Gleanings from the Collects: The Fifth Sunday of Easter

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect, carried over from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, is a revision of a collect from the 1549 BCP. In the 1549 BCP it was appointed for the feast day of St. Phillip and St. James.

The collect is dense with insight. First it acknowledges that everlasting life comes from “truly” knowing God. Truly knowing God is distinct from simply acknowledging Him. As St. James said, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”[1]

How do we truly know God? Jesus said, “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”[2]Therefore the petition is “Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life…”

This call to truly know the Father and the Son is an important corrective to those who mistakenly believe that knowledge of Holy Scripture is all sufficient. Jesus corrected this thinking in the Jewish leaders when He said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”[3]As one of my professors said, “The Bible is the treasure map but the Treasure is Jesus.”

The second part of the petition is “that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal glory.” It is in knowing Jesus to be the way, the truth and the life, that leads to steadfastly following His steps. In other words our obedience is a result of knowing and loving Him and not due to legalism or fear. In the Gospel appointed for this day Jesus will say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”[4]

Lastly this collect reminds us of our destiny. Note that our future is not only eternal life but also “eternal glory.” And the collect reminds us that our eternal glory is dependent upon how steadfastly we have followed in His steps.

St. Paul spoke of building our lives on a foundation of gold, silver and precious stones (things eternal) versus foundations of wood, hay and straw,[5](things temporal). Then he said, “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”[6]

Jesus’ priority was the Kingdom of God. His first sermon was “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”[7] If we are to “steadfastly follow his steps” then this must be our priority as well. Thus Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.[8]

The strong language of this collect, that calls us to “truly” and “perfectly” know the Lord and to “steadfastly follow” Him, is a call to discipleship. While we may not be able to drop our nets and follow as the first disciples did, we can submit to Jesus as Lord and seek to do His will each and every day. 

[1]James 2:19 ESV

[2]John 8:19 NIV

[3]John 5:39,40 ESV

[4]John 14:15 NASB

[5]I Corinthians 4:12

[6]I Corinthians 3:13-15 ESV

[7]Matthew 4:17 ESV


Kicked Out of Bible Class

While attending Florida State University I minored in Religion. It was often a challenge because I was theologically orthodox and held a high view of Scripture as the inspired Word of God. To give you an idea of my professors’ theology, one of them said in class, “I wish I could believe in God but if I did it would be Bacchus because of my love of wine.” Sadly he was not an exception.

Thus when I read that a course on the Bible was being offered through the English Department I jumped at that chance, believing it would be less controversial with the Bible only being addressed as literature. To my delight on the first day of class the professor underscored that this was a literature class and not a theology class and no theological debate would be allowed. I was thrilled. I was going to get academic credit for reading the Bible and I would be free of the pressure to defend Holy Scripture as I frequently did in my religion classes.

Right from the beginning the professor violated his own rule. In Genesis he mocked the theology of creation and he went on to treat the stories in Genesis as if they were on the same plane as Greek mythology rather than a history of the Jewish people.

By the time we got to Exodus I had enough of his arrogant attitude and his clear goal to destroy the faith of anyone who was so naive as to believe that the Bible was Gods’ Word. So when we came to the parting of the Red Sea he mockingly said, “And of course we know that this was really the Reed Sea and not the Red Sea because the Reed Sea had only a few inches of water and would be easy to walk across.” I raised my hand and said, “The is fantastic because that makes it an even greater miracle.” “How so?” he replied. “Because that means that all of Pharaoh’s army, including the horses and chariots, were drowned in a few inches of water.” And that is how I got kicked out of a Bible Class.

Reflections on the Apostles’ Creed

While I have been reciting the Apostles’ Creed in the Daily Office for decades, it has only recently occurred to me that there is a cascading connection in the final confessions of the Creed. By that I mean that one truth is causally related to the next truth. To review the last part of the Creed reads, “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic[1]Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”

Without the Holy Spirit nothing that follows would be possible. When Jesus ascended to the Father He sent His Spirit to empower His followers to be the Church. It was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that turned His disciples into Apostles. They went from hiding in an upper room to taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. 

