The Collect for Proper 13: The Sunday closest to August 3

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church;
and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help,
protect and govern it always by your goodness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 232)

The Gelasian sacramentary from the early 8th century lists this Collect as first Collect for the eleventh of sixteen Sunday Masses; the 9th century Gregorian supplement, the 11th-century Sarum missal, and subsequent Prayer Books up to the 1979 BCP have used this Collect for The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday.[1] 

The Preamble, “O Lord,” invites us to consider whether the focus of this Collect is on God’s sovereignty or on God’s intimate, covenantal relationship with us, or both.  

While this Collect’s Acknowledgement doesn’t seem to follow the usual form, it does contain two important doctrinal statements, one about God and one about the Church, which are interrelated in this Collect.  Who God is and what the Church is and needs provides the foundation for this Collect’s Petition.

Regarding God:  we can be confident in our petition because of God’s goodness.  True goodness, by which all other aspects of what it means to be “good” are measured by God’s own goodness (Mark 10:18).  God’s goodness is an expression of God’s love for all that God has created (Psalm 104, see also Psalm 25:8; 86:5; 100:5; 106:1; 145:9; Matthew 6:25-34).  This foundational character of God, that God delights in all that God has created, is the part of the doctrinal basis from which we pray. 

This Collect also calls upon God, in God’s mercy, to help God’s Church.  God’s mercy toward us is central to the Church’s sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, through these two sacraments we experience God’s mercy (Ephesians 2:1-9).

Regarding the Church:  the Acknowledgement “because it [God’s Church] cannot continue in safety without your help” is the other part of the interconnected reasons for our confidence in God answering this Collect’s Petition.  Because the Church, is the Body of Christ, and Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, the Church cannot exist without God’s grace (Ephesians 1:22 and 4:11-13; Colossians 1:18; see also “The Church,” Catechism, BCP 854).  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we each enter into the Church through Holy Baptism (1 Corinthians 12:13; see also Holy Baptism, BCP 298).  Jesus has promised that his Church will prevail even against the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18), but we are not able to do so through our own strength.  Rather, the Church is sustained and built up to become what God wills for us to be through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11).  Both our identity as members of the Church and the ability of the Church to continue are dependent upon the work of the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In the Petition, “Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, … protect and govern it always by your goodness,” God’s mercy and goodness form the basis for our petition.  We call upon our good and merciful God to care for God’s Church.

God’s people have always needed cleansing, defending, protecting, and governing; the Church will continue to need God’s care until Christ returns (see the Ash Wednesday Litany of Penitence for specific prayers for our cleansing and renewal; the Great Litany provides specific prayers for our defending; BCP 267-9; BCP 148-55 and EOW 1:46-9).  Suffrages B of Morning Prayer (BCP 98) poetically places the Petition of this Collect in our daily prayers. 

The Pleading, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen,” while a standard form of the Trinitarian Pleading, provides a terse statement that the cleansing, defending, protecting, and governance of the Church is the work of all three persons of our one God.

As a member of the Church, how have you experienced God’s goodness and mercy in helping you live more fully into your baptism?  As a parish, diocese, and denomination, what has God’s goodness and mercy directed us to do and become?

In difficult times, whether as a member of the Church or as a parish, how might the promise that Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, will not allow the gates of hell to prevail against his Body, comfort and encourage you?

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church;
and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help,
protect and govern it always by your goodness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

© 2022 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick


[1] Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book (New York:  HarperOne), 190.

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