In light of my sermon this Sunday, I'm looking at Orthodox liturgy for Epiphany (from The Festal Menaion translated by Kallistos Ware and Mother Mary) and its reflections on Jesus' baptism. Fascinating stuff:
"Make ready, O river Jordan: for behold, Christ our God draws near to be baptized by John, that He may crush with His divinity the invisible heads of the dragons in thy waters."
But anyway, in the Preface there's this explanation of the language of their translation, which fits what Martin Thornton says about liturgical language (perspicacious but elevated is the ideal, which, he says, makes Elizabethan English perhaps the perfect liturgical form):
So far as the general style of our translation is concerned, after much experimenting we decided to take as our model the language of the Authorized Version... This, we realize, is a controversial decision. Many of our readers will probably feel that, if the liturgical texts are to come alive for people today, they must be rendered in a more contemporary idiom. To this it must be answered that the Greek used in the canons and hymns that are here translated was never a 'contemporary' or 'spoken' language. The Byzantine hymnographers wrote in a liturgical style that was consciously 'artificial', even though it was never intentionally obscure or unintelligible. As we see it, the language of the Authorized Version is best adapted to convey the spirit of the original liturgical Greek.... For three centuries and more the Authorized Version, and along with it the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, have provided the words with which English-speaking peoples throughout the world have addressed God; and these two books have become a part not only of our literary but of our spiritual inheritance...
**Turns out the reference is to Ps. 74:14-15 (in the 1928 Psalter; in the ESV it's 74:13-14): "Thou didst divide the sea through thy power; thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. Thou smotest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat for the people of the wilderness."