Let all mortal flesh keep silence
Let all mortal flesh keep silence (Greek: Σιγησάτω πᾶσα σάρξ βροτεία) is an ancient chant of Eucharistic devotion based on words from Habakkuk 2:20, "Let all the earth keep silence before him". The original was composed in Greek as a Cherubic Hymn for the Offertory of the Divine Liturgy of St James; it probably antedates the rest of the liturgy and goes back at least to 275 AD, with local churches adopting arrangements in Syriac. In modern times, the Ralph Vaughan Williams arrangement of a translation from the Greek by Gerard Moultrie to the tune of "Picardy", a French medieval folk melody, popularized the hymn among other Christian congregations.
The Moultrie translation is written in 87.87 Trochaic meter. Therefore, winged in the first line of the fourth stanza ought to be read or sung as a single syllable. However, the two-syllable variant wingèd has become commonly accepted, especially outside of the United Kingdom.
Σιγησάτω πᾶσα σάρξ βροτεία, καὶ στήτω μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου, καὶ μηδὲν γήϊνον ἐν ἑαυτῇ λογιζέσθω· ὁ γὰρ Βασιλεῦς τῶν βασιλευόντων, καὶ Κύριος τῶν κυριευόντων, προσέρχεται σφαγιασθῆναι, καὶ δοθῆναι εἰς βρῶσιν τοῖς πιστοῖς· προηγοῦνται δὲ τούτου, οἱ χοροὶ τῶν Ἀγγέλων, μετὰ πάσης ἀρχῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας, τὰ πολυόμματα Χερουβίμ, καὶ τὰ ἑξαπτέρυγα Σεραφίμ, τὰς ὄψεις καλύπτοντα, καὶ βοῶντα τὸν ὕμνον· Ἀλληλούϊα, Ἀλληλούϊα, Ἀλληλούϊα.[n 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.
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!
Notes and references
- In the Greek typica, or in relevant historical texts and manuscripts, textual variations in the wording of this hymn are attested; e.g. λογιζέτω for λογιζέσθω, "additional" καί, etc.
- For the place of the text of the hymn inside said Liturgy, see the text of the Liturgy itself: In English, in part 2, under And the Readers begin the Cherubic Hymn; "Divine Liturgy of St. James". www.newadvent.org. In Greek, under the first Ὁ Λαός ("The people"), in Προσκομιδή; "Ἡ Θεία Λειτουργία τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἰακώβου τοῦ ἀδελφοθέου" [The Divine Liturgy of Saint James, brother of God]. analogion.gr.
- Development of Divine Liturgy of St James
- Wikisource English transcription of Cherubic Hymn
- Author of English lyrics Gerard Moultrie
- Hymn melody Picardy (hymn)
- Prayers for Eucharistic adoration