Meditation on the Collect for The Fifth Sunday in Lent

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 for ever. Amen.
(BCP 219)

According to Marion Hatchett, while this Collect was used for the fourth Sunday after Easter in the early 8th-century sacramentary from Gaul, the late 11th-century Sarum missal, and earlier Prayer Books, the revisers of our 1979 BCP moved this Collect to its present place.  The reasoning for this move was to replace a Collect that focused on “asking for protection and [was] not at all suited to the time of the church year.”  Hatchett notes that in 1662 the Collect was revised to “introduce an antithesis between ‘the unruly wills and affections’ of sinners, and the love for God’s commandments and the desire for what God has promised—gifts of God’s grace” (Hatchett, 176). 

The Preamble, “Almighty God,” invites us to consider what mighty work of salvation we are asking in the petition.

The Acknowledgement, “you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners” describes our need for God’s mighty work in us to transform both our wills and our affections.  Romans 7:14-25 provides an example of the tension we daily live in as we struggle to conform our thoughts, words, deeds, and emotions to align with the will of God.   In Romans 12:1-2, Paul instructs us to be transformed so that we no longer conform to the way of the world.  This transformation results in us being of one spirit and mind, having the same love, in imitation of Christ (Philippians 2:1-4).  In this Collect we acknowledge that we are unable to transform ourselves—being conformed to Christ requires power from outside of us.  Only God can make this change in us happen.

The Petition, “Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise,” is our response to the daily struggle that we face—a cry for transformation of our wills and affections. 

God’s grace transforming us so that the desire for God’s promise is cultivated within us is also a theme in the Aspiration of The Collect for Proper 26 (BCP 235).  In The Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (BCP 225) we pray for grace to obtain what God promises; in the second half of the Petition in the Collect for Proper 25 (BCP 235) we pray “and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command.” The gift of the Holy Spirit is described as a promise in The Collect for Whitsunday (BCP 227); since we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism, this part of God’s promise comes early in the Christian life.  In the Collect for Proper 21 (BCP 234), we are described as running to obtain God’s promises – God isn’t finished with us yet. 

We continue to be transformed so that we grow ever more in love with God and in alignment with God’s will.  As we grow, we will come to know that we are more and more dependent upon God’s grace to love what God commands and desire what God promises.  For a list of what God has promised that is highlighted in our BCP, see the meditation on The Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

The Aspiration, “that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found,” is both a statement about the world we live in and the need to have a firm anchor for our wills and affections.  Some of these changes of the world are simply that – changes that we need grace to navigate.  Having our hearts fixed on where true joys are to be found—God—is what helps us weather the changes and chances of this life that weary us (Compline, BCP 133).  Other changes in this world are due to “the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God” (Holy Baptism, BCP 302).  These evil powers blast a siren’s call at us, hoping to entice us to reject the way to true joy for fleeting moments of what the world calls joy.  Like the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 57, this Collect invites us to ask God to make the center of our being (our hearts) steadfast.

The Pleading, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen,” affirms that the grace to love what God commands and desire what God promises is through the life and work of Jesus and applied to us and worked into us by the Holy Spirit.

In what ways do you experience an unruly will and what do you desire that is contrary to God’s will?  How have you experienced God’s grace changing your will so that you are better able to love what God commands? 

How do we as a parish experience an unruly will or misplaced affections?  How have we experienced God changing our common will so that we love what God commands?   How are we growing in our desire for what God has promised?

Where and when do you experience true joy?  The world is changing swiftly; how has God’s grace enabled you to fix your heart on where true joy is found in the midst of these wearying changes?  

How have we as a parish experienced true joy?  In the midst of the rapid changes of our time, how has God’s grace enabled us to fix our heart on where true joy is found?

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 for ever. Amen.


© 2022 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick
The citations from Marion Hatchett are from his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, HarperOne, 1995.
Quotations and page references to The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) are from the 1979 standard edition.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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