words

Every day, it seems, I find myself looking up words and their etymologies, trying to get at the root of what something I've just read means. Sometimes it's a word in the Bible, and I end up wading my way through ancient languages I've never studied, searching for clues. Other times it's just words from daily life that suddenly pertain to some matter I'm struggling with or considering. Often the word has changed over the centuries; I find such words particularly fascinating—particularly when, as is often the case, the word's current meaning is at odds with what it once meant. Some of these word studies find their way into my writing projects. My goal is to post new words weekly, sometimes brand new material and sometimes excerpts from my books.

18 March 2008

An Intercessory Prayer of Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester

I really like this prayer—the specificity of its generalities, especially. I also like how the selective capitalization—reminiscent of e. e. cummings and Thomas Carlyle—throws emphasis on certain words. The prayer is excerpted from "Prayers for the First Day of the Week," from the private devotions of Lancelot Andrewes, originally composed in Greek and Hebrew sometime during Andrewes' lifetime (1555-1626), here translated and abridged by Florence Higham in her biography, Lancelot Andrewes (London: SCM, 1952). I've become a fan of the biographer, who wrote a number of books about 17th century religious thinkers. I'm also reading a translation of Andrewes' devotions by John Henry Newman, but I don't like it as much.

I covet Andrewes' ability to pray outside of his own experience—to think of farmers' concerns and nursing moms and those who, surely unlike him (he was known for his sweet cheerfulness of temper), are tempted by suicide. Anyway, just thought I'd share it, as it seems as though this wonderful little biography doesn't get checked out much. Here it is:

O Thou that art the Hope of all the ends of the earth,
remember Thy whole creation for good, visit the
world in Thy compassion . . .
O Thou that wlkdest in the midst of the golden candlesticks
remove not our candlestick out of its place,
Set in order the things that are wanting,
Strengthen the things that remain.
. . . . .
Grant to Farmers and Keepers if cattle good seasons;
To the Fleet and fishers fair weather;
To tradesmen [I'm sure Andrewes and Higham meant traders], not to overreach one another;
To Mechanics, to ursue their business lawfully,
even to the meanest of work[ers],
even down to the Poor . . . .
Do Thou arise and have mercy
on those who are in the last necessity.
. . . . .
All in extreme age and weakness
All tempted to suicide
All troubled by unclean spirits,
the despairing, the sick in soul or body,
the faint-hearted.
All in prisons and chains, all under sentence of death,
orphans, widows, foreigners, travellers, voyagers,
women with child, women who give suck,
All in bitter servitude, or in mines, or in the galleys,
Or in loneliness.
. . . . .
O Lord I commend to Thee,
my soul and body,
my mind and thoughts,
my prayers, and my vows,
my senses and my limbs,
my words and my works,
my life and my death;
my brothers and my sisters, and their children,
my friends, my benefactors, my well-wishers,
those who have a claim on me;
my kindred and my neighbours,
my country and all christendom.

That's it. And I agree. Amen.

1 comment:

Tuppence said...

The petitions in this prayer remind me somewhat of the Amidah ( http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Prayers/Daily_Prayers/Shemoneh_Esrei/shemoneh_esrei.html ).

My brother, Jonathan (your colleague), gave me 'Confessions of an Amateur Believer' (signed--thank you!), and it was a great reading experience. It's included in my Mini Book Reviews on my blog.

After visiting your blog, I'm looking forward to trying out some of your recipes. I appreciate your sharing them. They sound delicious.