URC Daily Devotion 3rd April

Praise to the Holiest in the Height     

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise;
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways!

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.

O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive, and should prevail;

and that the highest gift of grace
should flesh and blood refine:
God’s presence and his very self,
and essence all-divine.

O generous love! that he who smote
in man for ma the foe,
the double agony in Man
for man should undergo.

And in the garden secretly,
and on the cross on high,
should teach his brethren, and inspire
to suffer and to die.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise;
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways!

John, Cardinal Newman (1801-1890), 1866
Music: “Gerontius” by John Dykes


Since this hymn refers to the whole human story as described in the Bible, from “fall” to redemption, you may find it helpful to read some specific passages on which the hymn is based:

  • Genesis, 2:15 – 3:24 (the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden)
  • 1 Corinthians 15: 20-47 (in which St Paul contrasts the consequences of Adam’s actions, and those of Jesus Christ: “As in Adam all die, in Christ all will be bought to life…..”)
  • Ephesians 3: 18-19 (which provides the idea of the height and depth of God contained in the psalm-like opening and closing verse)

Cardinal Newman’s poem of which this hymn is but a part of the original 35-verse poem, recounts the transition made from death to a form of afterlife by a kind of ‘everyman’, Gerontius (the Greek for “little old man”).  The hymn, like the poem as a whole, is mostly a response to our questions and fears about death.  Though the hymn may be understood independently from its original context, The Dream of Gerontius assumes a Catholic theology that describes a time, following death and the judgement of God, spent in Purgatory, during which the soul of Gerontius will be healed – supported by Masses sung on earth and prayers said in heaven.

The hymn as we know it, make up the angels’ final section, sung directly before Gerontius passes towards the moment of his judgement within “the veiled presence of our God”.



O Lord, support us all the day long,
until the shadows lengthen,
and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.

Then in your mercy,
grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest,
and peace at the last.


( J H Newman)

Today’s Writer

Ann Barton is the Facilities Manager at Church House.

Bible Version


New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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