Eternal Father, at the baptism of Jesus you revealed him to be your Son, and your Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove: Grant that we, who are born again by water and the Spirit, may be faithful as your adopted children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
In the ancient Church the baptism of our Lord was celebrated on the feast of Epiphany. The Eastern Church continues that tradition today. It is also called the Feast of the Theophany because it was at Jesus’ baptism that the Father revealed Jesus to be His Son, as confirmed by the Holy Spirit.
Over time the Western Church separated these two events and so this collect does not appear until the 1979 BCP on the first Sunday after Epiphany in an effort to return to ancient practices. The collect is said to be an adaptation of two collects from the Roman sacramentary.
This brief collect is dense with truth. First it addresses the Father as “Eternal.” It is this attribute of God that makes Him so trustworthy. We who are limited by time and space are blessed to trust the One who is limitless. And so we sing, “Eternal Father strong to save whose arm hath bound the restless wave…”
In this collect we see not only the Holy Trinity named but also the nature of their relationship. The use of the possessive “your Son” and “your Holy Spirit” point to the loving unity of the Trinity.
Interestingly the collect moves from Jesus’ baptism to our own thereby revealing the efficacy of the sacrament. In the sacrament of baptism we are “born again by water and the Spirit” and we are made “your adopted children.” Thus regeneration and adoption reveal that baptism is vastly more than a symbolic act. But neither is it “once and done.” God calls us not only to begin the race but to finish itand so in this collect we also pray to be “faithful as your adopted children.”
While the thought of being faithful to the end can be daunting, we can have confidence that the LORD in His love has provided all that we need to finish the race. Beyond the already mentioned wonders of regeneration and adoption, He has sent us His Holy Spirit, continually empowers us through Word and Sacrament, and makes us “very members incorporate in the mystical body of all faithful people” and “heirs through hope of thy everlasting kingdom.”The prize for finishing the race is so beyond compare that nothing should prevent us from staying in the race and crossing the finish line. With His grace that is exactly what we will do.
Liturgical book that contains the words and prayers of the celebrant dating back to the 6thcentury.
I Corinthians 9:24
Holy Communion p83, 1928 BCP