The Collect for Proper 12:  The Sunday closest to July 27

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
Increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
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, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 231)

Marion Hatchett places the first recorded use of this Collect in the late seventh century, with the beginning of the Collect found in eighth-century Gallican missals.  It was originally used earlier in the Season after Pentecost (or Trinity, depending upon when you begin your count).  Thomas Cranmer made several changes to the Collect for the first English Books of Common Prayer, mostly to bring the translation of the prayer more in line with the newly developing Protestant theology.  Hatchett points to one addition to the Collect that remains in the “Collects: Traditional” form (see BCP 180) but was removed in the “Collects: Contemporary” form that we are using in this meditation.  In the Traditional version, Cranmer’s addition of “finally” in the phrase “that we finally lose not the things eternal” can be read as the postponement of receiving “the things eternal” to the next age (Hatchett, 189-90).

The Preamble, “God, the protector of all who trust in you,” is a descriptive name of God that we hear in the Psalms appointed for Compline (BCP 128-131). 

The Acknowledgement in this Collect is found in the phrase “without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy” and in “with you as our ruler and guide” which is in the first part of the Aspiration.  The first half of the Acknowledgement focuses our attention upon God’s being and our dependence upon God. 

With respect to “strong,” we begin the day (in Morning Prayer) recalling that God is not only the strength of our salvation, but also the strength of all of Creation, because God made all things.  We make this affirmation using the Venite (Psalm 95:1-7 in Rite II, BCP 82; Rite I has the additional verses from Psalm 96, BCP 44; see Hatchett, 104:  in the Western Church, beginning Morning Prayer with the Venite has been part of the long tradition). 

With respect to “holy,” from Psalm 99:9, the worthiness of God to receive our worship is based in God’s holiness.  From the “Glory to God” (Gloria in excelsis) of Morning Prayer (Canticle 20, BCP 94) and the Eucharist (BCP 356), we affirm that God, in God’s Oneness and Threeness, is holy.  Only through connection with God’s divinity is something other than God “holy” – the Church is described as “holy” in the Creeds (BCP 120, 96, 359) “because the Holy Spirit dwells in it, consecrates its members, and guides them to do God’s work” (Catechism, “The Church,” BCP 854).  Using this principle, the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God, are holy “because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible” (Catechism, “The Holy Scriptures,” BCP 853).  Through Holy Baptism, we are adopted as God’s children, and an indissoluble bond establishes our relationship with God (BCP 298.  Through the Holy Eucharist, we, who have been initiated into the Body of Christ through baptism (BCP 298), receive the Body and Blood of Christ, are sanctified, and are strengthened by God’s grace.  As members of the Church, we are able to be made holy because God is holy and God is sharing God’s own life with us.

The second part of the Acknowledgement, “with you as our ruler and guide,” focuses our attention on descriptions of who God is to us.  While God as ruler might be read as implying a distance from us, God as guide calls us to expect God’s intimate directing of our lives (consider Psalm 23). 

The Petition, “Increase and multiply upon us your mercy,” continues the request for God’s mercy that began in the Collect for Proper 10 two weeks ago.  The Petition follows closely after the Acknowledgement of God’s strength and holiness; we ask our merciful God upon whom we depend for strength to not only make holy the church, the Scriptures, and our sacraments of baptism and eucharist, but to make us holy as well. 

The Aspiration, “that … we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal,” provides us with the reason for which we ask for an increase and multiplication of God’s mercy.  This phrase poetically captures the example Paul gives in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 of keeping our priorities on eternal things (see also 1 John 2:17 and Matthew 16:26).  While the world calls us to focus on things in this life, our Ash Wednesday Litany of Penitence (BCP 267-9) calls us to confess how we have gotten caught up in the things of this age that will pass away rather than focusing on those things that will not pass away.  As noted by Hatchett with respect to the change in the language for the Contemporary version of this Collect, we are able to experience eternal things now.  Holding onto, participating in, and enjoying these “things eternal” is a way of describing how we are being invited to share in God’s holiness.  As we pray in the Eucharist, “Through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, you have freed us from sin, brought us into your life, reconciled us to you, and restored us to the glory you intend for us” (Eucharistic Prayer 3, Enriching Our Worship).  Being restored to the glory God has intended for us is another way of describing “becoming holy” (see 1 Peter 1:13-16).

The Pleading:  “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”  Asking this prayer, through the power and care of the Triune God, who is intimately involved in guiding us and praying on our behalf when we don’t know how to pray (see last Sunday’s Collect), is a wonderful reminder that it is this same God who intends to spend eternity with us.

When have you experienced God as your protector?  When have you experienced God as your guide? 

Since we prayed this Collect last, how have you experienced God guiding us as a parish, as a diocese, and as a denomination? 

What temporal things have we, as a parish or as a diocese, laid aside over this past year?  What eternal things might we be better able to grasp having laid those temporal things aside?

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
Increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
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, for ever and 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
The reference to Paul V. Marshall is to his Prayer Book Parallels, Vol 2, 1990.
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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