Holy Holy Holy

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: When the Holy Holy Holy is spoken (at daily Mass, for example), where do you think it’s best to pause in the address at the beginning?  Over the years, I’ve settled on this:  “Holy Holy Holy/Lord God of Hosts.”  In terms of syllables, it feels and sounds better to me to pause toward the middle of those words. I also like setting the triple address of “Holy” apart for emphasis, even though I know it refers to “Lord.”  I’ve had discussions with people over the years about it, and I understand the other approach, to say “Holy Holy Holy Lord/ God of Hosts,” that the triple “Holy” should be connected to “Lord.”  It just feels awkward to me, leaving “God of Hosts” sort of dangling there as three syllables. I’ve heard it proclaimed the latter way much more than the former, and I sure get it, theologically speaking. But in terms of the rhythm of the spoken word, I really prefer the former. I welcome your guidance on this.


A: I agree with you. And not just because of syllables, but because of grammar.

Note that the first three words are capitalized in English, as they are in Latin. They are adjectives, but they appear to be substantives—that is, adjectives that act like nouns. So, the meaning is more like this: “The Holy One, The Holy One, The Holy One. Lord God of Hosts.” You also have many references in the bible to “Lord God of Hosts” as a title to itself. I think “Lord” goes with “God”, not with “Holy”.

That said, it is VERY hard to train a congregation to recite it in unison. And if one strong voice charges into the word “Lord”, everyone else is sunk.

I expect that the angels manage this is unison, even if we do not, and that God is pleased with any version