25 September 2014

‘The still unspeaking and unspoken Word’
… remembering Lancelot Andrewes

Lancelot Andrewes ... editor of the Authorised Version of the Bible, and inspiration for TS Eliot

Patrick Comerford

In the Church of Ireland, the calendar of Book of Common Prayer (2004) today [25 September] commemorates Saint Fin Barre of Cork (see p. 23). His name is commemorated too in Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, the Church of Ireland cathedral in Cork. The Cork phrase, “Where Finbarr taught let Munster learn,” has become the motto of University College Cork.

In the Church of England, Common Worship remembers Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) today with a Lesser Festival (see p. 13). At Choral Evensong this evening, some of the prayers draw on the prayers of Lancelot Andrewes.

We are singing the canticle Hail Gladdening Light as Hymn 699 (John Keble’s translation, with a setting by John Stainer), and the canticle Magnificat as Hymn 704 (‘Mary sang a song, a song of love’ by Michael Perry).

But instead of the canticle Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2: 29-32), we shall hear TS Eliot’s poem A Song for Simeon, which is intimately tied to Eliot’s reading of Lancelot Andrewes’s sermons and his thinking on conversion.

Lancelot Andrewes was an Anglican bishop and scholar who played a key role in the translation of the Authorised Version or King James Version of the Bible. Although he worked mainly through the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, he is counted as one of the early Caroline Divines.

Andrewes summarises Anglican doctrinal authority in memorable form: “One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries and the series of fathers in that period – the three centuries, that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith.”

Lancelot Andrewes was born in 1555 near All Hallows, Barking, by the Tower of London, and was educated at Pembroke Hall (now Pembroke College), Cambridge.

In 1601, he became Dean of Westminster Abbey. In 1604, he took part in the Hampton Court conference, and a year later became Bishop of Chichester. In 1609, he became Bishop of Ely. Meanwhile, he was working on King James’s grand project for a new translation of the Bible into English.

His name comes first on the list of divines appointed by King James to translate the Authorised Version or King James Version of the Bible. He directed the scholars who translated the first books of the Old Testament, from Genesis to II Kings, and acted as a general editor for the project, leading up to publication in 1611. He became Bishop of Winchester in 1618, and remained there until he died in 1626.

As Kenneth Stevenson writes, “Andrewes’ theology is thoroughly sacramental and eschatological.” He was typically Anglican, equally removed from the Puritan and the Roman Catholic positions. A good summary of his position is found in his First Answer to Cardinal Perron, who had challenged James I’s use of the title “Catholic.”

Andrewes saw himself as standing in the long line of Christian tradition, and his whole life and teaching were indebted to the Fathers, especially the Eastern Fathers. He drew on the Cappadocian Fathers on the Eucharist, the Trinity and Christology, on Saint Cyprian on prayer, on Saint Anselm on sin and on Saint Bernard on atonement.

He had a keen sense of the proportion of the faith and maintained a clear distinction between what is fundamental, needing ecclesiastical commands, and what is subsidiary, needing only ecclesiastical guidance and suggestion.

For Andrewes, the 1549 Book of Common Prayer reflects the practices and beliefs of the undivided Church for over 1,000 years.

His sermons and his prayers illustrate the centrality of the Eucharist in his life and teaching. For him, the Eucharist was the meeting place for the infinite and finite, the divine and human, heaven and earth. “The blessed mysteries ... are from above; the ‘Bread that came down from Heaven,’ the Blood that hath been carried ‘into the holy place.’ And I add, ubi Corpus, ubi sanguis Christi, ibi Christus” (“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth,” Colossians 3: 1-2).

We here “on earth ... are never so near him, nor he us, as then and there.” Thus it is to the altar we must come for “that blessed union [which] is the highest perfection we can in this life aspire unto.” Unlike his Puritan contemporaries, it was not the pulpit but the altar that was the focal point for worship in his chapel.

