Commentary: Collects for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

First of all, you might have noticed that I have added another source to the ones we’ve been looking at, namely, the Anglican Church of Canada’s 1985 Book of Alternative Services, which (its name notwithstanding) is, I believe, the liturgical resource used by most Anglican Church of Canada parishes today. As we have seen in ELW and (once) in the LBW, the BAS adapts to the three-year lectionary cycle by sometimes offering multiple prayers of the day for a given day based on the year in the lectionary cycle. Interestingly, it appears as though this split only happens in Lent in the BAS — otherwise, there is only one set of proper prayers per day.

As you have doubtless seen, there are three BAS proper prayers for each Sunday; there is not only a collect of the day, said in the beginning of the service, but also  a prayer over the offerings said at the beginning of the celebration of the Eucharist and a prayer after communion said, well, after communion. While few Protestant orders of worship that I know of incorporate these three proper prayers (Common Worship, as we have seen, incorporates two of the three, omitting the prayer over the offerings), this is not a Canadian innovation — rather, it is a restoration of the full set of proper prayers used in Catholic worship at least since Trent and, I believe, well before. In pre-Novus Ordo Catholic liturgies, what the BAS calls the prayer over the offerings is referred to as the “secret”; in contemporary Catholic usage it is also called the prayer over the offerings. The prayer after communion, it’s worth noting, is actually optional. The BAS also offers a congregational postcommunion prayer similar to the ones in the 1979 prayerbook. I think there’s a lot to be said for this expansion of the proper prayers: the addition of more variable parts to the service means that there are more opportunities to express the particular meaning of each individual Sunday. It is worth noting that only one of the six eucharistic prayers in the BAS use a proper preface, however — so that is one way that the American prayerbook incorporates seasonal content that the BAS decidedly does not emphasize.

Finally, a liturgical note: many of the Anglican prayerbooks (although not the ’79 BCP) describe this Sunday as “Passion Sunday” or the beginning of Passiontide. Passiontide denote the last two weeks of Lent. It’s during this period that all crosses, statues, images, etc., are typically veiled and there are also changes in the Daily Office. Post-Vatican II, the Roman Church no longer celebrates Passiontide but it is preserved to some degree in Anglican usage (and probably by Latin Mass Catholics as well).

With all that out of the way, let’s take a look at the collects for this week:

As usual, the 1928 BCP/1662 BCP/LSB/LH collect of the day are all the same prayer. It’s a fine enough prayer, although hardly theologically rich or particularly strongly connected to the season. Indeed, Marion Hatchett argues rather forcefully that, as a simple prayer for protection it is “not at all suited to the time of the church year” (175). Apparently, this position was the one that carried the day for whatever set of individuals were charged with examining the collects of the day in the revision that produced the 1979 prayerbook, as the 79 BCP uses instead a prayer which was actually originally a collect appointed for use in the Easter season; we’ll encounter it again in the 1928 and 1662 prayerbooks on the Fourth Sunday after Easter. I think, all things considered, that the revision was a good one. While this prayer would also function well late in Eastertide, the prayer to “grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise” is surely a good one for a season of penitence and self-reflection, especially as the season wears on and those of us who have given up our favorite vices are finding it hard indeed to love God’s commands and desire God’s promises. Moreover, the reminder that this work we do (by God’s grace) on ourselves during Lent is not just mortification for mortification’s sake but rather because it is only by fixing our hearts on God that we can find true joy is surely a helpful one.

The Common Worship and Book of Alternative Services collects of the day for this day are quite similar. The ascriptions are different, with the Common Worship one generically appropriate to the season and the BAS one more closely linked to the week’s readings, but the petition is nearly the same. The wording is a little different, though — and I think I prefer the BAS wording, which highlights the transforming power of Christ’s cross for those who have faith in it rather the faith that Christians have in that the cross of Christ. Both are, I think, theologically correct, but the Common Worship one threatens – to use an old Lutheran turn of phrase – to make faith a work, in my opinion, while the BAS one resolutely focuses on the cross.

