01(06): Holy, Hallow, Sanctus

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The three words describe the same thing – holiness. The first is self-explanatory as it is the most familiar to us. The second is more interesting. Where have you seen this word before? Most people would simply note in glee, ‘Halloween!’, and they would be right. According to the etymology as established on Wiktionary, the word ‘Halloween’ is a shortening of of ‘All-Hallow-even’ (i.e. All Hallows’ Eve – the name of the evening before All Saints’ Day). As you might infer, All Saints’ Day falls on 1 November, and as its name implies, it is a Christian festival celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. However, most people would associate the now-pagan festival of Halloween with children going door-to-door in costume and demanding candy with menaces (mainly in the UK, Canada, USA, and Ireland). Such is the influence of the mass media.

On the other hand, astute Christians would note that the word ‘hallow’ appears in the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer (cf Matthew 6:9), which reads: ‘Hallowed be thy name’. The 101st point of the Westminster Shorter Catechism discusses the first petition more concisely and accurately than I could ever hope to achieve. It is as follows:

Q101. What do we pray for in the first petition?
A101. In the first petition, which is, Hallowed be thy name, we pray that God would enable us, and others, to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known; and that he would dispose all things to his own glory.

I could talk extensively about the Lord’s Prayer, but that deserves its own blog post. In the Vulgate, the Latin Bible employed by the Roman Catholic Church for a long time, the first petition is rendered ‘sanctificetur nomen tuum‘. The extensively inflective nature of Latin allows the first petition to be expressed in merely three words, compared to that of four words in the KJV! The Latin word ‘sanctificetur’ is the third-person singular present passive subjunctive of the Latin word ‘sanctifico’. Yes, just let that sink in for a moment. Look how much inflection and conjugation there is in Latin. It puts modern English to shame. The word ‘sanctifico’ is comprised of ‘sanctus’ (holy) and ‘-fico’ (do, make). The verb ‘sanctifico’ thus means ‘to consecrate; make holy’. The legacy of ‘sanctus’ is seen in English words such as ‘sanctuary’, ‘sanctify’, and ‘sanctification’. The word ‘nomen’ is Latin for ‘name’ and is actually where we get our words ‘nomenclature’, ‘nominal’, and ‘nominate’. It should be no surprise that an overwhelming majority of the bombastic words in English have their roots in Latin.

In the spirit of the previous posts, I made a video with a relevant hymn. Some of you might have already seen this coming. The hymn is not ‘Holy, Hallow, Sanctus’, but ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ (they are technically the same, but oh well, whatever). Haha.

Its lyrics was established by Reginald Heber in 1826 and the music was composed by John B. Dykes in 1861. The hymn is based on the latter part of Revelation 4:8, which reads: ‘…Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

The tune title was named NICAEA, and it was written specifically for ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’. The tune was aptly named after the Council of Nicaea, the 4th-century council at which the Trinity was upheld as an essential doctrine of Christianity. Like the hymns featured in the previous blog posts, this is also a well-known hymn. Once again, please enable annotations to view the lyrics while the video plays. I hope this hymn blesses you.

Thank you for reading this post!

Yours faithfully,
Nicholas Loh
30 January 2019

1. Story behind the hymn. https://songsandhymns.org/hymns/detail/holy-holy-holy
2. Wiktionary entry for the word ‘hallow’. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hallow#English
3. Wiktionary entry for the word ‘halloween’. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Halloween
4. First petition of the Lord’s prayer (WSC 101). https://reformed.org/documents/wsc/index.html?_top=https://reformed.org/documents/WSC.html

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