Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Collect, Trinity VIII

The Latin Collect

(this collect is appointed in the Tridentine Missal for 7th after Pentecost)

Deus, cujus providentua in sui dispisitione non falitur: te supplices exoramus; ut noxia cincta submoveas, et omnia nobis profutura concedas.

The 1549 Collect

GOD, whose providence is never deceived, we humbly beseche thee that thou wilt put away from us al hurtfull thinges, and geve [us]* those thinges whiche be profitable for us; through Jesus Christe our Lorde.

The 1662 Collect

O GOD, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth; We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The first clause of this collect reminds us of God's providence, which has a two-fold completeness. It is "never-failing", that is without limit in time (or ongoing effectiveness), and "ordereth all things both in heaven and earth", and so extends throughout the universe. Providence refers to God's ongoing care, preservation, and ordering (according to His overarching wisdom and plan) of Creation. It is seen as mainly expressed through everyday, natural causes rather than overtly supernatural miracles, which are often put in a different category. Because God sees the end from the beginning He has been able to do a great deal of "ordering" of what happens through setting up the natural conditions and laws in such a way as to achieve certain outcomes. It is good to know that our infinitely wise God is in final control, but there a number of things that we need to remember that Divine Providence does not mean.

It does not mean God directly causes or chooses everything, including evil. Instead, He allows room for angelic and human free will to choose and produce good or evil, and then is able to, in the long term, bring good even out of evil. It does not mean all justice is done within this universe. Divine Providence within this Creation does not "tie up all loose ends" because it never intended to. And providence does not mean we will get everything we want or even seem to need, though God does provide for us. We cannot see the bigger picture like He can, and we have trouble understanding (and believing) that what is best for eternal life may appear sub-standard here and now!

This brings us to the second part of the collect, the supplication. We ask God to "put away from us all hurtful things" and "give us those things which be profitable". Our first instinct is to see this as a prayer for avoidance of pain and provision of happiness. And I'm sure God doesn't mind us asking for that. But what is painful can sometimes be profitable, and outward happiness can in some circumstances be hurtful to the soul. "Be careful what you ask for" the saying goes! In the end, while God loves to bless people and does not willingly afflict us (Lam. 3.33), what He wants most for us is the eternal joy of union with Him. Sometimes that may involve difficult journeys. May we trust Him and His loving Providence throughout.


poetreader said...

We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things,

all riches that call our hearts to worship them,
all pleasures that attract our hearts from thee,
all praises that put our thoughts upon ourselves,
from all the good things that bring ill to our souls.

and to give us those things which be profitable for us;

correction when we stray,
poverty when we despise the poor,
long lines when we lack patience,
discomfort when we become complacent.

Lord, put away from us what we think we need, and give us everything we really need, even when we do not want it. Amen.

Alice C. Linsley said...


Fr. Matthew, this reflection is very meaningful. I'll take it to heart this week.