Not too much to say about the ELW collects; as usual, they are quite lyrical and draw well upon the appointed lections. I do wonder about the use of the term “Creator God” in the Year C collect a little. Is it supposed to be replacing “Almighty God” or “God the Father” in the style of inclusive-language substitutes for traditional trinitarian language? If so, identifying the act of creation solely with the first person of the Trinity tends towards modalism/Sabellianism and contradicts the Nicene Creed; we Christians have historically confessed that the Word and the Spirit as well as the Father were involved in creation. Now, I don’t want to get into a whole discussion of the use of inclusive language “substitutes” for the Father/Son/Holy Spirit trinitarian formula like Creator/Redeemer/Sanctifier — the short version of my stance on them is that I understand and respect the reasons for which people advocate for them and enthusiastically support the use of feminine and gender-neutral language  and pronouns for God alongside the traditional masculine ones, but believe hat none of the substitutes in common usage actually mean the same thing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that the replacement of the traditional terms threatens to erase a robustly trinitarian theology in favor of either a modalistic unitarianism or a sort of tritheism. In short, I like the prayer but would prefer an “O God” to “Creator God” at the beginning. Of course, the Apostle’s Creed identifies God the Father primarily as Creator, so one might argue that I am making much ado about nothing here; certainly addressing God the Father as Creator on occasion is not problematic — but the collects have traditionally been expressions (as the Apostle’s Creed, worthy though it is, has not) of developed trinitarian theology, and I see no pressing reason to move away from that!

I want to close with a brief discussion of the Lutheran Worship collect in the context of Passiontide. Now, to the best of my knowledge, few Lutheran churches, Missouri Synod or otherwise, observe Passiontide; certainly I did not growing up. The Lutheran Hymnal does call the Fifth Sunday in Lent Passion Sunday, probably following the 1928 prayerbook as usual, but Lutheran Worship simply calls it the Fifth Sunday in Lent. Yet I believe that understanding that the Fifth Sunday of Lent is, historically, Passiontide/Passion Sunday helps us make sense of the Lutheran Worship collect for this Sunday. The petition in this collect asks God to “help us so to remember and give thanks for our Lord’s Passion that we may receive remission of sins and redemption from everlasting death”; it’s the first collect in Lent that refers explicitly to Christ’s passion and death. I believe that the reason this collect is put here rather than some other week is as a sort of commemoration of Passiontide, preparing the congregation (as Passiontide did) for the Holy Week observance to come.

Commentary: Collects for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Collects for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

The Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, from a variety of Anglican and Lutheran sources.

1979 Book of Common Prayer (Rite II):
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1928 Book of Common Prayer:
We beseech thee, Almighty god, mercifully to look upon thy people; that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Common Worship (2000):

Collect: 
Most merciful God, who by the death and resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ delivered and saved the world: grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross we may triumph in the power of his victory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:
Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we do also for you: give us the will to be the servant of others as you were the servant of all, and gave up your life and died for us, but are alive and reign, now and for ever.

 

Book of Alternative Services (1985):

Year A:

Collect:
Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us all from sin and death. Breathe upon us with the power of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ, and serve you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Prayer over the Gifts:
Giver of life, your Son has destroyed the power of death for all those who believe in him. Accept all we offer you this day and strengthen us in faith and hope; through Jesus Christ, the Lord of all the living.

Prayer after Communion:
God of hope, in this eucharist we have tasted the promise of your heavenly banquet and the richness of eternal life. May we who bear witness to the death of your Son, also proclaim the glory of his resurrection, for he is Lord for ever and ever.

Years B and C:

Collect:
Most merciful God, by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ, you created humanity anew. May the power of his victorious cross transform those who turn in faith to him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Prayer over the Gifts:
Eternal God, your only Son suffered death upon the cross to bring the world salvation. Accept the praise and thanksgiving we offer you this day, in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.