And it is the Holy Spirit who makes the Church holy.[2]It is the Holy Spirit who empowers the Sacraments to be vessels of God’s grace that results in sanctification. We are reborn by water and the Spirit in baptism.[3]It is the Word and Spirit that consecrate the bread and wine to be for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.[4]These Sacraments are the universal signs of the Church. Thus it is the Holy Spirit that gave birth to “the holy catholic Church

It is the “holy catholic Church” that produces “the communion of saints.” As one of my professors quipped, “God’s grace may be everywhere but you have never seen a baptism at the Moose Lodge.” His point was that Jesus has established His Church, which is His Body, to be the normative way that God coveys grace to the world. As St. Cyprian put it“No one can have God for his Father, who does not have the Church for his mother.”[5]Therefore it is through the Church that we experience the communion of saints, both with saints below and saints above, and this is a communion that is not optional.[6]

But how is “the communion of saints” connected to “the forgiveness of sins?” It is so on several levels. First, it is as two or more are gathered together in His Name that Jesus is present[7]and “with Him there is plenteous redemption.”[8]Second, when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon the disciples He gave them what is referred to as “the keys to the kingdom.” That is the power to bind and to loose or to forgive or  withhold forgiveness.[9]Thus it is in the context of a private confession that we hear the words of absolution.[10]It is also in Holy Communion that we hear the words of forgiveness[11]in response to the General Confession as prayed by the entire congregation.

Third, the communion of saints is connected to forgiveness of sins in an interpersonal manner, from saint to saint. We pray every day “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Thus if we do not forgive one another, then we will not be forgiven. Jesus illustrated that in a powerful way in the parable of the unforgiving servant.[12]

It is the “forgiveness of sins” that results in the “resurrection of the body.” St. Paul, both in Ephesians and Colossians, makes the connection of us having been dead in our transgressions but through the forgiveness of sins being raised with Him. He writes, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.”[13]The implication is that if we had not received the forgiveness of sins then we would still be dead in our transgressions and therefore not raised with Christ. If we are still dead in our transgressions then the only resurrection that we will know is a resurrection to judgment rather than a resurrection to life. 

The final connection is that it is the “resurrection of the body” that leads to “the life everlasting.” Job knew this truth. He declared, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand of the earth…yet from my flesh I shall see God”[14]This is the hope of all Christians, that we will be united with Christ and reunited with our loved ones, and together live in our resurrected bodies in a new heaven and a new earth. “And of His kingdom there is shall be no end.”[15]

Besides the Daily Office, Anglicans recite this ancient Creed at baptisms and funerals. It acts as the bookends of our lives. The interconnectedness of these truths that we confess act as an unbroken chain that anchors us to Christ and to one another. We are merely stewards of these truths and it is our responsibility to understand them and then pass them unchanged to the next generation. 

[1]“catholic” means universal

[2]Galatians 5:16

[3]John 3:5

[4]1928 BCP p.81 “AND we most humbly beseech thee, O merciful Father, to hear us; and, of thy almighty goodness, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine; that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood.”

[5]Died 258 AD, On the Unity of the Church

[6]This mindset flies against the kind of individualism that is so present in the Western Church and births the error of “sola Scriptura,” that is the thinking that the Bible interprets itself so we don’t need the Church to teach us. Two points easily refute “sola Scriptura.” Point one is that the fruit of this perspective has divided the Body of Christ into countless sects. Worldwide denominations number in the thousands. Also most cults can be traced back to an individual developing a uniqueinterpretation of Scripture that is unsupported by the teachings of the Church catholic. It is the Church that stands as a bastion of truth against schisms and heresies, from the Marcions of the 2ndCentury to the Mormons of this Century.  The second point that reveals the error of “sola Scriptura” is the very Creed that we are reviewing. The Apostles’ Creed is a brief confession of the Holy Trinity without which we cannot be saved.[6]This central doctrine was not developed through private interpretation of the Bible. The Holy Spirit revealed it through the Church. The ark that keeps us safe from schism, heresy and damnation is not our private interpretation of Scripture. The ark is the Church.

