From eucharistic hymn to Christmas carol

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence” is a hymn about Holy Communion.  But now it keeps showing up as a Christmas carol!  That’s how it’s presented in Christmas concerts, holiday recordings, and on many of the renditions on Youtube.  But it is “an ancient chant of Eucharistic devotion.”

I can see how it would shift over to the Christmas canon.  It has a beautiful, otherworldly melody of the same sort associated with Christmas music.  It talks about how “Christ our God to earth descendeth” and that He was “born of Mary.”  But the point is that “He will give to all the faithful/His own self for heavenly food,” “in the body and the blood.”

But this is quite fitting to associate Holy Communion with Christmas and vice versa.  What other Communion hymns could work as Christmas hymns?  What other Christmas songs could work as Communion songs?


Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, from Cyberhymnal. [the site also plays the music]
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 wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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