Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Collects: Easter Day

The Prayers

ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: We humbly beseech thee, that as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

O GOD, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the resurrection from the dead of thy only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we who celebrate this Paschal feast may die daily unto sin, and live with him evermore in the glory of his endless life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The first Collect is a translation from the Latin original in the Sarum Missal. The words “preventing us” were omitted in the 1962 Canadian BCP, probably to limit the potential confusion in using a word, preventing, that had changed its common meaning from “coming before as preparation” to “stopping”. Otherwise, the Collect has remained virtually unchanged since the original 1549 BCP. The second Collect is an optional supplementary one from the Canadian 1962 BCP.


Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

In the midst of the overwhelming joy and wonder of Easter, the chief festival of the Christian year, as we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, we might be surprised at the relevance of the petition of today’s collect. Why does the prayer go from talking about the overcoming of death to simply asking that God enable us to carry out our good intentions?!? It seems such an anticlimax.

The Epistle (Col 3.1-11) provides us with the key to understanding this transition. It exhorts us that, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”. Similarly, St Paul says a little later to “cast off the old self with its evil deeds, and put on the new, which is being refashioned in knowledge according to the image of its creator”.

In other words, the joy of Easter is not just that Jesus has conquered death and sin. He’s taken us with him on the victory parade. We are risen with him. But precisely because we share in this new life we are expected to get on with living it. Jesus had the same expectation of the Apostles: “Go” he says to them at the end of St Matthew’s Gospel!

Since the complete renewal of our bodies is still to come, the way we experience the resurrection-life now is largely in the “refashioning” of our minds, to paraphrase the Apostle. And this includes the redirection of our “desires” as the Collect puts it, or what we “seek” or set our minds on as the Epistle has it. Yet even that is not enough. We must seek till we find. We must desire to do good and actually do it.

Easter is not just a celebration but a challenge and a promise. We are challenged to clothe ourselves with the new humanity that is “in the image of” our risen Lord, and work in its power. And we are promised that the reward is the resurrection of the body to live forever with God.

So, let us make our Easter joy not a complacent one but one that actively impels us to live the new life, using our faith in Christ and his Resurrection to empower our hope in eternal life and our love for God and neighbour. For it is only by faith in God’s grace that we can do it. Believe not only in what God has done for you but in you. There is no need to fret about our ability to obey, for the same Saviour who said “Go” also said “Be not afraid” (Mt 28.10), “Peace be with you” (Jn 20.19) and, best of all, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Mt 28.20).

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