Hymn of the Month: Holy, Holy, Holy

Explore the many ways a favorite hymn can help us understand our faith.

By Kate Daneluk

Traditional hymns have stood the test of time and can communicate some of the best catechesis if we take the time to unpack them. The music makes them easy to remember and we have a reference for the rest of our lives to help us better understand our faith. Take some time with us here and in your classroom to explore the Hymn of the Month.

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, blessed 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 made blind by sin Thy glory may not see,
only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
perfect in pow’r, 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, blessed Trinity.

Reginald Heber 1783-1823

Two hundred years ago, Reginald Heber wrote this inspired song of praise. Four verses simply define what holiness is by describing our God. No wonder it has stood the test of time so well! Being of and from God is what makes something holy. His very nature is holiness.

The hymn describes several of God’s attributes, each worthy of individual reflection and study. God is:

  • Almighty
  • Merciful
  • Triune
  • Adored by the Angels
  • Eternal and without beginning
  • Supreme
  • Unique
  • Pure
  • Loving
  • Powerful
  • Creator
  • Worthy of all praise

For the classroom:

Let Holy Holy Holy be your hymn of the month. Put the hymn on the bulletin board. Have a copy with the music for each student to keep in their desk or binders. Sing the hymn each day and spend some time breaking it down throughout the month with mini-lessons.

Lesson Ideas:

  1. Examine the lyrics: Take time to go through the lyrics and ensure that the students understand the meaning and vocabulary. This is a great opportunity to let the students share their reflections and share their faith.
  2. Scripture connection: Have the students look up and read the relevant scripture to the lyrics.
    Revelation 4:6-11; 5:13; 15:2-4
    Isaiah 6:1-3
  3. Language Arts: The poetry of the lyrics are an opportunity to review rhyme scheme, meter, stanza, and form.
  4. Learning about the angels: With the very specific reference to the seraphim and cherubim, the choirs of angels who continuously offer praise to God, this is a very good time to discuss what we know about the angels. There is a lot of misinformation around regarding angels. Consider these sources to help:
  5. Learning about Heaven: We don’t know much about Heaven, but we know it is God’s home. Two very important points are made about Heaven in the hymn: it is the eternal home of the saints and angels who worship God at all times. This is good opportunity to discuss the afterlife with your students and the Church’s teachings on Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.
  6. Reconciliation: Verse three reminds us that we cannot be holy or perfect. Only God can. It is by His grace alone that we attain holiness. We are unable to witness the true glory of God in our weakened, sinful state. And so, not only will we need to be purified in order to enter Heaven, but we can use this as an opportunity to conduct an examination of conscience and prepare for Reconciliation.
  7. Finding God in creation: This is an opportunity to ensure that when you students witness beauty in creation, they immediately think to thank and honor God. Let students find God in the beauty of creation around them and witness how the created honors its Creator. Students can bring in pictures, or write prayers and poems to express themselves.
  8. Trinity: The Holy Trinity is a major theme in this hymn, and the composer uses careful language to describe the Trinity. This is a very good opportunity to explain the important tenets of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.

Let your classroom and your heart be a place of praise and worship of our Almighty God, who is, alone, worthy of all praise.

Kate Daneluk is a former Catholic school teacher, early childhood music teacher, creator of the Making Music, Praying Twice music curriculum, and a homeschooling mother of six.