Textual sacraments: Capturing the numinous in the sermons of Lancelot Andrewes

Noam Reisner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Historical analyses of Lancelot Andrewes' churchmanship and elevated view of the Eucharist often tend to run parallel to discussions of his elaborate prose style, but the connection between the two has not been fully or adequately explored. Though ostensibly 'metaphysical' in character, Andrewes' prose style and rhetorical techniques are primarily a symptom of his religious thinking. His unique use of figurative language, seemingly pedantic display of linguistic erudition and famous practices of scriptural 'text-crumbling' are all grounded in the profound Christology at the heart of his sacramentalism and his belief that words preached in the process of promoting the sacrament enjoy in a borrowed sense a similar measure of 'real presence'. The vast majority of Andrewes' surviving sermons end with a call to take Communion in a solemn, uplifting ceremony. Such sermons are self-consciously anti-sermonic, because their aim is not merely to confer grace through the preaching of the Word, but to offer a literary 'sacramental' experience through the process of rhetorically capturing and conveying the numinous presence of the religious mystery at hand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-678
Number of pages17
JournalRenaissance Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes


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