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

Gleanings from the Collects: Palm Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God, in your tender love for us you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon himself our nature, and to suffer death upon the Cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and come to share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect for Palm Sunday is a slightly revised version of the collect for Palm Sunday in both the 1662 and the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. These collects date back to the Gelasian sacramentaries.[1]

Archbishop Cranmer altered the earlier collect to reduce implications of works righteousness by changing “grant that we may merit both to have the teaching of his patience and a share in his resurrection” to read “grant that we both follow the example of his patience, and be made partakers of his resurrection.” By doing this he avoided any suggestion of “merit”[2]on our part.

The strength of the collect is that it combines the incarnation (“to take upon himself our nature”) with the atonement (“to suffer death upon the Cross”). As Jesus said, it was for this reason that He was born.[3]

And yet one wonders if, following Archbishop Cranmer’s example, the editors of the 2019 BCP should not have made further revisions. Its weakness is that it gives only a partial, secondary, or even tertiary reason for Jesus’ death upon the Cross. His indescribable suffering was vastly more than just “giving us an example of his great humility.” He gave us that example every hour of every day throughout His life. He suffered death because He was “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”[4]There are countless examples of humility in both history and Holy Scripture but only one Savior of the world and so it is regrettable that the salvific reason for His death is not highlighted in this prayer.

The other weakness of this collect is that it links sharing “in his resurrection” to walking “in the ways of his sufferings.” Will only those who suffer then be raised? Even if that link was not intended, a casual reader could easily come to that conclusion. It would have been far better to make a direct connection between our resurrection and His atonement, just as we pray in the collect for the Feast of the Annunciation, “…[5]so by his cross and passion we may be brought to the glory of his resurrection…”

The beauty of this collect is Archbishop Cranmer’s addition “…in thy tender love toward man…” In this we are essentially praying John 3:16. It sets the tone for the holy week that follows. As we are confronted by His passion on Friday and comforted by His resurrection on Sunday may we keep before us that it is all because of His tender love towards us. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”[6]It is a wonder to realize, as A.W. Tozer taught, that the One who knows the worst about us also loves us the most.[7]Blessed Holy Week.

[1]Books of Christian liturgy from the 8thcentury

[2]Other than casting ourselves on His mercy, we do nothing to “merit” God’s mercy. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

[3]John 12:27

[4]John 1:36

[5]1928 BCP p.235

[6]John 15:13 KJV

[7]And He Dwelt Among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John

Gleanings from the Collects: The 5th Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. 

This collect is taken from the Gregorian sacramentary[1]and is found as the collect for the 4thSunday after Easter in the 1662 and 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Its new place in the 1979 and 2019 BCP is a vast improvement over the previous collect. That collect was all too brief and was not necessarily reflective of the season of Lent.[2]Such a generic call for protection is more fitting for ordinary time.

First this collect accurately captures our human condition apart from the grace of God. It is in agreement with Romans 1 that our “unruly wills and affections” enslave us. The division and decadence that permeate our culture today bear witness to that sad reality.

But then the collect points us to God. “Grant your people grace.” His grace will create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us.[3]As a result, instead of being driven by unruly wills and affections, we begin “to love what you command and desire what you promise.” It is this recognition, that while we cannot change ourselves we can look to God’s grace to change us from within, that led St. Augustine to pray, “O Lord command what you will, and grant what you command.”

The collect goes on to accurately describe the condition of our world and why it is not the place to fix our hearts. It speaks of “the swift and varied changes of this world.” As Louis L’Amour put it, “The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.” This can be a source of great heartache so thanks be to God we have the option of setting our hearts “where true joys may be found.” 

There used to be a commercial that said we only go around once in life and so we need to grab all the gusto we can. This collect reminds us that there is another life ahead and that if we will walk in God’s grace here then the real gusto is yet to come. Turning from our unruly wills and affections to loving what God commands captures well the purpose of Lent.

[1]The name given to books of prayers traditionally ascribed to Pope Gregory I (590–604)

[2]“We beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people; that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” 1662 BCP p.138 

[3]Psalm 51:10

Gleanings from the Collects: The 4th Sunday in Lent

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This collect is new to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It was adapted from a prayer in The Prayer Manual.[1]

The collect seems to pull us out of Lent, since it is a radical departure from the collect that it replaces.[2]But that is likely the intent because the 4thSunday in Lent is called “Laetare Sunday.” This is the mid point of Lent. The introit begins “Rejoice” (laetare), the vestments are rose, and the Gospel is the miraculous feeding of the 5,000. All of this comes together to suggest a Lenten intermission.

