Holy, Holy, Holy: The Anthem of the Trinity


Holy, Holy, Holy! is a hymn of adoration sung across the world. When I sing the hymn it inspires a feeling of awe and praise. The lyrics are a brief but reflect deep and thorough adoration of the triune God. This hymn shows the power and beauty of the Trinity. Today I will explain this hymn’s original purpose, biblical inspiration and the meaning behind each line. Join me as I explain Holy, Holy, Holy! the trinitarian anthem. 


The lyrics were written by Reginald Heber, a 19th-century country pastor and later the bishop of Calcutta. He wrote many hymns for his church in an attempt to create better worship music. His hymns were never sung in churches during his lifetime due to the Anglican Church’s opposition to hymns. Heber began reversing the Church’s stance but only after his death was the majority of his hymns published. Holy, Holy, Holy! was published in 1827 in a hymnal that assigned hymns to dates on the liturgical calendar. Holy, Holy, Holy! was assigned to Trinity Sunday, to be sung alongside the Nicene Creed. The Nicene creed lays out the doctrine of the Trinity as formulated by the Council of Nicaea. The tune for Holy, Holy, Holy! was called NICEA purposely named after the historic Council. This history illustrates that Holy, Holy, Holy! was created for a precise purpose to glorify the Trinity on Trinity Sunday. 

Do you think it accomplished this purpose? Comment your thoughts below. 

Biblical Inspiration 

Like many great hymns, the text is almost wholly inspired by the Bible. The passages that inspire the majority of the hymn are: Isaiah 6:1-3; Revelation 4:6-11; 5:13; 15:2-4. These verses display supernatural and holy scenes of praise to the lord and contribute to the heavenly words of the hymn. In Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 we find the iconic first line: Holy, holy, holy. An appropriate inspiration for a holy and glorious hymn. 

Can you think of any other Bible passages that could’ve inspired this hymn? Comment below verses that praise the triune God. 

Stanza 1

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!

The words uttered by seraphim in Isaiah 6:3 (ESV) inspired the first line: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” This was in the prophet Isaiah’s vision of the Lord in the temple. This line of praise was proclaimed as a prelude to the atonement and commissioning of the prophet Isaiah. When the seraphim declare glory to The Lord God the temple foundation shook and the house of the Lord filled with smoke. It’s marvelous that The words spoken by supernatural beings in one of the most glorious scenes in the Bible can be sung by humble humans praising a glorious God. 

Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.

In the second line, you again see the theme of praise as a prelude. In Isaiah 6:3 we hear words of praise before the main event. Also in the standard church, we worship before the preaching. This line highlights the idea of making praise to the lord a prelude for your day. This can be a hard task. Do you have a worship service at the beginning of the day? The best way I’ve found to praise the Lord in the morning is to remember as you wake up Psalms 118:24 (ESV)(#): “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” This verse helps me praise him early in the morning. 

Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!

This line praises two of God’s attributes. Qualities some humans may see as an oxymoronic, Mercy and Might. I believe these attributes were chosen to contrast God’s tender Mercy and glorious might, Giving us a better picture of the nature of our Lord God Almighty. 

God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

The end of the first stanza cements the trinitarian message of the hymn. While you may have noticed the Trinity referenced in the triple repetition of “Holy”, this is where the message is made clear and concise. This line presents the doctrine of the Trinity in only four words: “God in three persons.” It tells us we have one God with three deferent persons The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. They are of the same substance but are unique persons. 


This illustration is the best way to understand this supernatural relationship. Each person of the trinity is God and share in the same substance. On the other hand, The Father is not The Son and neither of them is The Holy Spirit. Their separate yet share the same power and substance.

This relationship is hard to compare to anything in our world and is hard to grasp. Holy, Holy, Holy describes this massive concept concisely in one line: God in three persons.