[7]Matthew 18:20

[8]Psalm 130:7 NKJV

[9]John 20:22,23

[10]“Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive you all your offenses; and by his authority committed to me, I absolve you from all your sins: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 1979 BCP p.451

[11]“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of His great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who, through hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him: Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 1928 BCP p.76

[12]Matthew 18:21-35

[13]Colossians 2:13

[14]Job 19:25-27 NASB

[15]Luke 1:33

Gleanings from the Collects: The Fourth Sunday of Easter

O God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd of your people: Grant that, when we hear his voice, we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect, new to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, is fitting in light of the lessons appointed for the day. They are the reason that the 4thSunday of Easter is also called Good Shepherd Sunday.

The order of the petition is most significant. “Grant that, when we hear his voice, we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads.” There are three parts to it. 

First is the call, “Grant that when we hear his voice.” This tells us that the Good Shepherd is the initiator. He calls and we answer. We don’t find God, He finds us. We see this in His call to Abraham, Moses, the prophets, and we see it continued in Jesus’ call to each of the disciples. Jesus said, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.”[1]The Apostle John said, “We love Him because He first loved us.”[2]

Second is the relationship. “Grant that…we may know him who calls us each by name.” In the ancient world shepherds would join their flocks at nights. This offered greater security for the sheep and fellowship for the shepherds. At daylight the shepherds would call to their flocks, and because each call was unique and the sheep knew their shepherd’s voice, the sheep knew which shepherd to follow.

The line, “who calls us each by name” points beyond a general knowledge of the shepherd. It is so much more than that. Jesus’ relationship to the sheep is intimate. As astonishing as it is, He likens His relationship to the sheep with His relationship to His Father. He said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father.”[3]“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”[4]We know that “God so loved the world” but the fact that He calls us and knows each of us by name tells us also that “God so loved you.” The Hebrew word is “hesed” and it means a “steadfast, covenant love.” It is because of this love that the Good Shepherd says, “I give eternal life to them and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”[5]

Third is the life of obedience, “and follow where he leads.” It cannot be overstressed that our obedience flows not from the law but from our relationship with the Shepherd. We are not driven by fear, rather we are led by love. And because we know that He loves us and wants what is best for us, it is a joy rather than a burden to obey. Obedience becomes second nature when we freely admit that we are just sheep and only the Good Shepherd knows how to find the green pastures and the still waters. So why would we not follow where He leads?

Our relationship to Jesus as our Good Shepherd is perfectly summarized in Psalm 23. If we will answer His call and follow where He leads, which includes “the valley of the shadow of death, ” we can still know that “surly goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

[1]John 15:16 NLT

[2]I John 4:19

[3]John 10:14,15

[4]John 10:27

[5]John 10:28

Gleanings from the Collects: The Third Sunday of Easter

Heavenly Father, you have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death, and brought us into the kingdom of your beloved Son: Grant that, as by his death he has called us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joys; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This collect for the Third Sunday of Easter is a revision of the collect in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer for Saturday in Easter Week, which in turn was a revision of a Mozarabic collect.[1]

The prayer begins “Heavenly Father.” This is at the same time a term of respect and a term of endearment. Jesus taught us to call God “Abba”[2]which is what a small child would call his Father. We have been given this privilege because we have been adopted into the household of God[3]and made joint heirs with Jesus Christ.[4]

The next line speaks of being delivered “from the dominion of sin and death, and brought us into the kingdom of your beloved Son.” This brings to mind the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. The connection should give us an abiding sense of security that our salvation has been God’s plan throughout the ages. We are not an afterthought not did God react to an unexpected predicament. While it is incomprehensible, the truth is that we have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.[5]In other words, if you are in Christ then you can rest that He set His love on you before He made the heavens and the earth. That is why St. Paul said that nothing will be able to separate us from His love.[6]

The petition, “Grant that as by his death he has called us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joys” is to be prayed with certitude. A paraphrase could be, “Just as certain as his death has called us to life, so His love will raise us to eternal joys.” Keeping this truth before us, that we have been raised from death to life and our future is eternal joy, makes this a prayer of celebration and is “meet and right” for the Easter season. 