To add to the sense of celebration, the 4thSunday in Lent has also been known in Britain and some other English speaking countries as “Mothering Sunday.” It is the custom since the Middle Ages to return on this Sunday to the parish in which you were baptized or to attend the Cathedral, which is the mother church of the diocese. 

The collect begins, “Gracious Father.” While many collects correctly refer to God as “Almighty” it is important to be reminded that He is also full of grace, kindness and mercy. We do not approach Him as enemies seeking quarter; we come to Him as His children, drawn by His love. It is this relationship that makes us “bold to say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven…’ ” 

The prayer focuses on Jesus as the Bread of Life.[3]Our request for the Father to “evermore give us this bread” has dual meanings. First is to unite us with Christ as Jesus prayed, “so that the love with which You have loved Me, may be in them and I in them.”[4]

Second this request has clear Eucharistic implications. In asking for this bread we are asking for the LORD to continue to feed us “with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ…”[5]

Lastly the collect captures why Holy Communion is the zenith of our worship. We receive it so “that he may live in us, and we in him.” These words come from the Prayer of Humble Access that is prayed just before we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. It declares that this is not an empty ritual. We pray as we receive Holy Communion, “…that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.”[6]

For the Lord to answer this prayer we must cooperate with Him. If we hope to evermore receive the Bread of Life we must be diligent in seeking Him and we must be faithful in receiving the Sacrament. It would be foolish of us to pray for food but then ignore the call to dinner. We must not allow time to be a constraint as we almost always have time for the things that truly matter to us. 

[1]London: Mowbray, 1952

[2]“Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of they grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.”

[3]John 6:35

[4]John 17:25 NASB

[5]1928 BCP p.83

[6]1928 BCP p.82

Gleanings from the Collects: The 3rd Sunday in Lent

Heavenly Father, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you: Look with compassion upon the heartfelt desires of your servants, and purify our disordered affections, that we may behold your eternal glory in the face of Christ Jesus; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect, although new to the Book of Common Prayer, reflects both a prayer attributed to St. Augustine[1]and the collect for the 3rdSunday in Lent in the 1662 BCP[2].

The prayer begins with a bold statement that should be self evident to all. We have been made for Him and so we are restless until we rest in Him. We may try to fill our God shaped vacuum[3]with anything and everything else, but since we have made by God and for God, nothing else will satisfy. Life is meaningless until we find meaning in the Him. 

Our restlessness is also true in an eschatological sense. Even after finding peace with God in this life, there still exists a restlessness. This is so because deep within we know that this world is not our true home. Our citizenship is in heaven[4]and we will never know true and complete peace until we are at home in our Father’s house where we belong. It is why the Spirit says, “Blessed are those who die in the Lord.”[5]

The collect goes on to diagnose our true condition. We have “heartfelt desires” and we know that these desires are never pure. Even our highest virtues are tainted with “disordered affections.” We are, as Luther said, “simil justus, simil peccartor.”[6]

However it is vital to note that the collect tells us how to address this condition. We are not to live in guilt or under a cloud of condemnation. Rather we are to acknowledge our need and then call out to the LORD for compassion. He is faithful to answer and “pardon and deliver you all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness and bring you to everlasting life; through our Lord Jesus Christ our Lord.”[7]

We must always remember that we are never alone as we battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Thus we battle from a posture of quietness and confidence[8]as we say with the Psalmist, “I will fear no evil for Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”[9]

It is our ultimate destiny that puts the challenges of this life in proper perspective. We know that by grace we will “behold your eternal glory in the face of Christ Jesus.” Anything that this transitory life has to offer, or that can be taken from us, pales by comparison. While the battles continue in this life, Christ’s victory has already been accomplished, and what awaits us is beyond our ability to comprehend. St. Paul declares, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”[10]

And so we continue in our Lenten journey. Repentant of our sins while fixing our eyes on the One who is the author and perfecter of our faith.[11]

[1]“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

[2]“We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of they humble servants….”

[3]“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself”Blaise Pascal’s Pensees New York; Penguin Books, 1966, p.75

[4]Philippians 3:20

[5]Revelation 14:13

[6]“at once justified and a sinner”

[7]1928 Book of Common Prayer p.76

[8]Isaiah 30:15

[9]Psalm 23

[10]I Corinthians 2:9

[11]Hebrews 12:2