The tomb of Lancelot Andrewes by the high altar in the Church of Saint Mary Overie, then in the Diocese of Winchester but now Southwark Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Lancelot Andrewes is one of the literary giants of English literature. For Kenneth Stevenson, he “is without doubt along with [Richard] Hooker one of the two giants of the era in which Anglicanism took shape.” Rowan Greer, Emeritus Professor of Anglican Studies at Yale Divinity School, says he is “arguably, the most brilliant scholar the Church of England has ever produced.”

He had a particular influence on TS Eliot, who describes Andrewes as “the first great preacher of the English Catholick Church” who always spoke as “a man who had a formed visible Church behind him, who speaks with the old authority and the new culture.”

For Eliot, the sermons of Andrewes “rank with the finest English prose of their time, of any time.” Eliot also borrowed, almost word for word and without his usual acknowledgement, the opening words of Andrewes’s sermon on Christmas Day 1622 for his poem The Journey of the Magi.

Andrewes in his own words:

He who prays for others, labours for himself. If thou prayest for thyself alone, thou alone wilt pray for thyself. If thou prayest for all, all will pray for thee. (Private Devotions)


And thou, all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, despise me not, thy breath, despise not thine own holy things; but turn thee again, O Lord, at the last, and be gracious unto thy servant.

Blot out as a thick cloud my transgressions, and as a cloud my sins; grant me to be a child of light, a child of the day, to walk soberly, holily, honestly, as in the day, vouchsafe to keep me this day without sin. Thou who upholdest the falling and liftest the fallen, let me not harden my heart in provocation, or temptation or deceitfulness of any sin.

Moreover, deliver me today from the snare of the hunter and from the noisome pestilence; from the arrow that flieth by day, from the sickness that destroyeth in the noon day. Defend this day against my evil, against the evil of this day defend thou me.

Evening Prayer

The day is gone, and I give thee thanks, O Lord. Evening is at hand, make it bright unto us. As day has its evening so also has life; the even of life is age, age has overtaken me, make it bright unto us. Cast me not away in the time of age; forsake me not when my strength faileth me.

Abide with me, Lord, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent of this fretful life. Let thy strength be made perfect in my weakness.


To my weariness, O Lord, vouchsafe thou rest, to my exhaustion, renew thou strength. Lighten mine eyes that I sleep not in death. Deliver me from the terror by night, the pestilence that walketh in darkness. Supply me with healthy sleep, and to pass through this night without fear.

Deliver me, O Lord, from the terror by night, from the pestilence that walketh in darkness. Give me to seek thee early, even for thy praise and service. Preserve my lying down and my uprising from this time forth even for evermore.

‘Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair’ (TS Eliot) … stone stairs in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

A Song for Simeon (TS Eliot)

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season had made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have given and taken honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.
Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word.
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).
I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
whose only Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence:
Give us pure hearts and steadfast wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Collect (Common Worship):

Lord God,
who gave to Lancelot Andrewes many gifts of your Holy Spirit,
making him a man of prayer and a pastor of your people:
perfect in us that which is lacking in your gifts,
of faith, to increase it,
of hope, to establish it,
of love, to kindle it,
that we may live in the light of your grace and glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Stepping inside the ‘Lyons’ Den’
in All Saints’ Church, Mullingar

All Saints’ Church, Mullingar, is celebrating its bicentenary, but the church dates back more than 800 years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

Earlier this week [22 September 2014], I was in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, for the ordination of the Revd Ruth O’Kelly as deacon by the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, the Most Revd Oat Storey.

All Saints’ Church is a focal point in Mullingar and represents one of the more important elements of the built heritage of the town.

All Saints’ Church illustrates the changing tastes in Church of Ireland architecture over the past two centuries with various Gothic Revival and Tudor Revival styles from the past 200 years being enhanced by modern architectural styles in recent years.

The church is celebrating its bicentenary this year, commemorating the completion of the present church building in 1814. But this prominent, elevated site has been the site of church buildings since around 1208, when the Bishop of Meath, Simon de Rochford, gave a church here to the Augustinian Priory of Llanthony Prima in Gwent in Wales. Around the same time, the townland of Mullingar was granted to the Anglo-Norman lord, William le Petit by Hugh de Lacy of Meath.

