Walking with the Saints

Lancelot Andrewes

It is wonderful that Father Bob has asked us to write for the enews and preach at the Wednesday healing Eucharist on important men and women in Christian history. What fun it is to find out about this seemingly obscure character Lancelot Andrewes! Well at least I had never heard of him – have you? Well he is the original church nerd! He loved to study so much that his parents had to force him to go outside and play. But they say he also loved nature and loved to take long walks in God’s great creation.

Lancelot Andrewes was born in London in 1555 the oldest of twelve children. His outstanding gift for learning was recognized early and at the age of 16 he was in the university. Again, he wasn’t interested in sports he just liked to walk in nature with a friend and discuss what they were learning. And imagine, Andrewes mastered at least 15 languages in his lifetime including Arabic, Aramaic and Syriac.

Andrewes was ordained in the Church of England and then in 1601 he was consecrated Bishop of Winchester. He was so popular with Queen Elizabeth I that he became her chaplain. As the Dean he would have participated in the coronation of King James I.

For Andrewes, truth and the well-lived Christian life went together: “Mercy leads to Truth, and the knowledge of it; and Truth to Righteousness, and the practice of it; and Righteousness to Peace, and the ways of it.” So exalted were his sermons that he was called “an angel in the pulpit.”

The great poet T. S. Eliot described Andrewes' ability with language this way:

He takes a word and delivers the world from it. Squeezing and squeezing the word until it yields a full juice of meaning, which we should never have supposed any word to possess.

Andrewes had an encyclopedic knowledge of scripture, and also of the writings of the early Church Fathers. Beyond his abilities, are his character and personality. The biographers say that he was humble, seemingly without any self-serving ambition at other's expense. He was courageous, taking stands he knew would not be popular but which he felt were correct. He was generous to the poor and he always remembered with kindness those who had helped him. He was a devoutly spiritual man who rose before dawn and spent upwards of five hours a day in prayer and meditation.

What Lancelot Andrewes is most celebrated for is his participation in translating the King James Bible. He was involved with the selection of the translators and had a major hand in the finished product.

In the jails I have been asked for the King James Bible many times. Some men and women believe that it is the only bible written by God and that any other bible is unacceptable.

It is good to know about a man with such dedication, principals, and knowledge. Not only a brilliant man but a devout and sincere human being. 

This is a prayer for Lancelot Andrewes:

O Lord and Father, our King and God, by whose grace the Church Was enriched by the great learning and eloquent preaching of thy servant Lancelot Andrewes, but even more by his example of biblical and liturgical prayer: Conform our lives, like his, we beseech thee, to the image of Christ, that our hearts may love thee, our minds serve thee, and our lips proclaim the greatness of thy mercy; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.