A "Saint" of the


A "Saint" of the Anglican Church

Given the propensity of some branches of the Anglican Church to name saints at the turning of a page, one always approaches these questions with caution. However, today is the day that the Anglican communion celebrates Lancelot Andrewes, a man well worthy of remembering. Below is an excerpt from a bulletin sent out by Project Canterbury that details WHY Anglicans so appreciate him.

Lancelot Andrewes from a bulletin for Project Canterbury by Fr. Rodney Hacking

In the 1604 Hampton Court Conference, the seminal event in the production of the Authorised Version, this man of "great holiness and great learning" was charged with the responsibility of the Old Testament Books from Genesis to 2 Kings. There were 47 other scholars and divines enrolled in the commission, but no other of Andrewes's authority and assurance. In an age of fiercely learned men he was exceptional: Thomas Fuller paid this compliment, that Andrewes "could serve as INTERPRETER GENERAL at the confusion of Tongues."

The A.V., or King James Bible, was published in 1611. It was worked on at the time William Shakespeare was writing the plays of his deep, language-intoxicated maturity; at the time that John Donne, the foremost love poet in English, was easing himself toward the decision to take orders, and to become, along with Andrewes, one of England's foremost preachers; when Francis Bacon was busy with his essays. The Authorised Version, in other words, was in embryo when the language itself, under pressure from some of the most gifted agents in all its history, was taking shape. . . .

But it will not serve to urge people to read Andrewes if what he wrote for himself does not have its own and discrete charm and force. It will certainly not do when we are urging 500-year-old sermons, sermons moreover of great density and knottiness, that even some of his contemporaries found stiff going.

A sermon by Andrewes is a word-by-word progress through a biblical citation, a progress of fantastic discrimination and analysis, of winding and unwinding paths of meaning from each single word, and from the whole in combination. There is nothing else quite like it in English. It is a kind of logical and verbal gymnastics driven by what I will call a furious holiness. Reading Andrewes, despite our distance from his age and ethos, is exciting.

No less a poet of our time than T. S. Eliot, the magpie of modernism, incorporated stretches of Andrewes, taken directly and with minimum alteration from the sermons, into some of his most inviting work. The opening lines of The Journey of the Magi have Eliot smuggling Andrewes into the 20th century:

A cold coming we had of it
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.

In fact, it is mostly due to Eliot that, outside a circle of connoisseurs and specialists, Andrewes's name survives in our time. The 1928 essay Homage to Lancelot Andrewes, in which Eliot ranked the prose of Andrewes "among the best of his own, or of any time," woke many a student to his existence, and served as a passionate and exacting recommendation for a neglected master.

The frequently remarked austerity of Andrewes is greatly overstressed. He is often plain and playful, frequently beautiful, with passages of astonishing simplicity and directness. We forget sometimes how much of what impresses us in Scripture is almost unutterably simple and direct: "Let there be light." "In the beginning was the Word." "Jesus wept."

A portion of that pristine, spare beauty is to be found in the thickets of Andrewes's sermons, a beauty that radiates all the more intensely for its context, a flower on a steep, bare path.

Rigour, beauty and cadence. Enough to stay our cascade into a new and noisome millennium. Lancelot Andrewes, 17th-century divine -- just the best guide for such a journey.

Project Canterbury is proud to be able to publish many of Bishop Andrewes's Works. This is mainly through the diligence and energy of Dr Marianne Dorman, whose splendid Homepage you can visit here

Bishop Andrewes's sermons (including new additions to Volume 5) can be found here.

Essays on Bishops Andrewes by Dorman now have a special site here.

Not mentioned here, but worthy of attention is Lancelot Andrewes book of private devotions compiled some time back, probably no longer available. Bishop Andrewes was truly a great man of his time to whom we owe a great deal.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 25, 2002 7:24 AM.

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