Prayer after Communion:
Merciful God, you have called us to your table and fed us with the bread of life. Draw us and all people to your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

1662 Book of Common Prayer:
We beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people; that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006):

Year A:
Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us all from sin and death. Breathe upon us the power of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ and serve you in righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Year B:
O God, with steadfast love you draw us to yourself, and in mercy you receive our prayers. Strengthen us to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, that through life and death we may live in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Year C:
Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness, and your grace waters our desert. Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing, that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love given to all through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978):
Almighty God, our redeemer, in our weakness we have failed to be your messengers of forgiveness and hope in the world. Renew us by your Holy Spirit, that we may follow your commands and proclaim your reign of love; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lutheran Service Book (2006):
Almighty God, by Your great goodness mercifully look upon Your people that we may be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982):
Almighty and eternal God, because it was your will that your Son should bear the pains of the cross for us and thus remove from us the power of the adversary, help us so to remember and give thanks for our Lord’s Passion that we may receive remission of sins and redemption from everlasting death; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Lutheran Hymnal (1941):
We beseech Thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon Thy people, that by Thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth, etc.

Collects for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Commentary: Collects for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

I want to start things off by making a brief point about last week’s post. It turns out that the old 1662 BCP collect for the Third Sunday of Lent has not totally disappeared from the Episcopal liturgy! It now appears (with slight variation in wording) as the Collect for Monday in the Third Week of Lent in Holy Women, Holy Men (and I believe Lesser Feasts and Fasts as well). So, if its disappearance from the 1979 prayerbook was keeping you up at night, you can rest easy.

Now, you may have noticed that things have gotten a little bit unusual with the Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. First of all, the 1979 prayerbook collect is very different in tone from the collects for the second and third Sundays in Lent we looked at earlier, and it’s also totally different from the 1928/1662 collect. Common Worship, then, actually has two collect + postcommunion sets for this Sunday, one for the Fourth Sunday of Lent and one for optional use for  the observance of something called Mothering Sunday. Moreover, the mirroring we’ve seen quite consistently between the 1979 BCP and Lutheran Worship (and sometimes the Lutheran Book of Worship as well) is totally absent this time. So what’s going on?

The answer has to do with this Sunday’s particular position in Lent. This Sunday is traditionally called Laetere Sunday. The name comes from the beginning of the Introit in the old Roman Rite, which is taken from Isaiah 66:10. It begins as follows: “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her…” Beginning a service in Lent with the word “rejoice” seems like a strange choice, but Laetere Sunday, about halfway between the beginning of Lent and Easter, was traditionally a time of the lessening of the Lenten fast. The propers and lessons are more joyful and less penitential in tone, and pink vestments were worn rather than the purple ones worn through the rest of Lent. Note the similarity to Gaudete Sunday here. As Marion Hatchett tells us in the Commentary on the American Prayerbook, this Sunday was also called Mothering Sunday and people would in some areas visit the diocesan cathedral (the mother church of the diocese) on this day. It is also associated with the celebration of one’s human mother; indeed, the U.K. equivalent to the American holiday of Mother’s Day is celebrated on this day (at least according to Wikipedia…).

The 1979 prayerbook celebrates Laetere Sunday by doing away with the old Gregorian collect which was preserved in the 1662 and American 1928 prayerbooks in favor of one composed in the twentieth century by an F.B. McNutt; Hatchett editorializes here that McNutt’s collect is far superior for this day than the dramatically penitential Gregorian collect. Hatchett’s criticism of the old collect is fair, although I would argue that in the old Roman Rite, the more joyful minor propers (the introit, gradual, tract, offertory, and communion) alongside the penitential collect would have conveyed the tone of the day as a lessening (but not total elimination!) of the Lenten fast quite nicely. Of course, the minor propers disappeared from Anglican worship entirely (to the best of my knowledge) from the Reformation until the Oxford Movement, and even today are used mostly if not exclusively in Anglo-Catholic parishes; it’s not like the composers of the 1979 prayerbook were going to bring back the old mass propers as normative for all Episcopalians (although a boy can dream, right?). Given that reality, I do think that the collect probably needed to be changed, although I’m not sure I like the total elimination of a penitential aspect. The collect works all right with RCL readings for this Sunday – for this year, there’s a reference to manna in the Old Testament reading, and of course the famous feast upon the prodigal son’s return in the Gospel. Also, I like that the collect preserves to some extent the old Gospel reading for this day from 1662/1928/the 1951 Roman Missal, namely the feeding of the five thousand in John 6.

