Trinity Sunday

Hymns for Trinity Sunday
Propers
Psalms from the Daily Office
Motets and cantatas
John Keble, “Trinity Sunday”

Hymns for Trinity Sunday

“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” (#266)
“I bind unto myself today” (#268)
“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord” (#270)

“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” (#266)

The processional hymns in our Trinity Sunday service is often “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” (#266). It was written by Reginald Heber (1783-1826), a scholar (fellow of All Souls, Oxford), priest (rector of a parish in Shropshire for sixteen years), and bishop of Calcutta from 1823 until his death. As bishop of Calcutta, all of India was his diocese. An admirer of the hymns of John Newton and William Cowper, Heber was one of the first High Church Anglicans to write his own hymns.

The tune associated with this hymn is named NICAEA, and was composed especially for use with Heber’s text by John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876). A gifted organist and an ordained deacon, Heber composed a number of services (i.e., settings of all the canticles used in Morning and Evening Prayer), anthems, and hymn tunes. Our Hymnal contains 22 of his tunes, more than is included by any other composer.

Here is “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Cleobury.

“I bind unto myself today” (#268)

This vigorous hymn attributed to St. Patrick is discussed at length on this page.

“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord” (#270)

This lesser-known hymn was written by Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885), the bishop of Lincoln, the nephew of the poet William Wordsworth, and the most celebrated Greek scholar of his day. In 1862, he published a collection of his verse in The Holy Year, or, Hymns for Sundays and Holy Days throughout the Year. “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord” was the Trinity Sunday hymn in that volume. The tune to which it is sung by Edward J. Hopkins (1818-1901) is named ST. ATHANASIUS, a fitting name as that saint was a great defender of orthodox belief concerning the Trinity.

Two of the stanza’s from Wordsworth’s original are omitted from our Hymnal;. they were placed before what we sing as the sixth, doxological stanza. All eight stanzas from the original are presented below.

1 Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord
God of hosts, Eternal King,
By the heavens and earth adored!
Angels and archangels sing,
Chanting everlastingly
To the blessèd Trinity.

2. Since by Thee were all things made,
And in Thee do all things live,
Be to Thee all honor paid;
Praise to Thee let all things give,
Singing everlastingly
To the blessèd Trinity.

3. Thousands, tens of thousands stand,
Spirits blest before Thy throne,
Speeding thence at Thy command;
And, when Thy command is done,
Singing everlastingly
To the blessèd Trinity.

4. Cherubim and seraphim
Veil their faces with their wings;
Eyes of angels are too dim
To behold the King of kings,
While they sing eternally
To the blessèd Trinity.

5. Thee, apostles, prophets, Thee,
Thee, the noble martyr band,
Praise with solemn jubilee,
Thee, the Church in every land;
Singing everlastingly,
To the blessèd Trinity.

6. In Thy Name baptiz’d are we.
With Thy Blessing are dismiss’d ;
And Thrice-Holy chant to Thee
In the holy Eucharist ;
Life is one Doxology
To the blessèd Trinity.

7. To the Father and the Son,
Who for us did deign to die;
And to God the Holy One,
Who the Church doth sanctify;
Sing we with glad Jubilee,
Hallelujah! Lord, to Thee.

8. Alleluia! Lord, to Thee,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Three in One, and One in Three,
Join we with the heavenly host,
Singing everlastingly
To the blessèd Trinity.

Propers

        Introit

Benedicta sit. Tobit 12
Blessed be the holy Trinity, and the undivided Unity: we will praise and glorify him him, because he hath shewed his mercy upon us. [Psalm 8] O Lord our Governour: how excellent is thy Name in all the world. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen. Blessed be the holy Trinity . . .

        Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity: we beseech thee; that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

        Epistle

Revelation 4:1-11
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

        Gradual

[Daniel 3] Blessed art thou, O Lord, which beholdest the great deep, and sittest upon the Cherubim. Blessed art thou, O Lord, in the firmament of heaven: and above all to be praised and glorified for ever.

