O Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow after us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
This collect can be found in the Gregorian sacramentaryof the 10thcentury. Although it is brief, it stands as a corrective to several theological errors.
The first error is Pelagianism. This is the belief that man can do good apart from the grace of God. However Scripture tells us that apart from grace our good works are “filthy rags.”Jesus said that no one is good but God. We know this to be true when we consider the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. The only proper motive for doing good is to glorify God but that motive is only possible by the grace of God. And even then our motives are mixed at best. Thus we need to have God’s grace to “proceed and follow us” if we are to do good.
The second error is sola fide. This is belief that all one needs is faith to attain everlasting life. This error is corrected by the Book of James. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what goodis that?So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”While good works do not save us they are the fruit of salvation. If the fruit is absent, then the tree is likely dead.
The third error is works righteousness. This is the belief that we can or must earn our salvation. St. Paul corrects this error. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Thus this brief collect offers us a perfectly balanced theology that guides our daily lives. Since we can no good thing apart from grace, we call on the Lord to have His grace to go before and after us. Then in response to His gift of grace we give ourselves continually to good works that glorify His Name. In short, we love because He first loved usand that love directs us to be His servants in the world.
A book of liturgy that contains the priest’s words
Mark 10:18, Romans 3:10-12
James 2:14-17 ESV
Ephesians 2:8,9 NIV