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