        Alleluia

Alleluia, alleluia. Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers: and worthy to be praised for evermore. Alleluia.

        Gospel

St. John 3:1-15
At that time: 1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

        Offertory

[Tobit 12] Blessed be God the Father, and the only-begotten Son of God, and blessed be the Holy Spirit: for the mercy he hath done unto us.

        Communion

[Tobit 12] Let us bless the God of heaven, and in the sight of all living will we give thanks unto him: because he hath done to usward after his loving-kindness.

Psalms from the Daily Office

Omitted Psalms in the listing below have not yet been recorded.

Sunday
MORNING PRAYER Psalm 33 (Tone III A 5)
Exultate, justi
EVENING PRAYER — Psalm 148 (Tone VII 2)
Laudate Dominum, de cælis
Monday
MORNING PRAYER — Psalm 2 (Tone III A 4)
Quare fremuerunt gentes?
EVENING PRAYER — Psalm 8 (Tone V 2)
Domine Dominus noster quam admirabile
Tuesday
MORNING PRAYERPsalm 5 (Tone I A 4)
Verba mea auribus percipe
EVENING PRAYERPsalm 16 (Tone VIII 5)
Conserva me, Domine
EVENING PRAYERPsalm 20 (Tone III A 1)
Exaudiat te Dominus
Wednesday
MORNING PRAYERPsalm 7 (Tone I A 1)
Domine Deus meus in te speravi
EVENING PRAYERPsalm 25 (Tone I A 9)
Ad te, Domine, levavi
Thursday
MORNING PRAYERPsalm 9 (Tone VI C)
Confitebor tibi, Domine, in toto corde meo
EVENING PRAYERPsalm 27 (Tone VII 3)
Dominus illuminatio mea
Friday
MORNING PRAYERPsalm 10 (Tone VIII 2)
Ut quid, Domine, recessisti longe?
EVENING PRAYERPsalm 6 (Tone VIII 5)
Domine, ne in furore tuo
EVENING PRAYERPsalm 26 (Tone VI B)
Judica me, Domine
Saturday
MORNING PRAYERPsalm 13 (Tone III A 4)
Usquequo, Domine, obliviscris me?
MORNING PRAYERPsalm 14 (Tone VII 4)
Dixit insipiens in corde suo
EVENING PRAYERPsalm 29 (Tone V 3)
Afferte Domino, filii Dei
EVENING PRAYERPsalm 30 (Tone I B 10)
Exaltabo te, Domine

Motets and cantatas

Orlande de Lassus, Tibi laus, tibi gloria
Felice Anerio, Tibi laus, tibi gloria
Peter Philips, Tibi laus, tibi gloria
Tomás Luis de Victoria, Benedicta sit Sancta Trinitas
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Benedictus sit Deus
Dieterich Buxtehude, O lux beata, trinitas et principalis unitas
Andrej Makor, O lux beata, trinitas et principalis unitas (two settings)
J. S. Bach, Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott (“Praised be the Lord”)

Orlande de Lassus, Tibi laus, tibi gloria

This is the text of a responsory traditionally sung during Matins (the earliest office of the day, historically sung around 2 AM) on Trinity Sunday:

Tibi laus, tibi gloria, tibi gratiarum actio in saecula sempiterna [saeculorum], O beata Trinitas.
To you be praise, to you be glory, to you be thanksgiving, for ever and ever, O blessed Trinity.
Et benedictum nomen gloriae tuae sanctum: et laudabile et super exaltatum in saecula.
And blessed is the Holy Name of your glory, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. Amen.


Below are three settings of this text, the first by Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594). In the second half of his setting, Lassus substituted the text of a sequence hymn for Trinity Sunday. The text is joyous and Lassus’s music exessed the delight present in the words:

Da gaudiorum praemia,
Give the prize of joy,
da gratiarum munera,
give the rewards of grace,
dissolve litis vincula,
break the chains of conflict,
astringe pacis foedera.
bind fast the cords of peace.

