Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Collect - Trinity 22

The Latin Collect
FAMILIAM tuam, quæsumus Domine, continua pietate custodi, ut a cunctis adversitatibus te protegente sit libera, et in omnibus actionibus tuo nimini sit devota. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum. &c

The Collect of 1549

LORDE we beseche thee to kepe thy housholde the churche in continuall godlines; that throughe thy proteccion it maye be free from al adversities, and devoutly geven to serve thee in good workes, to the glory of thy name; Through Jesus Christ our Lorde. Amen.

The Collect of 1662
LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy household the Church in continual godliness; that through thy protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to serve thee in good works, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This collect is appointed in the Tridentine Missal for 21st after Pentecost, but has its origins in the Gregorian Sacramentary.

Mrs Bridges the cook, Mr Hudson the butler, Rose the maid and Ruby the Scullery maid form the mainstays of the Bellamy Household along with a few other maids and housemen. It is their job to look after Lady Marjorie and Sir Richard (later Lord Richard) Bellamy and their family, keeping the lives, loves and living of this Edwardian and quintessentially English family running through thick and thin in decency and in order. Upstairs live the Bellamys with the concerns that face any wealthy family of the early part of the twentieth Century. Downstairs live the servants, each with various tasks and duties. Apart from mealtimes and other instances, the upstairs family live quite separately from the folk downstairs, yet both sets of people rely heavily on each other to thrive.
This is only a brief summary of the drama series Upstairs Downstairs that first aired on British Television in the early 1970s. It is rather a faithful description of how a typical upper class household used to be. Throughout history, households always have possessed two communities, the family and the servants.
If the Church is the household of God, then who is the family, and who are the servants?
We can clearly see that Our Lord came to remove the distinctions between family and servant. In Christ, God demonstrates perfect servitude through His family. He doesn't change the tasks that have to be done - the nature of service is always the same - but he does change the sense of worth. In the Bellamy household, Ruby the Scullery maid is the lowest of the low, fit only to scrub dishes and mop the kitchen floor. Sir Richard Bellamy is a very important MP and works for the good of the nation. Christ in His service removes any distinction: "lowest of the low" and "very important" are meaningless in His household - the scrubbing of heavenly pots is a duty performed by the most important family member.
We need the continual providence of God's grace to keep our household alive and working, but we also need to recognise that in order to do justice to our membership of the household of faith we need to hear God's direction for our lives, remembering that a seemingly trivial task undertaken in love is as vital as that which seems non-trivial.
In earthly households, there are many different roles and positions - cook, butler, house maid, houseman and scullery maid. Is this really a good analogy for the Household of Faith?

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

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