The conclusion of the prayer should not be overlooked or perfunctorily prayed. “(Jesus) who lives and reigns with you (Father), in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” Besides being a welcomed confession of the Holy Trinity[7]it places the prayer in context and grants us assurance. We are not putting positive thoughts out into the Universe, rather we are addressing the eternal Triune God. And we can be assured that with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all things are possible,[8]especially when we pray according to His will.[9]

[1]Collects from the 8thcentury in Spain when they were under Islamic rule

[2]Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15

[3]Galatians 4:4,5

[4]Romans 8:17

[5]Ephesians 1:4

[6]Romans 8:38,39

[7]It has been my experience that extemporaneous prayer rarely invokes the Holy Trinity 

[8]Matthew 19:26

[9]I Jn5:14,15

Gleanings from the Collects: The Second Sunday of Easter

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

This new collect to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer is a revision from the Gregorian sacramentary[1]. It is also used on Thursday of Easter week and in the Great Vigil of Easter in the same BCP. 

The prayer has a strong opening by ascribing to God the attributes of omnipotence and eternity. Because God is “almighty and everlasting” we can be assured of His power and willingness to answer this prayer. 

Next is mentioned “the Paschal mystery.” This refers to the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord, without which we would not “have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’ Body.” These truths are known as a “mystery” because they can only be known by revelation, they must be received by faith, and they will never be fully understood in this life. While we experience and celebrate the fruits of the Paschal mystery in our lives, we will never completely comprehend all that God has done to redeem us, to justify us, and to adopt us into His family.   

It is through the Paschal mystery that God “established the new covenant of reconciliation.” He makes this new covenant present to us through the sacramental life of the Church. In baptism we are buried with Christ and share in His resurrection. St. Paul wrote, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptizedinto Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?We wereburied therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just asChrist was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk innewness of life. Forif we have been united with him ina death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”[2]

In Holy Communion we participate in the Paschal mystery as we are united with Christ and given the assurance of eternal life. “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.”[3]

The petition of this collect is that “all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith.” This is a plea for the grace to walk in integrity. It is vital that what we believe is reflected in our lives but because we battle the world, the flesh, and the devil, we would be foolish to think that we can “walk the talk” in our own power. 

While this petition is not a direct plea for the Holy Spirit, we can trust our heavenly Father to send Him in answer to this prayer and to empower us to walk in righteousness. As someone’s grandmother said, when asked if we need the Holy Ghost to go to heaven, “Honey I need the Holy Ghost to go to the Walmart.” St. Paul said, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.”[4]

[1]10th Century book of Christian liturgy

[2]Romans 6:3-5

[3]John 6:53-57

[4]Galatians 5:16

Gleanings from the Collects: Easter

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may, by your life-giving Spirit, be delivered from sin and raised from death; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This collect comes to us from the Gregorian sacramentary[1], the Sarum rite[2], and the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.

In sharp contrast with the collect for Good Friday, this joyful collect delivers several important truths. First we note that Jesus did not eradicate death, He “overcame” it. His victory over death changed death from a state of being to a gate through which we pass. Thus He “opened for us the gate of everlasting life.”

Second the collect links the resurrection of Jesus to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit to our lives. This connection is from St. Paul. “But if the Spirit or Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwells in you.”[3]

Third the collect focuses on the key work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He comes to us in resurrection power that we might ‘be delivered from sin and raised from death.” Since one leads to the other (“the wages of sin is death”[4]) we pray for the Spirit to save us from both. What we are unable to do in our own strength, the Holy Spirit is more than able. 

We “celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection” because this is the day that has changed everything. Our deadliest enemy has been defeated, eternal life has been opened to us and we are enabled to live this life in the power of the resurrection. This is what makes us an Alleluia people.

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”[5]

[1]A book of Christian liturgy from the 10thCentury attributed to Pope Gregory

[2]The liturgy of Salisbury Cathedral from the 11thCentury

[3]Romans 8:11 NASB

[4]Romans 6:23

[5]Ephesians 1: 19,20 NLT

Gleanings from the Collects: Holy Saturday

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Older Prayer Books had the Church repeat the collect for Palm Sunday during Holy Week, so this collect for Holy Saturday is new to the 1979 BCP. It seems to have drawn inspiration, at least in part, from the Scottish Prayer Book of 1637.

The collect skillfully refers to God as “Creator of heaven and earth.” Recall what the Creator did on the 7thday. He rested from His labors. And now on the 7thday the Son is resting from His labors as well. Thus there is divine rest after the creation of the world and divine rest after the redemption of the world. 