The King’s Singers

back to list of motets and cantatas

Felice Anerio, Tibi laus, tibi gloria

Felice Anerio (1560-1614) wrote an 8-part setting of this respsonsory. It alternates between passages where all eight parts sing at once and sections where one 4-part choir sings a phrase, answered by the other 4 parts.

The Huelgas Ensemble, Paul Van Nevel, conductor

back to list of motets and cantatas

Peter Philips, Tibi laus, tibi gloria

Our choir has sung a setting of Tibi laus, tibi gloria by one of our faroite composers, the English-born Peter Philips (1560–1628). Philips’s setting expands the traditional responsory text by inserting between the two standard lines these three affirmations, which gives him a way of repeating those triumphant words, “O beata Trinitas.” The opening words are sung by 3 high voices (joined eventually by 2 lower voices), perhaps hinting at a Trinitarian texture to the opening proclamation or praise. Here is the entire text as Philips set it:

Tibi laus, tibi gloria, tibi gratiarum actio in saecula sempiterna [saeculorum], O beata Trinitas.
To you be praise, to you be glory, to you be thanksgiving, for ever and ever, O blessed Trinity.
Caritas Pater est, gratia Filius, communicatio Spiritus Sanctus, O beata Trinitas.
The Father is charity, the Son grace, the Holy Spirit imparting goodness: O blessed Trinity.
Verax est Pater, veritas Filius, veritas Spiritus Sanctus, O beata Trinitas.
The Father is conveying the truth, the Son is truth, the Holy Spirit truth: O blessed Trinity.
Pater et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus una substantia est, O beata Trinitas.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one substance, O blessed Trinity.
Et benedictum nomen gloriae tuae sanctum: et laudabile et super exaltatum in saecula.
And blessed is the Holy Name of your glory, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. Amen.

The Tudor Consort, Peter Walls, Conductor

Tomás Luis de Victoria, Benedicta sit Sancta Trinitas

One of the many settings for the Introit for Trinity Sunday is by Tomás Luis de Victoria (c.1548-1611).

Benedicta sit sancta Trinitas
Blessed be the holy Trinity,
atque indivisa Unitas
and undivided Unity:
confitebimur ei
we will give glory to Him,
quia fecit nobiscum misericordiam suam.
because He hath shown His mercy to us.
Alleluia.
Alleluia.

Nordic Voices

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Benedictus sit Deus

Among the dozens of Offertory settings composed by Palestrina is this setting for Trinity Sunday. The text is from the book of Tobit, as are today’s Introit and Communion proper.

Benedictus sit Deus Pater,
Blessed be God the Father
unigenitusque Dei Filius,
and the only-begotten Son of God,
Sanctus quoque Spiritus,
and the Holy Spirit;
quia fecit nobiscum misericordiam suam.
for he has dealt with us according to his mercy.

Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conducted by Richard Marlow

Dieterich Buxtehude, O lux beata, trinitas et principalis unitas

A Vespers hymn for Trinity Sunday is traditionally attributed to St. Ambrose (339-397), although it is probably not from his pen.

O lux beata Trinitas,
O blessed light, the Trinity,
Et principalis unitas,
And the primal Unity:
Iam sol recedat igneus,
Now the fiery sun is setting.
Infunde lumen cordibus.
Pour light upon our hearts.

Te mane laudum carmine,
To you in the morning with a song of praises,
Te deprecemur vespere:
To you let us pray in the evening.
Te nostra supplex gloria
You may our humble glory
Per cuncta laudet sæcula.
Praise through all the ages.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
To God the Father be the glory,
Ejusque soli Filio,
And to his only Son,
Cum Spiritu Paraclito,
With the Spirit, the Comforter,
Et nunc et in perpetuum. Amen.
Both now and forever. Amen.