Stanza 2

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,

Before we go further, let’s highlight an increasing scope in the depiction of praise. First, we started with our own humble human praise in stanza 1 then we sing about the adoration of the heavenly saints and the cherubim and seraphim in stanza 2. We will see this scope increase throughout this hymn. 

casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;

This line and the rest of this stanza conveys event in Revelation 4:6-11 where the twenty-four elder saints give up their crowns. They then give glory and honor to the Lord along with the cherubim. 

cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,

Now we see the supernatural cherubim and seraphim praise the Lord God almighty. The four cherubim depicted in Revelation 4:6-9 had faces like a lion, an ox, a man and an eagle. Although supernatural beings, some believe their appearance symbolizes the four corners of the earth with their number and all creation with the variety of creatures their appearances takes after. Verse 8 tell us that the cherubim continually utter the most important words in the hymn: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” The cherubim live to praise the Lord God almighty and belong in a song with the same mission. 

The six-winged Seraphim are seen around the throne of God in Isaiah 6:2-3. Their features are marked with reverence and service in the presence of God. Two wing covers a face unworthy to view the lord and his consul. Two wings cover their feet and lower body a symbol of reverence in the presence of a ruler. The remaining two wing keeps the seraphim airborne ready to fulfill God’s commands. The seraphim submit to the glory of a holy God. 

who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

While this line uses dated English it was taken directly from Revelation 4:8 and 1:8. In modern bible translations Revelation 1:8 says: “”I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”” The words in this verse and the hymn says that God exists in the past, The present and the future. He exists outside of time and at all times. A marvelous quality that we can’t help but praise. 

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,

God is holy even when the darkness of this world tries to hide him. This stanza contrasts the sin and corruption of man to the sinlessness perfection of God. This first line sets the tone by highlighting God’s holiness despite the darkness of worldly sins. 

though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,

Throughout the Bible, God’s glory is shown to be beyond our understanding and vision. Holiness so pure that if sinful man interacted with it he would surely die. The closest man has come to seeing the glory of God was Moses on mount Sinai. Even then Moses could only see a small portion of his glory while worshiping the Lord during the experience. 

But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:20–23, ESV)

In holy, holy, holy we worship the Lord’s name and praise him for his holy glory despite our sinful nature. 

only thou art holy; there is none beside thee

God alone is the source of holiness and no one is holy apart from God. No idol, no preacher, no book will give you holiness. Only a holy God offers salvation and holiness to whoever believes in his son Jesus.

perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.

 God’s perfection extends to everything of God. His powerful actions are perfect. His unconditional love is perfect. His pure standards are perfect. God is perfect. Only Jesus Christ can give holiness to otherwise sinful humans. Through his perfect sacrifice on the cross, he offers his holiness as a covering for our sins. This holiness doesn’t just pardon our sins but transforms us from the inside out. It changes our heart and our actions follow. We no longer desire what is unholy but what is holy. None of this would be possible without a holy, holy, holy God. 

Stanza 4

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!

The first line of Stanza 4 is a repetition of the opening line and the most memorable line in the hymn. It along with the last two lines is a parting reminder of the mission and message of the song. 

All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea.

Now we see the culmination of that increasing scope of praise I mentioned earlier. Stanza 1 highlights our own human praise. Stanza 2 highlights the praise of heavenly beings and saints. Stanza 4 finishes with all creation praising the name of The Lord God almighty. When we sing this hymn we add our voices to the chorus of creation. 

Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!

God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

The last two lines are another welcome repetition. These lines reveal the true purpose of this hymn to worship God in three persons the blessed trinity. An anthem rallying all Christian to praise God in three in persons the blessed trinity and his wonderful attributes. 

Want more Hymn Explain™? Watch my hymn review different versions of Holy, Holy, Holy.


One response to “Holy, Holy, Holy: The Anthem of the Trinity”

  1. […] video is a follow up to my Holy, Holy, Holy hymn explained video. In this video, I review two versions of the Hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy by Latria and Holy Holy Holy by […]