03 June 2012

‘Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me’

Trinity College Dublin ... today is Trinity Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

Today [3 June 2012] is Trinity Sunday, and this is also the patronal festival of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, whose proper name is the Cathedral Church of the Most Holy Trinity.

The celebrant and preacher at the Festal Eucharist this morning is the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson. The setting is the Missa Trinitatis Sanctae by Francis Grier, sung by the Cathedral Choir.

In preparation for Trinity Sunday, I found myself re-reading the poem ‘Trinitie Sunday’ from The Temple (1633) by the Welsh-born English priest and poet George Herbert (1593-1633).

Trinitie Sunday by George Herbert

Lord, who hast form’d me out of mud,
And hast redeem’d me through thy bloud,
And sanctifi’d me to do good;

Purge all my sinnes done heretofore:
For I confesse my heavie score,
And I will strive to sinne no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charitie;
That I may runne, rise, rest with thee.

Trinity Lane, Cambridge, in the snow earlier this year ... George Herbert was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Reading the poem

George Herbert’s response to the mystery of the Holy Trinity is a response of heart, mouth, and hands. In this poem, he is creative, evocative and imaginative in his use of Trinitarian images, prayers and motifs in rhymes, alliteration and ideas throughout the three stanzas, which give wonderful glimpses, prayers and insights into our Trinitarian faith.

The poem is a delightful use of word, rhythm and structure, inviting the reader to become familiar with the concept of three, reminding us of the threefold nature of God as Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Each stanza is three lines long, and each is in triple rhyme.

Stanza 1 is a prayer of invocation, with Line1 addressing God the Father as Creator, Line 2 addressing God the Son as Redeemer, and Line 3 addressing God the Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier.

Stanza 2 is a confession. Line 1 refers to sins committed in the past, Line 2 to the present act of confessing, and Line 3 to the firm intention not to sin in the future.

Stanza 3 is an expression of expectation, and each line refers to three things. Line 1 speaks of heart, mouth and hands being enriched. Line 2 outlines that which will do the enriching – the three Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity. Line 3 expresses a desire to run, rise and rest with God. In the third stanza, Herbert continues with three little triplets of petitions.


Isaiah 6: 1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8: 12-17; John 3: 1-17.


Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
Keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
for you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

Almighty God,
may we who have received this Holy Communion,
worship you with lips and lives
proclaiming your majesty
and finally see you in your eternal glory:
Holy and Eternal Trinity,
one God, now and for ever.

Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

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