And because the Son has accomplished the work of our redemption, we too can rest from any labor that we might mistakenly believe adds to our salvation. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”[1]

On this Sabbath day ours is not a mindless rest as happens in amusement. This is so because our rest is filled with anticipation. We “await with him the coming of the third day” when we will “rise with him to newness of life.” We are given a foretaste of this new life at our baptism, we have our hope for new life renewed each Easter, and we look to the ultimate day when we will be raised from the dead to live in new bodies in a new heaven and new earth.[2]The silent world awaits the sound of a stone being rolled away.

[1]Matthew 11:28

[2]Revelation 21:1-3

Gleanings from the Collects: Good Friday

Almighty God, we beseech you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the Cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect appointed for Good Friday has a rich liturgical history. It can be found in the Gallican Missale Gothicum[1]of the 7thCentury, the Gregorian Sacramentary[2]of the 10thCentury and in the Sarum Missal[3]of the 11thCentury. 

The starkness of this collect perfectly matches the day. We are not asking God for mercy or pardon or strength because this day is not about us; it is for us but it is not about us. Our focus is our Lord Jesus Christ who “was willing to be betrayed and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death on the cross.” Therefore we stand with Mary and John at the foot of the cross knowing that is was our sins that placed Him there. It is a day of grief and gratitude.

But this collect for Good Friday also points us to Easter Sunday. The Prince of Glory who died for us “now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” Death has been defeated!

While it is easy to view the words “for ever and ever” as a prayer tag line we must not miss their importance. Among other things these words declare that Jesus’ reign will never end. Our prayers for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven will be answered, and our place in His kingdom as heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ[4]is secured. So on this most solemn of days we are reminded that we have a future that is beyond anything that we can either hope or imagine.[5]We honor Good Friday but “for ever and ever” tells us that we are an Easter people.

[1]The Gallic Rite was a Christian liturgy of the Western Church that dates from before the 5thCentury. A form of it was used in Ireland mixed with Celtic customs

[2]A book of prayers used by the Celebrant that is attributed to Pope Gregory

[3]A book containing the liturgy for Salisbury Cathedral

[4]Romans 8:17

[5]I Corinthians 2:9

Gleanings from the Collects: Maundy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose most dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it in thankful remembrance of Jesus Christ our Savior, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect is taken from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and contains theology that can be found in The Exhortations of the 1662 BCP.[1]  Although it is brief, this prayer for Maundy Thursday is rich in content.

First it marks Jesus’ Passover Meal with His disciples as the night that He instituted Holy Communion. That is significant because in it He will be both Priest and Sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Second it is clear that what Jesus instituted was more than a memorial meal. It is “the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.” A Sacrament is not only an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, but it also a “sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.”[2]It is this assurance of receiving grace through the Sacrament of His Body and Blood that liberates us from chasing elusive subjective feelings and instead grants us “the peace of God that passeth all understanding.”[3]

The language of “Body and Blood” is the language that Jesus used when He instituted the Sacrament. It is why we believe that He is truly present with us.[4]The collect makes no attempt to explain how this happens because no explanation is necessary. It is a “holy mystery” and holy mysteries are not problems to be solved but gifts for which to be abundantly thankful. John Donne said it best. “He was the Word that spake it, He took the bread and brake it; And what that Word did make it, I do believe and take it.”

Third the collect declares that in this holy mystery of His Body and Blood we receive “a pledge of eternal life.” This bold declaration comes from the lips of Jesus. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”[5]Could there be a greater promise to us or a greater reason to make the reception of this Sacrament the highest priority?

It is through this Sacrament that Christ unites Himself with us and we with Him, just as He prayed in John 17. The fruit and consequences of this union are innumerable but there is a lovely synopsis in the Prayer of Thanksgiving during Ministration to the Sick. “Gracious Father, we give you praise and thanks for this Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of your beloved Son Jesus Christ, the pledge of our redemption; and we pray that it may bring us forgiveness of our sins, strength in our weakness, and everlasting salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”[6]

The institution of the Sacrament of His Body and Blood on this night makes it one of the holiest of the Christian year. May God “mercifully grant that we may receive it in thankful remembrance of Jesus Christ our Savior.”

[1]1662 Book of Common Prayer p.303

[2]1979 BCP Catechism p.857

[3]1979 BCP p.339

[4]Luke 22:19,20

[5]John 6:54

[6]1979 BCP p.457