Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Collect - Advent II

The Prayer

Blessed Lord, which hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; grant us that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them; that by patience and comfort of thy holy word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.


This was a new collect in 1549, substituted by Archbishop Cranmer for the following:

Stir, Lord, our hearts, to prepare the way of thine only-begotten Son, that we may worthily serve thee with minds purified by His coming, through ...

Cranmer apparently thought, justifiably, that the original was a little thin in content. Reading the traditional Epistle, which he retained, gave him the opportunity to produce a well-crafted collect on the Scriptures. In this writer’s opinion, this is the best written prayer extant on this theme. At first glance it seems a bit out of place in the Advent cycle; but, in context, it has the effect of directing us to dig deeper into the Scriptural prophecies in the Epistle and Gospel of both His First Coming and His Return.


“...The word of God is living and powerful ...” (Hebrews 4:12, composite translation).

Hear the Scriptures as they are read in worship.
Read them in the book you hold in your hands.
Mark their meaning as it has been found in the Church through the ages.
Learn them as the Fathers learned.
Let them feed you, and digest their spiritual food.
Any book may be read. Any book may be studied. Any book may be interpreted.
But this book will read you, and study you, and interpret your life.
In the written word is the eternal Word, the Logos, the Christ,
the Same whose Church is His Body,
the Same who redeems and calls and brings us to life.
Embrace Him, hold fast, and live.

Ed Pacht


Albion Land said...

From Alice Linsley:

Thanks, Ed, for this excellent commentary on the Collect for Advent II. As you know, this collect was not treated kindly in the 1979 revision where is relegated to the end of the lectionary cycle and often not read. Cranmer was solidly orthodox in his emphasis on the scripture being an anchor to the Tradition. When we no longer give Scripture a true hearing, when we feed on worldly wares rather than HIS word, we miss HIS coming. We become blind to HIS appearing.

Anonymous said...

I tried to place two comments on an earlier posting about collects a couple of weeks ago, but they never "took."

According to one of the greatest 20th-Century experts on Early Roman liturgy, the Church of England priest G. G. Willis (1914-1982), the collect probably originated at Rome in the 430s, or at the very beginning of the pontificate of Leo the Great (440-461), while the other two variable prayers of the Roman Rite, the Secret and the Postcommunion (plus the "Oratio super Sindonem" which survives in the Ambrosian Rite of Milan, but which was disappearing at rome by the time of Gregory the Great [590-604]) came in either at the very end of Leo's pontificate or else in the decade following it. Willis shows that collects originally related to the theme of the reading or readings (the OT lesson, when there was one, and the Epistle) which immediately followed, and only later to the "theme" of the day or feast. He has a whole essay about these prayers in his *Further Essays in Early Roman Liturgy* (London, 1968: The Alcuin Club) and treats them more succinctly in his posthumous *A History of Early Roman Liturgy* (London, 1994: The Henry Bradshaw Society).

Willis was a ferocious opponent of "liturgical reform" in the Church of England, at least as it shaped up from the late 1960s onwards. His books are well worth the reading.