Friday, January 05, 2007
The Collect - Epiphany
O GOD, which by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant, that we, which know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through Christ our Lord.
This prayer, by the hand of Archbishop Cranmer, is based on an older prayer in the Gregorian Sacramentary and packs a great deal of meaning. The collect remains unchanged in the various editions of the Book of Common Prayer until the 1979 prayer book, which changed the prayer to read:
“O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.”
Compare the ECUSA collect to the Ambrosian collect for Epiphany:
“O God, who hast hallowed this day of election by the first-fruits of the Gentiles, and by the star of thy light hast plainly shewed thyself unto us: grant, we beseech thee, that the new and marvellous brightness of the heavens may ever arise in our hearts; who livest and reigneth with thee...”
It is evident that the ECUSA revision strays from the more profound meaning, evidenced by the deletion of the words “fruition” or “first-fruits.” The miraculous star manifests the birth of God’s only begotten Son, the fruit of the Virgin’s womb. The focus is on the Divine Fruit, of which we partake now by faith and “after this live” may enjoy in glory.
The 1549 collect places stress at exactly the right point: the star as a visible sign of the appearing of Christ, perfect Sacrament. Those who made gods of the stars, were by a star lead to adore the one Eternal God. The Orthodox prayer for Christmas Day expresses this well:
“Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it those who worshipped the stars,
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness.
And to know Thee the Orient from on high,
O Lord, Glory to Thee!
In preparing this meditation I had the following dream, unlike my usual dreams, which are narrative. This dream was iconic.
I stood beneath a dark vault of sky and suddenly a huge star shot from the east and shone immediately over the center and I heard a voice say, "I am the Light in the tabernacle." Then the sky changed to the Virgin's pregnant belly where a ball of fire spun and I heard: "I am the Fire that does not consume the Virgin's vault."
Wow! Lord, have mercy on me.