The Collect for Proper 21: The Sunday closest to September 28

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises,
may become partakers of your heavenly treasure;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 234)

Historical introduction:  This Collect, in various forms, was used in the Missale Gothicum, the Gelasian sacramentary, and the Gregorian supplement.[1]  In the Sarum missal and earlier Prayer Books, this Collect was appointed for The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity.[2]  

Our present version reverses a change to the Collect made in 1662; restoring the Collect’s theological statement that God’s non-meritorious, unconditional gift of God’s grace to those whom God loves.[3]  The return to the ancient, pre-Reformation version of this Collect restores harmony with other Collects of the Church Year which consistently state that our ability to do God’s will depends upon God’s gracious mercy and empowerment of us.

The Preamble, “O God,” merely addresses God without providing any additional information.

Marion Hatchett remarks that the Acknowledgement, “you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity,” “states with striking force that the supreme demonstration of God’s power is shown not in creation or providence, but in His redemptive love and mercy.”[4]  While our present version of the Collect uses “pity” rather than “love,” a more literal translation of the original is “you declare your almighty power chiefly in sparing and showing compassion,”[5] which aligns better with Hatchett’s assessment.   

The Petition, “Grant us the fullness of your grace,” brings to mind two related ways to explore this request. 

The first is to remember that Jesus is the one who is full of grace and truth and, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace”  (John 1:14-18, NRSV).  By seeing Jesus as the one who is full of grace, we can understand better what we are asking God the Father to do:  this petition is a request for God to make us to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 5:1-2, 1 John 3:2).

In the second, we can look through the Collects to see what we have been praying for God to transform us and empower us to action through God’s grace.  Since Easter Sunday, we have been praying for God’s grace to:

Ultimately, these two ways of looking at what is meant by asking God to grant us the fullness of grace lead to the same conclusion:  being granted the fullness of God’s grace looks like us becoming the Church, the Body of Christ, together.  The fullness of God’s grace redeems and restores us so that, together, we truly are what we are called:  Christians (followers of Jesus).

In the Aspiration, “that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure,” the term “heavenly treasure” is as mysterious as “fullness of grace.”  In the Gospels we hear of treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:1-4, Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 19:21-22, Luke 12:33-34) without a definition.  However, returning to the introduction to the Gospel of John, “to all who received [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God … ” and to know the Father through the Son (John 1:12-18, NRSV).  Through Baptism, we are “sealed by the Holy Spirit … and marked as Christ’s own for ever,” received into the Church to share in Christ’s eternal priesthood (BCP, 308.  See also page 298).  By Christ’s power, not only are Christ’s promises accessible to us, but we become participants in the life of the Trinity (2 Peter 3:3-11), which is another way of describing the mystery of “eternal life.”  This heavenly treasure is not only for our sake; it is the means by which we are able to “share in Christ’s eternal priesthood” for the life of the world. 

Remembering how God’s promises are described in the BCP (See The Collect for The Sixth Sunday of Easter) provides inspiration for living our Baptismal Covenant, which can also be said to be “running the race set out before us” (Hebrews 12:1-3).  While this part of the Aspiration could still be read as conditional—if one runs, then one can partake—the sense from Philippians 2:12-13 would have us read this part of the Aspiration not as God waiting on us to act, but as an invitation for us to fully participate in the transformative work that God is doing in us.

The Pleading, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen,” connects the work of Jesus Christ and our transformation through grace to become the Body of Christ to the life and work of the Holy Trinity.

For your consideration: 

Does shifting the Acknowledgement from “pity” to “compassion” affect your view of God? 

Look back over the list of graces we have prayed to receive since Easter Day.  How has God been filling us, as a parish, with grace?  What might running to obtain God’s promises look and feel like now?

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises,
may become partakers of your heavenly treasure;
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


[1]  Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book, (New York:  Harper Collins, 1995), 192.

[2]  Hatchett, 192.  See also Marshall, Prayer Book Parallels (New York:  Church Publishing, 1990), II.102-3.

[3]  The 1662 version of this Collect revised “running to thy promises” to be read as “running the way of thy Commandments,” which was how the Collect was prayed until 1979, when the revisers were concerned that participation in God’s heavenly treasures could be heard as being dependent upon our obedience to God’s commandments rather than God’s mercy, generosity, and compassion.  Hatchett, 192.

[4] Hatchett, 193.

[5] Hatchett, 193.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top