Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Westminster Abbey celebration of King James Bible

To Westminster Abbey for the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, as a guest of my friend Geoffrey Rowell who had written the opening hymn.  I didn't realise until the day before quite how high-powered the congregation would be: The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, the Archbishops of Canterbury, York, Westminster, Thyateira and Great Britain and many other prominent figures.

The Hymn is terrific.  Full text is here but let me give a flavour:

Lord God in high thanksgiving 
    we come to praise your Word
creating and sustaining 
    the Being of our world,
dividing light from darkness,
   and calling us in love
to grow into your likeness
    the life of heaven above

In Christ’s own new creation
    the tongues of flame and fire
kindle imagination
    creatively inspire
Words setting forth salvation,
    discernment right and meet,
a light upon our pathway,
   a lantern for our feet.

note the creative use of resonant phrases from the KJV and the Prayer Book.

...the 4th verse is particularly good...

Words to the Word still pointing
    Word in these words expressed
words of prophetic longing,
    of mercy, hope, and rest
Words that can speak in silence.
    your presence, dearest Lord,
in prayer and praise and worship
    eternally adored

Rowan Williams gave a characteristically thoughtful and poetically deep sermon, which is here, emphasising the way in which the KJV is true to the original in not being tidy and simplifying since "they sought to find in our language words that would pass on to us hearers and readers in the English tongue the almost unbearable weight of divine intelligence and love pressing down on those who first encountered it and tried to embody it in writing; those who like Moses and Ezekiel found themselves overwhelmed by the sheer ‘density’ of divine presence, those who like St Paul found themselves dizzy with the number of connections and interrelations between God’s acts over the ages and unable to put it all into a theory, only into a hymn."

Interesting and rather wonderful to note that the stained glass windows in the north nave commemorate ... engineers!  Sir Henry Royce, Charles Parsons, and Sir Benjamin Baker were the three I could read.

A wonderful and uplifting occasion.

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