December 16, 2012

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Rank On Rank the Host of Heaven

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence is an 1864 translation and adaptation by Anglican Minister, Gerard Moultrie (1829-1885) from the original Greek text drawn from the ancient Liturgy of Saint James. The exact age and authorship of the Liturgy is disputed. Some traditions associate it with the Apostle, St. James the Less and date it as early as 60 AD. What is agreed by scholars, is that it was known to be in use in the Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch by the late 4th or early 5th century. In the Liturgy of St. James, after the reading of Holy Scripture, the Priest then goes to the altar and begins preparing the bread and wine. At this point as the Priest says the prayer of incense, the Cherubic Hymn is chanted, which is based on Habakkuk 2:20 "But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him." (Douay-Rheims). It is this hymn that Moultrie's translation in based. His words are set to the anonymous tune Picardy, a French Carol (Noel) first published in Chansons Populaires des Provences de France (1860). Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence is often associated with Christmas because the 2nd verse (which has been omitted, as has the 4th verse) begins with: "King of kings, yet born of Mary" In the Liturgy of the Hours, is used during Lent.



LET ALL MORTAL FLESH KEEP SILENCE by Gerard Moultrie, 1864 (Public Domain)

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. At His feet the six wingèd 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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