As was the case for most German Protestant composers after the Reformation, most of the works of Dieterich Buxtehude (c.1637-1707) were in German. However, he did compose a Latin version of this great Trinitarian hymn. It is scored for two sopranos, three violins, and a continuo ensemble which includes a vigorous part for a bassoon player.

Sopranos Dorothee Wohlgemuth and Verena Gropper with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, conducted by Ton Koopman

Andrej Makor, O lux beata, trinitas et principalis unitas

The young Slovenian composer Andrej Makor (b. 1987) has set composed two settings of this text, the first (in 2013) for SATB choir.

BYU Singers conducted by Dr. Andrew Crane

In 2019, Makor put together another version of this text for unaccompanied women’s voices. The newer setting was dedicated to dedicated to conductor Kathleen Rodde and the Cantamus Women’s Choir at Iowa State University. They sang the premiere performance in March 2019, a recording of which is presented below.

Cantamus Women’s Choir at Iowa State University, conducted by Kathleen Rodde

J. S. Bach, Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott (“Praised be the Lord”)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) composed four cantatas to be sung on Trinity Sunday. The most festive of these — trumpets and timpani right out of the block — signal that a real celebration is happening — is Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott (“Praised be the Lord,” BWV 129). Composed in 1726, Bach took all five strophes or stanzas from a hymn by Johann Olearius (1611-1684). The first three stanzas speak in turn of each of the three persons of the Trinity, while the fourth and fifth stanzas concern the Trinity as such. The complete text is available here.

Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott is performed here by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir conducted by Ton Koopman. The soloists are Johannette Zomer, soprano; Bogna Bartosz, alto; and Klaus Mertens, bass.

John Keble, “Trinity Sunday”

If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not,
how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?
St. John iii. 12

Creator, Saviour, strengthening Guide,
Now on Thy mercy’s ocean wide
Far out of sight we seem to glide.

Help us, each hour, with steadier eye
To search the deepening mystery,
The wonders of Thy sea and sky.

The blessed Angels look and long
To praise Thee with a worthier song,
And yet our silence does Thee wrong.-

Along the Church’s central space
The sacred weeks, with unfelt pace,
Hath borne us on from grace to grace.

As travellers on some woodland height,
When wintry suns are gleaming bright,
Lose in arched glades their tangled sight;-

By glimpses such as dreamers love
Through her grey veil the leafless grove
Shows where the distant shadows rove;-

Such trembling joy the soul o’er-awes
As nearer to Thy shrine she draws:-
And now before the choir we pause.

The door is closed-but soft and deep
Around the awful arches sweep,
Such airs as soothe a hermit’s sleep.

From each carved nook and fretted bend
Cornice and gallery seem to send
Tones that with seraphs hymns might blend.

Three solemn parts together twine
In harmony’s mysterious line;
Three solemn aisles approach the shrine:

Yet all are One-together all,
In thoughts that awe but not appall,
Teach the adoring heart to fall.

Within these walls each fluttering guest
Is gently lured to one safe nest-
Without, ’tis moaning and unrest.

The busy world a thousand ways
Is hurrying by, nor ever stays
To catch a note of Thy dear praise.

Why tarries not her chariot wheel,
That o’er her with no vain appeal
One gust of heavenly song might steal?

Alas! for her Thy opening flowers
Unheeded breathe to summer showers,
Unheard the music of Thy bowers.

What echoes from the sacred dome
The selfish spirit may o’ercome
That will not hear of love or home!

The heart that scorned a father’s care,
How can it rise in filial prayer?
How an all-seeing Guardian bear?

Or how shall envious brethren own
A Brother on the eternal throne,
Their Father’s joy, their hops alone?

How shall Thy Spirit’s gracious wile
The sullen brow of gloom beguile,
That frowns on sweet Affection’s smile?

Eternal One, Almighty Trine!
(Since Thou art ours, and we are Thine,)
By all Thy love did once resign,

By all the grace Thy heavens still hide,
We pray Thee, keep us at Thy side,
Creator, Saviour, strengthening Guide!