Largire nobis, quaesumus, Domine, semper spiritum cogitandi quae recta sunt, propitius et agendi: ut qui sine te esse non possumus, secundum te vivere valeamus. (From the Leonine Sacramentary appointed for the 8th Sunday after Trinity)
GRAUNT to us Lorde we beseche thee, the spirite to thinke and doe alwayes suche thynges as be rightfull; that we, which cannot be without thee, may by thee be able to live accordyng to thy wyll; Through Jesus Christe our Lorde. (1549 BCP)
GRANT to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful; that we, who cannot do any thing that is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (1662 BCP)
This collect asks for the spirit of right thought and right action, which spirit reflects the will of the Triune God. I’m struck that the Latin is “spiritum cogitandi” and not “Spiritui Sancto” which would refer to the third Person of the Trinity. Are we asking for other than the Holy Spirit in this prayer? It appears so. The Scholasticism of the medieval church is apparent in this spiritum cogitandi, yet Cranmer refocuses the prayer on the Triune God by adding these words: “by thee”.
Perhaps Philippians 4:8, with emphasis on thinking virtuous thoughts, is the backdrop of “spiritum cogitandi” while Cranmer sees as a necessary backdrop Ephesians 1:3-14. By adding “by thee” Cranmer strengthens the allusion to the Trinitarian action described in Ephesians.
The 1662 wording: “cannot do any thing that is good without thee”, reflects the Enlightenment and the Philippians reference more than the Ephesians reference. The ECUSA 1979 prayer book follows Cranmer, with these words: “who cannot exist without thee.” (Here is a rare instance of the Standing Liturgical Commission getting it right!)
Right thoughts and actions, those that are according to God’s will, are prompted and empowered by grace. More than that, our very existence is by that same grace which fills all things. Paul teaches that those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ and our lives are hidden in Christ. This being so, every virtuous thought and every good thing is to the praise of Christ Jesus, our Lord.
We do well to remember this when we feel proud of being good, for only as we give credit fully to God’s grace at work in and through all things, do we as Christians have an authentic witness.
--------------------------Alice C. Linsley
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