A friend like that
At Trinity Cathedral, the Dean blessed the marriage of a parishioner and his Chinese wife using the vows and prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. There are 77 million members in the Anglican Communion, so many people all around the world have heard these words used on their wedding day. They are good words for a couple, but they are also good words to describe a friend -
A strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy.
I hope each of us finds a friend like that.
With the English language you can always find the word, or words, you need. But it was never a given it would be spoken around the world. In the 11th century, when the Normans invaded England, only French and Latin was spoken by rulers and clergy, yet the English hung on to their sturdy language. For one hundred years or more books were not written in English, but the English spoke English. They insisted on speaking English. They absorbed French and Latin and Greek words, and added them to English words that came from Old German and Old Norse. They made English richer, more subtle, more precise. The Normans, meanwhile, intermarried with the English, and learned to speak English - playful, pungent, philosophical, practical, poetic English.
This is one of the British people’s greatest achievements and it belongs to all of them, first saving their language from conquest, and then letting it grow freely, with all the people deciding which words they liked, and wanted to keep, and which words they'd scuttle. In the intervening years they have invented and added almost a million new words.
Many old words have disappeared, but a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy remain. And if we don't have a friend like that, the words remind us of the person we are trying to find.