled "Prayer of the Cherubic Hymn." The Psalter Hymnal alters that paraphrase in part to solve Reformed sensitivities about eucharistic theology. Moultrie's great-grandfather had settled in South Carolina, but after siding with England during the American Revolution, he had moved back to Britain. Educated at Exeter College, Oxford, England, Moultrie served as a pastor and chaplain in the Church of England. In addition to writing his own hymns he prepared translations of Greek, Latin, and German hymns. He also edited several hymnals, including Hymns and Lyrics for the Seasons and Saints' Days (1867) and Cantica Sanctorum or Hymns for the Black Letter Saints' Days in the English and Scottish Calendars (1880).

Liturgical Use:
Ideal to use during Lord's Supper services at Christmastime, but may be used at any time during the Christmas season; Lord's Supper at other times of the church year (especially as a sung part of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving at the beginning of the eucharistic liturgy).

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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