John Keble’s liturgical impact, like that of Benedict, is indirect but significant. It was on this day in 1833 that Keble preached a sermon at the University Church in Oxford. It was a fairly obscure sermon to the Assize Judges on what we might regard as an obscure topic (the suppression of a number of Irish bishoprics by Parliament), but it was regarded by John Newman as the beginning of the Oxford Movement — a recovery of the sense that the Church exists independently of the State. That Movement was subsequently responsible for a considerable liturgical enrichment and diversification of the life of the Church of England, leading to a renewal of the Eucharistic life of the Church and an increased awareness of ritual and symbolism. Keble did not play a significant part in these later developments, living instead the life of a country parson, scholar and poet. His poetry continues to be greatly valued and several of his poems are still sung as hymns.
Keble was born in 1792, the son of a priest, and studied at Oxford where he became a Fellow of Oriel College at the age of nineteen. His collection of poems, The Christian Year, was publsihed in 1827, and he was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1831. In 1836 he left Oxford to became a parish priest at Hursley near Winchester, and he served there until his death in 1866. In his memory, his friends and supporters founded Keble College, Oxford.
Father of the eternal Word,
in whose encompassing love
all things in peace and order move:
grant that, as your servant John Keble
adored you in all creation,
so we may have a humble heart of love
for the mysteries of your Church
and know your love to be new every morning,
in Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.