And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come! Revelation 4:8
Last Sunday as we sang the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” together to celebrate Trinity Sunday, I could sense the blessed Trinity present with us. I was inspired in that moment to resume the summer hymn series, starting with this hymn.
The creator, Reginald Heber, was born in 1783 to a minister and his wife in an English village not too unlike Sebec. After a happy childhood and a good education, he enrolled at Oxford where he excelled in poetry. Following graduation Reginald succeeded his father as vicar in his family’s parish.
His love of poetry and preaching naturally gave him a growing interest in hymnody. He wanted to lift the quality of hymns and of publishing a collection of hymns corresponding to the church calendar for use by liturgical churches.
His Bishop didn’t share his vision, however Reginald continued writing hymns for his own church. In all he wrote 57 hymns including the revealing missionary hymn “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains” which called on missionaries to take the gospel to faraway places.
Shortly after writing that hymn, he was appointed to oversee the Church of England’s ministries in India. Arriving in Calcutta in 1826, he set out on a tour of his diocese. After preaching to a large crowd in the hot sun, Reginald plunged into a cool pool of water, suffered a stroke and drowned.
After his death his widow found the 57 hymns in a trunk and published his “Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Service of the Church Year.” In this volume was the great Trinitarian hymn based on Revelation 4:8-11, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” that we know and love today.