Greater Than the Holy Prophets

St John Baptist’s Day,” The Holy Year (1862)


IN the wilderness prepare ye for the Lord a Way to go,

Every valley shall be lifted, every hill shall be laid low;

Straight shall be the crooked places, and the rough be level made.

And to all the world the Glory of the Lord shall be displayed.


“Flesh is grass,” the Voice is crying, “when the Lord sends forth His breath,

As the flower of earth it fadeth, as the grass it withereth;

But the Word of God endureth, and abideth evermore,

And the Voice the Word proclaimeth, See the Lord! your God adore.”


In his mother’s womb exulting did the Voice salute the Word,

In the wilderness the Servant gladly did proclaim the Lord,

When the Spirit came upon Him lav’d with the Baptismal lymph;

He the Bridegroom is from heaven, I from earth the paranymph.”


He the King, and I the Herald, sent His Coming to prepare;

He the Shepherd, feeding, tending sheep and lambs with tender care:

He must increase, I must decrease; Morning- stars must fade away

When the glorious Sun appearing, pours on all a flood of Day.


John the Baptist, our Elias, preach’d Thee in his Mother’s womb.

In the desert, in the palace, in the dungeon’s narrow room.

Sending then his two disciples to behold Thy mighty deeds,

That they might not ever falter in the faith as quiv’ring reeds.


Thus St. John his witness ended, emptying himself in Thee,

As the stars in day are emptied, as the rivers in the sea;

And his light on earth was setting, that it might again arise,

And may shine with Thee forever. Lord, in Thine eternal skies.


Greater than the holy prophets, for he did the Lord baptize;

Greater than the holy prophets, for he did evangelize;

Since so great was John the Baptist, who beheld Thy orient gleams,

O how blest are Nations walking in Thy full meridian beams!


Now by works of man’s invention, Lord, Thou dost Thy way prepare,

Where the valleys are uplifted, where the mountains levell’d are.

Where the iron cars are rolling, where the travers’d earth we see.

In the wilderness of this world is a Way prepared for Thee.


Haste, O hasten,  Lord, Thy Coming! May Thy Everlasting Word

Have free course among the Nations, and be glorified, O Lord;

In each work of engineering, in each fresh upturned sod

May we hear the Voice, ” Prepare ye, O prepare to meet your God !”


In our hearts Thy Way preparing, may we, Lord, Thy grace obtain.

Level hills, fill up the valleys, crooked straight, and rough make plain;

By Thy Spirit pioneering there a sacred Way for Thee,

That Thou there mayst march in triumph on Thy road of Victory.


Glory be to God the Father, and to God the Son be praise,

Who the high and proud abaseth, and the lowly doth upraise;

Glory to the Holy Spirit, with the Father and the Son;

Glory to One God for ever ; and to Persons Three in One

Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) was an English Anglican bishop, scholar, and poet. He taught and Cambridge and was headmaster of Harrow School and a canon of Westminster Abbey before becoming Bishop of Lincoln. He is especially remembered for his devotional verse, including several hymns from The Holy Year, a collection of hymns for each Sunday and Holy Day of the Christian Year.


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