To turn to some of the other prayerbooks: I like both sets of Common Worship prayers, especially the one for Mothering Sunday. In particular, the depiction of God as like a mother feeding her children at the breast in the postcommunion is an excellent feminine metaphor for God with a long historical pedigree — think of Julian of Norwich or parts of the monastic tradition here!

Now, with the Lutheran collects, I’m not totally sure what is going on here; I don’t have an equivalent commentary to Hatchett’s for the ’79 prayerbook on hand to explain the source material from which these various collects were made.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship continues, as we have seen, the pattern of drawing the collects quite explicitly from the RCL lections. The collect for Year C is quite lovely although I’m not sure about the line “by our baptism clothe us with the garments of your grace” — the theology here seems to be a little confused, or at least confusing. How exactly is the “by” functioning here? And what exactly does it mean to be “clothe[d]…with the garments of God’s grace”? Are we asking God to “clothe us with the garments of [God’s] grace” in the moment of baptism? That’s a little strange, given that almost everyone praying this prayer is likely to be baptized already. Or are we asking God to “clothe us with the garments of [God’s] grace” because of or in light of our baptism? This seems more likely, but I’m not sure how exactly that fits with Lutheran sacramental theology, given that baptismal regeneration occurs at the moment of baptism in the Lutheran tradition. Or is the collect trying to talk about sanctification here? I’m really not sure.

As for the others, while the Lutheran Hymnal collect, as usual, follows the 1928 prayerbook one, my best guess for the ELW/LSB/LW collects is that they are also attempts (like the collect revision for the 1979 prayerbook) to celebrate Laetere Sunday with collects that are less intensely penitential than the old Gregorian collect we saw in the 1662 and 1928 prayerbook collects. The Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book collects do a good job retaining a sense of God’s grace relieving deserved punishment in a collect that is nonetheless more joyful than the old Gregorian one by shifting the emphasis to our response to God’s mercy.

Commentary: Collects for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Collects for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

The Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, from a variety of Anglican and Lutheran sources.

1979 Book of Common Prayer (Rite II):
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1928 Book of Common Prayer:
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Common Worship (2000):

Collect: 
Merciful Lord, absolve your people from their offences, that through your bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the chains of those sins which by our frailty we have committed; grant this, heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:
Lord God, whose blessed Son our Saviour gave his back to the smiters and did not hide his face from shame: give us grace to endure the sufferings of this present time with sure confidence in the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Common Worship also includes the option of observing Mothering Sunday on this Sunday, with the following collect and post communion:

Collect:
God of compassion, whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary, shared the life of a home in Nazareth, and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself: strengthen us in our daily lives that in joy and sorrow we may know the power of your presence to bind together and to heal; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:
Loving God, as a mother feeds her children at the breast you feed us in this sacrament with the food and drink of eternal life: help us who have tasted your goodness to grow in grace within the household of faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

1662 Book of Common Prayer:
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006):

Year A:
Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us. By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Year B:
O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death. Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Year C:
God of compassion, you welcome the wayward, and you embrace us all with your mercy. By our baptism clothe us with the garments of your grace, and feed us at the table of your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978):
God of all mercy, by your power to heal and to forgive, graciously cleanse us from all sin and make us strong; through you Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Lutheran Service Book (2006):
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, Your mercies are new every morning; and though we deserve only punishment, You receive us as Your children and provide for all our needs of body and soul. Grant that we may heartily acknowledge Your merciful goodness, give thanks for all Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982):
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, your mercies are new every morning, and though we have in no way deserved your goodness, you still abundantly provide for all our wants of body and soul. Give us, we pray, your Holy Spirit that we may heartily acknowledge your merciful goodness toward us, give thanks for all your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience; through Jesus Christ, you Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The Lutheran Hymnal (1941):
Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds to worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of Thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth, etc.

Collects for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Commentary: Collects for the Third Sunday of Lent

The 1979 BCP collect this week should look familiar — as we discussed last week, previous versions of the prayerbook appointed this collect for the Second Sunday of Lent. I like this collect a lot, especially for Lent. The frank admission that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves is a rather bracing antidote to the relentless positive, self-help spirituality so characteristic of contemporary American religion. But harsh though it may be, it rings undeniably true for me, especially as I have been reflecting upon my own sins and struggling mightily to keep even my rather feeble Lenten commitments over the past weeks.

