Holy Saturday: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”

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, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

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7 Responses to Holy Saturday: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”

  1. ginnyfree says:

    Thank you very much. God bless you and yours this Easter season. Ginnyfree.

  2. GC says:

    The choir of St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, made a very fine offering of this hymn. (Director of Cathedral Music – Thomas Wilson)

    Many will know that this is an adaptation of the Cherubic Hymn of the Liturgy of St James.

    Let all mortal flesh be silent, and stand with fear and trembling, and meditate nothing earthly within itself:—
    For the King of kings and Lord of lords, Christ our God, comes forward to be sacrificed, and to be given for food to the faithful; and the bands of angels go before Him with every power and dominion, the many-eyed cherubim, and the six-winged seraphim, covering their faces, and crying aloud the hymn, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

  3. kathleen says:

    And here’s another version of this beautiful hymn that I think is one of the best – posted by our dear friend, JabbaPapa (who has sadly disappeared from the blogosphere).

    It is a hymn not only highly appropriate for Holy Saturday, but for Advent and Lent as well… and an inspiring hymn for meditation after Holy Communion.

    P.S. ‘The New Liturgical Movement’ also posted some fine Slavonic and Byzantine interpretations of the hymn yesterday!

  4. GC says:

    kathleen, appropriate, appropriate, appropriate and did I say appropriate?

    This hymn, the Cherubic hymn, is chanted at every Mass in the West Syriac rite (of the Syriac Oriental Orthodox and Syriac Catholics) and only once every year in the Byzantine (Eastern Orthodox and Catholic) rite. For the Syriacs, it is sung just before the offerings are brought out by the priest and just after the catechumens have been dismissed. It is therefore really an offertory hymn used at every Mass, when we are about to get down to business just too holy for mere catechumens! Holy things for the holy!

    For the Byzantines, however, it is only used on Holy Saturday. Rather appropriate, then, that this hymn appeared here on CP&S on Holy Saturday!

    I think the point I came here to make is that this hymn is very transcendental in its language, as the Eastern liturgies mostly are. It is sublime, angelic. This isn’t really so of the Western liturgies, except very occasionally. It’s as if in the East our salvation has already been accomplished and our earthly lives are already lived to a decisive degree in the radiant heavenly realms; while, perhaps, in the Western liturgy we are still scraping the ground for any graces that we may possibly find.

    Well, it’s a point. What is a weekly hymn in an Eastern liturgy, at what we would call the Offertory, is something that a 19th century High Church Anglican cleric “discovered” and made into a hymn because he was trying to make Anglican worship more “transcendental”.


  5. kathleen says:

    GC @ 18:11

    How interesting everything is that you say here! You are so knowledgeable, dear friend. 🙂

    I fell in love with the Eastern (Catholic) liturgies, so aimed at the transcendental, when I first visited Gaming (Austria) nine years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, where young Eastern Catholics had gone to study at the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austrian campus.
    Whereas we in the West were still suffering the worst of the innovative banalities of that dreaded ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ in our celebrations, the Eastern Europeans, despite having been under the yoke of atheistic Communist regimes since WW2, had maintained all that was beautiful and holy in their liturgies. What I discovered at their magnificently sung Byzantine liturgies, just bowled me over in wonderment. (At Gaming Holy Mass in the Latin rite was celebrated in the Extraordinary Form too.) It came home to me all too painfully then what we ‘baby boomers’ (and younger generations) had been deprived of by the liturgical reforms of V2.
    And very especially how holy devout hymns and liturgical chants, that lift our hearts heavenward “like a cloud of incense”, had completely disappeared from the Mass in those early post-V2 decades. Some of the songs that took their place were so awful, they had an averse effect, driving people away rather than drawing them to God!!

    The good news is that there is a real awakening to the liturgical treasures of our Faith that are slowly making a comeback in the Church today!

    It must be Easter Monday now where you live. (Easter Sunday evening here in Europe.) I hope you and all who read this have enjoyed a blessed and joyful Easter Day.

  6. GC says:

    It must be Easter Monday now where you live. (Easter Sunday evening here in Europe.)

    Dear kathleen, ever of the very encouraging compliment :D, yes indeed, it must have been about 4 in the morning here on the transferred feast of the Annunciation. And I suppose it was even almost Tuesday in the far-flung clime where Mr Fisher has ensconced himself. 😉

    It was packed churches here all over the Easter triduum. Services had to be run two or three times on each day to accommodate the numbers and parking was a nightmare as there were no public holidays. And yet services still had to be beamed into adjacent halls and class rooms as the church buildings alone could not accommodate the number attending.

    Here’s a picture from a procession in Malacca on Friday at the oldest Catholic church still functioning in Malaysia – the Portuguese style Church of Saint Peter (1710):

    Oops. Don’t know how to make that smaller.

    The same procession later moving through the city streets.

  7. kathleen says:

    GC @ 17:21 yesterday

    How absolutely wonderful and heartwarming to witness such love and faith in all those Catholics, GC! Obviously no crisis of secularisation and indifference to Eternal realities, such as that which has befallen our (ahem) progressive* Western nations in your beautiful Golden Chersonnese then? 😉

    Having said that, I must admit the Churches were pretty full for the Sacred Triduum here in southern Spain too; also with literally thousands of mostly young people taking part in the very lengthy, strenuous Holy Week processions. As many of the participants in the processions (“penitents”) have their faces covered, it is not as though those walking in the processions are flaunting their faith, Pharisee fashion. It is an exhausting ordeal, especially for those carrying those enormous heavy thrones depicting scenes from the Passion along the streets for hours and hours. With Easter falling so early this year, it got very cold once the sun had gone down, and those walking in the processions in flimsy tunics with no coat must have been frozen!
    The late night candlelit procession on Good Friday of the Via Crucis round the steep cobbled streets of our little town was a multitudinous event, and the broadcasted meditations were the traditional ones and profoundly moving. It was well after 2 a.m. by the time I eventually got home that night!

    Yup – the militant atheists of some angry groups (like the political extreme left-wing Podemos crowd, and screaming belligerent feminists of the FEMEN movement, for two examples) who had tried to quash public displays of Holy Week events in Spain this year, were firmly thwarted… and not by any legal edicts, but by the love and fervour of deeply-rooted Catholic sentiments of the general population!

    (* Not sure if progressing on the path to the loss of one’s soul can in truth be called “progress” in the true sense of the word!)

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