Sunday, September 17, 2023

Favorite collects. . .

Collects are wonderful prayers for the Divine Service, appointed for each Sunday, feast, and festival, but they could do well as a prayerbook for the faithful.  Indeed, it is not without a little excitement when one of my favorite collects appears on Sunday morning.  One of those prayers of the day that I love is the ancient collect (dating from at least the to the first quarter of the 4th century and the Gregorian Sacramentary) that has come to be appointed for the Third Sunday after Trinity.  I guess I forgot to post this closer to the day when it was prayed in the liturgy but that is no reason not to explore it a bit in depth here and now.

Historically, the collects in the English speaking world have been informed more by the good work of Thomas Cranmer than by any other individual.  Certainly it was the wisdom of the wise when Lutherans were looking to translate the ancient collects from the languages of the continent and chose instead to borrow liberally from Cranmer's work.  That said, the ancient sources of the collects betray the careful craftsmanship of others whose names are not known to us.

O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake our Lord. Amen.

"Finally" was Cranmer's perhaps less literal way to accentuate the strong division between "temporal" and "eternal".  

The collect now prays:

O God, the protector of all who trust in You, without whom nothing is strong and nothing is holy, multiply Your mercy on us that, with You as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Its more modern Roman source in Latin:
Protector in te sperantium, Deus, sine quo nihil est validum, nihil sanctum, multiplica super nos misericordiam tuam, ut, te rectore, te duce, sic bonis transeuntibus nunc utamur, ut iam possimus inhaerere mansuris.
There is a bit of a confused history here because earlier missals also include a phrase while later Roman missals seem to have excluded it.  We have preserved in translation the earlier version that does indeed keep the poignant phrase:

sic transeamus per bona temporalia, ut non amittamus aeterna.
A somewhat literal translation though less elegant would pray:

O God, guardian of those hoping in You, without whom nothing is efficacious, nothing holy, multiply your mercy upon us, so that, you being our helmsman, our commander, [our guide and our guide with different aspects to that word guide] we may so make use of things that pass away as to be able to cleave to those that will endure.

The prayer has phrasing and focus that remind you of 2 Cor 4:13-18.  It has been used in various places in the Church Year.  In the Gregorian Sacramentary it was used for fourth Sunday after Pentecost. The Sarum Missal.  The initial phrase is the same as in a collect in the Gelasian sacramentary and the Gallican Bobbio missal.  It will be used in the Lutheran Service Book lectionary for the Proper 24 in Series A, so we have something to look forward to -- and I am already excited and looking forward to October 22.


1 comment:

Wurmbrand said...

I'm glad for the omission of "finally" in that Collect because it leaves open a nice ambiguity. Without "finally" it can mean both that we pass our days in Faith, in such a way that we avoid ultimate loss of heaven, not swindled out of the Lord's promises by succumbing to worldly seductions; but it also allows us to "pass through" things temporal so as not to lose things eternal, in the sense that we see the temporal things, the things perceived by our senses, as tokens of eternal things that we otherwise might neglect to take note of. Kingo's "Like the Golden Sun Ascending" comes to mind. The properly trained Christian imagination finds much to edify it.