The collect that it replaces from the ’28 prayerbook dates back at least to the 1662 prayerbook, but due reverence for tradition aside, it does not strike me as a particularly meaty prayer. There’s nothing wrong with it — indeed, the notion of God stretching forth His right hand to defend us against our enemies has some nice resonance with the Gospel reading from the second chapter of Luke appointed for the day, which deals with Jesus as exorcizer of demons. But, especially given the lectionary changes, I don’t think too much is lost by its removal. To the best of my knowledge, this prayer is not reused elsewhere in the prayerbook.

I’m not sure whether I prefer this collect in its current position or in its historic one on the second Sunday of Lent. I have a general preference for following tradition, all else being equal, but I admit that this collect  does work with the readings appointed for this Sunday pretty nicely, at least for Year C (the current year). The language about being protected from evil thoughts which assault the mind relates to the Epistle, in which Paul calls upon the Church to use the example of the ancient Israelites as a textbook example of what not to do: Christians need to resist temptation, to avoid idolatry, putting God to the test, complaining, and so on. Paul reassures the Corinthians (and here is the connection) that God will not tempt them beyond what they can bear, but will ultimately protect them from the evil thoughts that assail them. This is a bit more of a stretch, but there is perhaps a connection between the petition to be protected from bodily harms and the reference in the Gospel reading to the death of the Galileans at Pilate’s hands and the death of those who perished in the collapse of the Tower of Siloam. That said, even if you will grant me that much, the connection is something of a negative one: our petitions notwithstanding, God does not always protect us from bodily harm, and that lack of protection does not have anything to do with our moral worthiness or lack therof. Plenty more to say about the anti-theodicy of sorts which Jesus lays out in this Gospel, but that is beyond the scope of this post.

I should note here, before turning to look at Common Worship or the Lutheran collects, that the Old Testament reading appointed for this Sunday in the Episcopal lectionary differs from that of the Revised Common Lectionary used by the ELCA and by the Church of England. Where the Episcopal church has the theophany in the burning bush from Exodus, the RCL uses the famous passage from Isaiah 55 (“Ho, everyone that thirsts, come to the waters…”). I’m not sure about the reasoning behind that difference, but when we’re connecting the collect to the readings, it’s helpful to keep in mind.

The Common Worship collect for this Sunday should be familiar to anyone who regularly prays the ’79 prayerbook Daily Office; this collect appears in the ’79 BCP in a couple of places, including in Morning Prayer for optional use on Fridays (the other locations, if you’re interested, are as the Collect for Monday in Holy Week and for optional use during the Palm Sunday procession). This collect is actually of American provenance; it was written by the Rev. Dr. William Reed Huntington, who was involved in the revision process which produced the 1892 prayerbook and also formulated the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (it’s in the Historical Documents section of the ’79 prayerbook). It’s a lovely prayer, and works well in Lent. I like the particular resonance of “walking in the way of the cross” for Holy Week, but I suppose appointing it for a Sunday guarantees a wider audience for the prayer than for a Monday, where fewer opportunities for public worship exist in our churches. The postcommunion works well with the Epistle and the Gospel alike; I do not know its provenance. I am surprised that the Common Worship collects have been so different from the 1662 ones in the last two weeks — last week saw the 1662 collect used as the postcommunion rather than as the collect of the day, while this week’s do not refer to the 1662 collect appointed for this Sunday at all. I wonder if that will prove to be a pattern, and if so, why?

To move to the Lutherans, the story in the Missouri Synod is less complicated than the story in the ALC/LCA/ELCA. The 1941 Lutheran Hymnal uses the 1928 prayerbook collect, as it did last week; the 1982 Lutheran Worship uses the 1979 prayerbook collect, as it did last week. The 2006 Lutheran Service Book, as we have seen, restores the ’79 BCP collect to its original position as the Collect for the Second Sunday of Lent, and then replaces it this week with the ’79 BCP collect for the Second Sunday of Lent — that is, it switches their places. I have to say, I like the LSB arrangement here. It preserves the historic location of the “Almighty God, you know we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves” collect as the collect for the second Sunday of Lent, but also does away with the old ’28 collect in favor of the much richer “O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy” collect which we talked about last week.

