Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Collect - Easter V

The Collect from the Roman Breviary
Deus, a quo bona procedunt, largire supplicibus tuis: it cogitemus, te inspirante, quae recta sunt; et, te gubernante, eadem faciamus.

The Collect of 1662
O LORD, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The collect for the fifth Sunday after Easter was drawn by Cranmer from the Gelasian Sacramentary. Both the Roman Breviary and the Gelasian collect draw upon our inward health, and the sincerity of our belief on this Sunday.

Are we praying for the installation of the Thought Police? Are we really praying for God to make our thinking just as He wants it to be? - after all the only one who is good is Our Father in Heaven. It seems as if that is precisely what we are doing in this collect – asking Him to help us to “think those things that be good”.

The thought of someone regulating the intimate workings of our minds is naturally deeply troubling. Surely the privacy of our own thoughts is the only place where we can be truly free from all censure and censorship. We cannot be judged by others for what passes silently through our heads. We can relax in our dreams safe in the knowledge that no-one else can stop us from thinking those things that we find utterly delicious. And yet here we are praying for God effectively to enter our minds and weed out all the detritus of our thoughts.

It doesn’t take long for us to realise that there is a lot of detritus that has accumulated in our thoughts over our lifetime ranging from personal observations about the lady with the big nose on the seat opposite us on the bus, or the cretinous actions of the imbecile who has tried to change lanes in front of us without any indication whatsoever, to the downright dangerous threats of “I’m going to kill that kid banging that football against my garage door.” In our minds we can insult, abuse, hurt and even kill the people around us whom God has told us to love, and they need not know a thing because it’s all done in the safety of our head. Yet as the recent, horrible events in Virginia have shown us, sometimes these thoughts leak out.

In our minds we can do a lot of damage to ourselves, and we are not so squeamish about doing so. Self-accusations, self-abasements, self-denials. We become unwitting victims of the malice that lies within all of us. There is within each of us a blackness and emptiness that needs to be filled, and we try in vain to fill it with more thoughts, inane, vapid and trivial to try and crowd out the looming darkness in our lives.

The collect calls us to perform an act of supreme trust in God. It calls us to allow Him into the depths of our minds, to invade our most intimate and private thoughts, to see things which we would rather die than divulge to another living soul. We are called to pray for God to breathe Himself into our interior darkness to lighten it, to show us the things that need clearing up. Painful. But God is not the Thought Police, His presence in our minds helps us to know Him and love Him better each day. Although we are transformed, we are transformed willingly through love, not through compulsion and not by a vicious dictator but by One Who created the wonder of the human mind and created it for love. We will just have to trust Him.

Do you trust God enough to pray this collect?

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

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