Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Feast of Lancelot Andrewes

Lancelot Andrewes, one of the learned divines who produced the Authorized Version (a.k.a. King James Version) of the Bible, was naturally inclined toward order and uniformity. Commentators often compare him to his younger contemporary, John Donne, whom Richard Schmidt characterizes as "a volatile, earthy, and perhaps not always respectable personality." (I know, makes you want to run off and read Donne.)

And yet. Andrewes's major legacy to us is his Praeces Privatae, Private Devotions, organized with care in true Andrewes fashion. The Devotions are largely made of borrowed material (the Bible, the Prayer Book, ancient philosophers, sermons of the Greek and Latin church fathers, excerpts from liturgies of churches East and West, and writers both Protestant and Catholic from his own era. But they are Andrewes's own creation; no other could have created this rich quilt for his own and others' contemplation.

Schmidt, author of Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality, writes in his essay on Andrewes: "One should read the Devotions slowly, in small pieces, searchingly, and with a hungry soul. Each day's prayers could easily be read straight through in ten minutes, but it is better to let a word or phrase sink in and filter through the mind.... The language and the topics referred to will sometimes (but by no means always) seem archaic, but the modern reader can easily make connections with her own life."

Andrewes apparently used the Devotions in this way. His own copy showed the wear of his hands' touch and traces of his tears

[From the 1840 translation by John Henry Newman. When Andrewes first wrote the Private Devotions for his own use, they were in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. The text was first published, in English translation, 20 years after his death. Lancelot Andrewes lived from 1555 to 1626.]

From an Order for Morning Prayer

Glory be to thee, O Lord, glory to thee.
Glory to thee who givest me sleep to recruit my weakness,
and to remit the toils of this fretful flesh.
To this day and all days,
a perfect, holy, peaceful, healthy, sinless course,
Vouchsafe, O Lord.

Teach me to do the thing that pleaseth thee,
for thou art my God;
Let thy loving Spirit lead me forth into the land of righteousness.
Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name's sake,
and for thy righteousness sake bring my soul out of trouble;
remove from me foolish imaginations,
inspire those which are good and pleasing in thy sight.
Turn away mine eyes lest they behold vanity;
let mine eyes look right on,
and let mine eyelids look straight before me.
Hedge up mine ears with thorns lest they incline to undisciplined words.
Give me early the ear to hear,
and open mine ears to the instruction of thy oracles.
Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth,
and keep the door of my lips.
Let my word be seasoned with salt,
that it may minister grace to the hearers.

3 comments:

Kenneth Wolman said...

Lancelot! I'm surprised I remember his name. He was part of every syllabus for field examinations in 17th century English Lit during graduate school. I know I read him, but damned if I remember what I read. I suppose that graduate English departments and other types of seminary are the last places to confront the still-living remains of Hooker and Andrewes. Donne, of course, is another story entirely. So is George Herbert. Would that all homilists could do it like them. Would that most poets could do it like them.

johnieb said...

(I know, makes you want to run off and read Donne.)

That was enough of a hint for me, though, as is often the case, I had some within reach.

Is the Newman translation of Andrewes still to be preferred, in your view (I have seen many examples of your taste), or is there cause to seek out another? It sounds enormously appealing on several levels.

Jane R said...

No cause to seek out another -- but pick up whatever one you can find.

I do recommend that book Glorious Companions. Has limitations you will be able to figure out, but is a fine resource nevertheless. The author tells you about the Anglican person in question and then gives you (as in the case of Andrewes) samples of his or her writing.