Monday, September 26, 2011

On the Commemoration of Lancelot Andrewes

God, Father of heaven,
Who wonderfully created the world out of nothing,
And by your goodness sustains and guides heaven and earth,
You handed over to death for us your Only-Begotten:

God the Son, Savior of the world,
You desired to be born of a Virgin,
Your precious blood washed away our sins,
You rose from the dead, victoriously
And ascended into heaven:

God the Holy Spirit, Comforter,
You came down on Jesus in the form of a dove,
And you came in tongues of flame on the Apostles,
And by your grace you come down and confirm
The hearts of the saints:

Holy, highest, eternal Trinity,
Beautiful, blessed,
Good Father,
Loving Son,
Kindly Spirit,
Whose work is life, whose love is grace,
And whose contemplation is glory,
I adore you with all the affection of my heart,
And I bless you now and for ever.

--From The Private Prayers of Lancelot Andrewes,
translated by David Scott

Today is the annual commemoration of one of the greatest of all Anglicans, Bishop Lancelot Andrewes. In him is combined disciple, poet, bishop, scholar, preacher, ascetic, and theologian. His work continues to witness to the potential of the Anglican “project” of a reformed Catholicism.

At the heart of his work is always a living awareness of the holiness and presence of God: in the Creation, the Sacraments, the Scriptures, and in all encounters with the “other.” The above prayer is typical of him. It bears the marks of deep encounter in prayer. He prayed from before dawn until lunch most days, and one has no doubt he knew from experience what he meant from that line “whose contemplation is glory.” In a day when prayer has been reduced to the minimum so as not to get in the way of the Church's "serious business" of either being busy or practicing "self-care," Andrewes' witness reminds us there is a higher good than the institutional goals that consumed the Church of his day--and ours.

Nicholas Lossky, in his book Lancelot Andrewes, the Preacher, calls him a true Mystical Theologian—high praise, indeed. As with all true mystical theologians, Andrewes puts forth a synthesis of faith and practice that leads to true knowledge of God. It is my belief and experience that Classical Anglicanism—in the persons of such worthies as Andrewes, Hooker, Traherne, Cosin, and the like—has this capacity. Those who remain faithful to this way of living and growing in the Holy Wisdom of God have found the "good soil" of the parable, yielding a manifold increase in faith, understanding, and discernment.

The Collect* for the Feast of Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop
Almighty God, you gave your servant Lancelot Andrewes the gift of your Holy Spirit and made him a man of prayer and a faithful pastor of your people: Perfect in us what 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 life of your grace and glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the same Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

*This collect from Holy Women, Holy Men, is a revision from the one found in Lesser Feasts and Fasts. In an unusual turn of events, this revision is a considerable improvement on the rather pedestrian earlier version. It merits considerable reflection.

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