The Evangelical Lutheran Worship collect appointed for this Sunday in Year C is also – with a few changes – the (only) collect appointed for this Sunday in the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship. I do not know the provenance of this collect. It’s clearly unrelated to the other ones we have been looking at, and because of the language of the in-breaking Kingdom of God, I would guess it is quite modern. Modern though it may be, I like it, particularly for this Sunday. The language of God’s kingdom breaking into the world works really nicely with the Isaiah reading, and second part of the the petition, particularly in its ELW form (“bring your saving love to fruition in our lives”), works great with the parable of the fig tree. There’s possibly a nice Dietrich Bonhoeffer (and perhaps before him to Luther — I am not (alas!!) a Lutheran expert, or really a Bonhoeffer one for that matter) reference here; Bonhoeffer talks a lot about the response of obedience to the hearing the Word in The Cost of Discipleship.

So, to summarize: all of the collects in current use* we’ve looked at (the ’79 BCP, Common WorshipLSBELW) are theologically rich prayers which relate quite well to the general Lenten theme of the Sunday and the readings appointed for this day – hurray! The old 1662 collect, which remained in use in the American prayerbook until the most recent revision, has disappeared from the American BCP, Common Worship, and the various Lutheran hymnals, but its erasure is no particularly great loss. For the last two weeks, at least, I like the LSB collect arrangement better than the ’79 prayerbook one because it preserves greater fidelity to church tradition while using the same prayers. The Common Worship collect is actually an American contribution, and a good one. The ELW/LSB collect seems to be of recent composition and it is a good prayer.

*Yes, I know that some Episcopal parishes still use the 1928 BCP and rather more Church of England ones still use 1662. I wonder what lectionary they use. While I don’t love the 1662/1928 collect, there is nothing dramatically wrong with it, and it does fit with the 1662/1928 readings appointed for the day.

Commentary: Collects for the Third Sunday of Lent

Collects for the Third Sunday of Lent

The Collect for the Third Sunday of Lent, from a variety of Anglican and Lutheran sources.

1979 Book of Common Prayer (Rite II):
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

1928 Book of Common Prayer:
We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defense against all our enemies, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Common Worship (2000):

Collect:
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unit of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:
Lord, we beseech thee, grant the people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

1662 Book of Common Prayer:
We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of they humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defense against all our enemies, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006):

Year A:
Merciful God, the fountain of living water, you quench our thirst and wash away our sin. Give us this water always. Bring us to drink from the well that flows with the beauty of your truth through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Year B:
Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously. Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace, and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Year C:
Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world through the life, death, and resurrection of our Son. Help us to hear your word and obey it, and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978):
Eternal Lord, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son. Help us to hear your Word and obey it, so that we become instruments of your redeeming love; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Lutheran Service Book (2006):
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982):
Almighty God, because you know that we of ourselves have no strength, keep us both outwardly and inwardly that we may be defended from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The Lutheran Hymnal (1941):
We beseech Thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of Thy humble servants and stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty to be our defense against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth, etc.

Collects for the Third Sunday of Lent

Commentary: Collects for the Second Sunday of Lent

There are a couple of things worth noting here about the Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent.

First of all, the current (1979) BCP collect is actually a departure from the Anglican tradition.  The 1928 BCP collect is more-or-less identical to the 1662 one, which itself is basically a translation from the Latin of the Sarum missal and the Gregorian sacramentary. The 1979 prayerbook has not done away with this collect entirely; rather, it’s now used for the Third Sunday in Lent.

Now, the 1979 prayerbook collect for this Sunday is actually drawn from a Good Friday solemn collect found in the Missale Gallicanum vetus, the Gelasian sacramentary, and the Gregorian sacramentary (see Marion Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayerbook, 174). Prayers very similar to the 1979 collect were also used as one of the options for the day in the LCA/ALC Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and as the only collect appointed for the day in the LCMS Lutheran Worship (1982). Indeed, the Missouri Synod (and possibly the ALC/LCA as well; I just don’t have my hands on all the necessary liturgical books) made the same shift that the Episcopal Church did: the collect used in The Lutheran Hymnal and in the 1928 prayerbook was shifted to the Third Sunday in Lent and replaced with the 1979 BCP/Lutheran Worship collect. Based on what I know about the development of the LBW and LW, I am guessing that the immediate source of their collects for this day was in fact the 1979 BCP, then in draft form. Interestingly enough, in the current LCMS hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book, the “Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves…” collect is back in its traditional position for the Second Sunday of Lent.

