Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent
From Hosanna, Loud Hosannas Student Hymnal
Guest Writer Karla Foreman, Director of Curriculum and Coordinator of GCCS, at Grace Community School
This year, in searching for a hymn to fit with our history study of the time right after the fall of Rome, I came across this Christmas hymn. It was sung in worship during the 5th century and is thought to be the oldest hymn continuously sung by the church. Some scholars believe that the words were written around 60 A.D. (the time of Paul), and we know those words were translated into English in 1864 and put to this tune in 1906.
I had never heard the hymn or the tune, but it has already come to be a favorite. The music sticks with you and the words provoke the kind of awe for which the only proper response is silence.
Here are the words, and I hope you can listen and ponder and be blessed by meditating on them and by listening. To listen, click here.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly-minded,
for with blessing in his hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
in the body and the blood;
he will give to all the faithful
his own self for heavenly food.
Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
that the powers of hell may vanish
as the darkness clears away.
At his feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim, with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Lord Most High!