Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Collect - Lent I

The 1549 Collect

O LORD, whiche for oure sake dyddeste faste fortye dayes and fourtie nightes; Geve us grace to use suche abstinence, that, oure fleshe beyng subdued to the spirite, wee maye ever obeye thy Godlye mocions in righteousnesse, and true holinesse, to thy honoure and glorye, whiche lyveste and reigneste, &c.*

The 1662 Collect

O LORD, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

From the Roman Breviary

Deus, qui Ecclésiam tuam annua Quadragesimali observatióne purificas : præsta famíliæ tuæ ; ut, quod a te obtinére abstinéndo nititur, hoc bonis opéribus exsequátur. Per Dominum ...

(O God, who dost purify thy Church with the annual observance of Lent, grant unto thy household that what it strives to obtain from thee by abstinence it may secure with good works ...)

The Commentary

Cranmer takes his collect for the First Sunday in Lent from the Gregorian Sacramentary. The Roman Breviary is of course that of the Counter-Reformation under Pope St Pius V and its subsequent restructuring by Pope St Pius X. One might note the effect of the Counter-Reformation due to the mention of "bonis opéribus" which emphasises the Doctrine that has ever been at the heart of Catholic-Protestant differences.

The Reflection

Magnets are truly wonderful objects without which the internet would not exist. We use them daily to run our motors due to the special relationship that magnetism has with electricity. An electric current produces a magnetic field which causes another magnet to move. The quality of the motor depends mainly on one thing - the quality of the magnet.

A magnet has a habit of aligning itself to the magnetic field of a much larger body - the earth - and, when floating on a piece of cardboard in a tub of water, will always point North-South. However, this strong alignment is only the first property that a magnet possesses. Its second property is that the North seeking end of a magnet is only attracted to a South-seeking end, and vice versa. The ends of the magnet do not seek themselves, but each other, and together they form a common alignment to the greater magnetic field. These are the two properties of magnets: they have a common alignment and they are not self-seeking. Does this sound familiar?

However, a magnet can lose its magnetism through many means, especially through wear and tear of daily uses or through heavy blows. No magnet is perfect and occasionally it needs to be put into contact with either another magnet, or a strong magnetic field for some time in order for it to regain its magnetic strength.

Lent is this period in which we focus on our own magnetism to Christ. This is a magnetism which gets knocked out of us by the world, by our daily lives, by sin. In Lent we are asked to consider our alignment to Christ and the measure of our self-seeking in order to strengthen the first and nullify the second. As we deprive ourselves of things that can insulate our lives from the electrifying nature of Christ, then do we feel the strength of his presence bending our wills to fit His Divine Will. Come Easter Day, we are released from this period of contemplative realignment with renewed Christian magnetism, and replaced into the motor of the Church to work the Opus Dei.

Our Lenten self-discipline needs to be spent on that realignment. What is the fast that the Lord would choose for us? How does that realign us to Him?

Jonathan Munn

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