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Holy! Holy! Holy!

Holy! Holy! Holy!

Reginald Heber was a remarkable young minister. He served for 16 years in a small Scottish country church but he had a penchant for missions. It was a unique opportunity when he was asked to be the  bishop of Calcutta. He had not yet reached the age of forty.

He would be greatly beloved in his new post but he died in less than three years from the strain and environment of his ministry. Monuments were built in his memory but his greatest legacy would not come from his sermons nor even from the life he lived or his example to others.

Reginald Heber was a poet. He had won awards for his works while in school and he was even a childhood friend of the great writer, Sir Walter Scott. So, Heber’s legacy would come to us through a hymn that he wrote to celebrate Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday that follows Pentecost. That hymn is known to us as “Holy! Holy! Holy!”

It embraces the concept of the Trinity in its title, it’s lyrics, it’s meter and it’s imagery. It is loaded with symbolism of God’s threefold nature, in the phrases “earth, sky and sea”, “is, was and shall be” and “power, love and purity.”

All the more remarkable is the fact that it was written at a time when the Anglican Church had banned the use of hymns in the church. After Heber’s death in 1826,  John Dykes added the music. The result is a powerful and dynamic song of faith that endures in church hymnbooks 200 years later. Here are the lyrics to Reginald Heber’s greatest work:

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