This church was still attached to Llanthony Prima ca 1540, when the monastic houses were dissolved at the beginning of the Anglican Reformation.

The monument above the tomb and vault of Sir James Leigh and his wife Mary in the porch at the west end is dated 1683 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

At the Caroline Restoration in 1660, the parish church in Mullingar was said to be “ruinous.” By 1682, it had been “handsomely rebuilt” according to Sir Henry Piers in his chronological description of Co Westmeath. Later, around 1750, the chancel was “ruinous” once again, and the nave was thatched.

This church was rebuilt in 1813-1814 at the cost of £3,554, an enormous sum of money at the time. £2,261 was raised by parochial assessment, the Trustees of the Blue Coat Hospital granted £185, and a loan of £1,108 came from the Board of First Fruits, later the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

After the rebuilding, the church was extensively refit to designs by Joseph Welland (1798-1860) and William Gillespie (1818-1890).

Welland, who was the architect to the Board of First Fruits and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, was born in Midleton, Co Cork, and became a pupil of John Bowden, architect to the Board of First Fruits.

Welland’s obituary in the Irish Builder says he designed over 100 new churches and carried out alterations and enlargements to existing structures. His eldest son, Thomas James Welland (1830-1907), became Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore. After his death, his son William Joseph Welland and William Gillespie were appointed joint architects to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in May 1860.

In 1878, the chancel and sanctuary and the transepts in All Saints were raised to designs by Sir Thomas Drew (1838-1910), one of the celebrated architects of his day. Drew also designed the Ulster Bank in College Green, Dublin, the Graduates’ Memorial Building in Trinity College Dublin, Rathmines Town Hall, and Saint Anne's Cathedral, Belfast.

All Saints’ Church has an interesting collection of memorials dating from the mid-17th to the late 19th-century, and many of them have been carefully labelled to take the visitor on a self-guided tour of the church.

The mid-19th century interior refurbishments included new stained glass windows dated 1865. Many of the windows in the church commemorate members of the Swift family, others have been moved here from neighbouring churches when they were closed.

In recent years, the church hall, dating from 1888 and standing at the church gates was sold to pay for considerable refurbishments in the church. The internal plasterwork was removed to expose the stonework. The seating in the nave of the church was raised upwards, to create one long balcony in the main church body and the new space at ground-floor level became a new parish hall.

The balcony and hall fill the nave area. The new hall is used for parish events and for tea and coffee after Sunday services. It was here we were invited to a reception on Monday evening.

The monument to James Charles Lyons (1792-1874) in the “Lyons’ Den” (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

A small semi-chapel in an alcove on the north side of the sanctuary opens onto the North Transept and is known as the “Lyons’ Den” because of the memorials to members of the local Lyons family. Before the recent renovations and redesigns, this small area was curtained off and used as a storage area, but is now open.

The bicentenary celebrations began last month [August 2014] with a series of Heritage Week Lectures. Next month, they include an organ recital and a bicentenary harvest festival. The plans for November include a Bicentenary Festival Service, a Remembrance Service, a Bicentenary Gala Banquet in the Greville Arms Hotel, Mullingar, and a Bicentenary Flower Festival in aid of the North Westmeath Hospice.

The Revd Alistair Graham has been the Rector of the Mullingar Union of Parishes since his institution on 23 June 2009. The union also includes Portnashangan, Moyliscar, Kilbixy, Almoritia, Killucan, Clonard and Castlelost.

The warm, welcoming interior of All Saints’ Church, Mullingar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

The Revd Alistair Graham was born in Belfast and began his ministry as a curate in Clontarf, Dublin. He has served in a number of parishes, including Saint Michael’s at the North Gate, Oxford, Christ the King Parish, Frankfurt, Germany, Wellend Parish, Canada, Saint John the Evangelist, Sandymount, and Saint Brigid’s, Stillorgan, and All Saints’, Blackrock. His brother, the Revd Gordon Graham, is a priest in the Episcopal Church in the US and the Henry Luce III Professor of Philosophy and Arts at Princeton Theological Seminary.