Last night at our Christian Union meeting, we sang a favourite hymn of mine: Be Thou My Vision. Setting aside the discussion of whether 3/4 or 4/4 timing is superior, I was reminded of when I last sang it in church. I was sitting next to a German family, who have lived in the UK for quite a long time. After the hymn was over, I couldn't help asking Karl how he coped with the language, given it was both archiac and complex.
'Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;'
or consider the word order in:
'O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power'
He was impressively relaxed about it, and said he was familiar with the older forms of English found in liturgy and hymns. I suspect the native English speakers in the congregation may not all have coped quite so well. I wonder if it's possible to do a modern English rendition that has the same poetic power. Might ask the missus if she can rise to the challenge.
It's an interesting thing to reflect on, though. How much of our own personal faith do we express in words and symbols that are very familiar to us, but we don't really understand. I'm going to go back to 'Be Thou my vision' and read it carefully, thinking through the great things it expresses, and I may just learn something new.