The current Common Worship collect is similar to the 1979 collect; both focus on the correction of error and repentance among Christians. There is, in my reading, at least, a slight difference in emphasis. The petition in 1979 prayerbook collect is that God be gracious to those of us who have fallen away from God’s ways and that God bring us back through penitence to embrace the truth of Jesus, God’s Word. That petition is very similar to the attribution in the Common Worship collect, which describes God as Someone who shows error in order to lead back to truth. The petition proper, then, is that God may grant that Christians may avoid those things which are contrary to Christianity, and follow those things which are Christian. To me at least, there is less of a focus on repentance and return here and more of a focus on acting rightly to begin with. I think I prefer the 79 collect to the Common Worship one, especially for Lent. While it is good and right to pray to avoid heresy and sin, the Lutheran in me wants to stress that we all, in fact, are deeply in captivity to sin and need, all of us, God to inspire in us the penitence and faith to bring us back to right relationship with God and with each other. I should add that the collect traditionally associated with this Sunday has not disappeared entirely in Common Worship; it appears as the post-communion prayer.

One final note: in looking at the collect for this Sunday, particularly as it developed in American Lutheranism, we cannot avoid seeing the impact of move from a single-year to three-year lectionary culminating in the adoption of the Revised Common Lectionary by many mainline Protestant churches, including the Episcopal Church (with some adaptations, I believe), the ELCA, and the PC(USA), whose collects for the day we’ve looked at. I’m less sure about the Presbyterians, but my understanding is that the Lutheran church bodies, the Episcopal Church, and the Roman Catholic Church all used single-year lectionaries for Sunday Scripture readings until late in the twentieth century. The Roman and Episcopal ones also only included two lections, an Epistle reading and a Gospel reading (I’m not sure about the Lutherans). In the wake of Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church switched to the now-familiar three-year system with four readings (Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel). In response, many American Protestant churches developed lectionaries based upon the new Roman one — we see one example of this process in the Sunday Eucharistic Lectionary in the ’79 prayerbook. The Common Lectionary was a pan-mainline-Protestant project developed out of the Roman and Episcopal lectionaries; the Revised Common Lectionary was a further revision of the that.

Now, this is important because the collect (and the rest of the Propers, for that matter) is typically related to the Scripture readings appointed for the day. If you have a yearly collect cycle and a yearly lectionary, this is no problem. However, if you try to maintain the traditional yearly collect cycle while switching to a three-year lectionary, things get a little bit trickier; your collect now needs to relate to three different sets of lections.

One solution to this problem is to jettison the traditional system of having only one collect appointed per week of the church year. The LBW begins to offer alternate collects for some Sundays and feasts. For the Second Sunday of Lent, the alternate collect appears to be based upon the Gospel reading from Year A in the LBW lectionary (John 4:5-26). Note, however, that not all of the alternate collects seem to be based on different sets of Sunday lections. The ELW, then, has entirely done away with the traditional one-collect-per-week system; instead, there are three collects for each Sunday of the Church Year, one for each year of the lectionary. While I am leery for a variety of reasons of abandoning the traditional system of collects, this approach does have some clear advantages. The collect for Year C (the current year of the lectionary), weaves together language and themes from the Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel readings in quite a beautiful way. “God of the covenant” refers to the Old Testament, “the mystery of the cross” to the Epistle (a bit of a stretch, but I think it works), and “Gather all people into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy” to the Gospel. It is much easier to craft a collect like this when each collect will only be used with one set of lections; while lovely, this collect wouldn’t quite “work” in the Episcopal system. In Lent, of course, the themes are similar enough across the years that it isn’t such a stretch to find a collect that functions for all three sets of readings; it’ll be interesting to see if that becomes less true once we reach Ordinary Time.

Commentary: Collects for the Second Sunday of Lent