Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Collect: Easter II

The 1549 Collect
ALMIGHTIE God, whiche haste geven thy holy sonne to bee unto us, bothe a sacrifice for synne, and also an example of Godly life; Geve us the grace that we maie alwaies moste thankfully receive that his inestimable benefite, and also dayely indevour ourselfes to folow the blessed steppes of his moste holy lyfe.

The 1662 Collect
ALMIGHTY God, who has given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Cranmer translates the collect from the Gelasian Sacramentary. Notice how the phrase "holy sonne" is replaced by the time of the 1662 prayer book with "only son".

If it weren't confusing enough to worship one God in three Persons, and One Lord Jesus Christ with two natures, here in this collect we have another duality concerning our Lord and Saviour. We pray that He may be for us both a sacrifice for sins and an example of Godly living. This seemingly innocuous prayer looks as if it presents us with a problem. If Christ is the one sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, then how far can we use him as an example for living? Surely for us to follow Christ means an inevitable sacrifice on a cross for the sins of the world, and that is a role that only He can satisfy, isn't it?

The Lord tells us that to follow Him we must pick up our cross, our instrument of sacrifice, and then walk with Him. While this whole idea of sacrifice is unpopular (especially with some members of the Anglican Communion), it nonetheless points to Christ as an example of giving and giving and giving until there is no more to give. He is (according to St Thomas Aquinas) the self-wounding pelican who gives of his life's blood. This is the example Christ bids us follow. While our sacrifices shall not result in the forgiveness of sins, they will prove to be the germination of love, kindness, and hope for all those for whom we dare to suffer.

We do not choose our sacrifice - we are led to where we do not wish to go - but if we embrace that sacrifice, looking to the Lord as our example, then that suffering will have a worth beyond our imaginings. But this is the challenge to each Christian and in praying this collect we must acknowledge that which is to come and pray for the Grace to abide it. Is this a prayer that should easily trip off our tongues?

----------------------------------------Jonathan Munn

No comments: