The Collect for Proper 28: The Sunday closest to November 16

Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 236)

Marion Hatchett states that this Collect, newly composed for the 1549 BCP, reflects the Reformation’s emphasis upon Scripture.  Romans 15:4 serves as the biblical foundation for the Acknowledgement.  Since this was the first verse of the New Testament reading for the second Sunday of Advent in earlier BCPs, this Collect was used on that Sunday (Hatchett, 195).  More of Hatchett’s historical commentary will be included in the Acknowledgement section.

While it is not unusual to address God as Lord in the Preamble, the address of God as “Blessed Lord,” is found in only one other Collect, 56. For the Victims of Addiction (BCP 831).  “Blessed” is used twice in the Collect for Proper 28, once to describe “Lord” and once to describe “the hope of everlasting life.”  “Blessed” typically means “made holy.”  With respect to God, who is holy by nature, “Blessed Lord” most likely serves as an equivalent to “Holy Lord,” which is how we address God in the Eucharistic Prayer (in the Sanctus, which begins by addressing God as “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,” BCP 334, 362)

What seems to be a typical pattern in our Collects is that we begin and end our prayer speaking directly to and only to God the Father.  Similarly, in the Pleading we often refer to Jesus as “our Lord.” 

By considering Collect 56, in which the Collect’s Preamble and Acknowledgement is “O blessed Lord, you ministered to all who came to you,” it appears that Collect 56 addresses Jesus rather than God the Father since the Acknowledgement refers to Jesus’s earthly ministry of healing.  I wonder if reading the Collect for Proper 28 with Collect 56 in mind, is it possible that we are addressing Jesus as well as the Father. 

Yet, in John 14:25-26, the Holy Spirit is the one who teaches and reminds the disciples of everything that Jesus said to them, so the Acknowledgement in this Collect could be describing the work of the Holy Spirit, which could imply that the Preamble is addressing the Holy Spirit.

Since the Athanasian Creed affirms that each person of the Trinity is Lord (BCP 864-5), maybe this Preamble invites us to consider the mystery of the unity of the Trinity.  That is, does this Preamble call us to acknowledge that each person of the Trinity participates in all Trinitarian activities, even if we might associate one activity most closely with one of the three persons?  I wonder if this Collect might be an example of holding loosely our understanding of what each person of the Trinity is mostly responsible for so that we can rest in our relationship with our mysterious God who is one God, three persons, and yet who reveals God’s self to us as Lord—both as our Sovereign and as the one who invites us into intimate relationship.

The Acknowledgement, “who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning,” draws from 2 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 15:4.  Hatchett notes that the word “all” is a reference to the Anglican criticism of the medieval service books which contained so many saints’ days, with their prescribed Scripture readings, that “the Scriptures were never read in their entirety toward the close of the middle ages” (Preface, The First Book of Common Prayer (1549), Historical Documents, BCP 866-7; Hatchet 195).  In response to the medieval schedule of readings, the 1549 BCP provided a sequence of readings for daily Morning and Evening Prayer that covered nearly all of the Bible over the course of a year (Hatchett, 195) and significantly reduced the number of feasts and saints’ days that would interrupt this schedule of readings.  In our current Daily Office lectionary, we read at a slower pace so that we read most of the Bible over two years (see BCP 931-1001).  Note that these daily readings are not the same as what we hear on Sunday mornings at the Eucharist; the Sunday morning Eucharist readings are scheduled using our Episcopal adaptation of the three-year Revised Common Lectionary. 

According to our Catechism, we affirm that God inspired the human authors of our Scriptures, that “God still speaks to us through the Bible,” and that we come to understand the meaning of the Scriptures through the help of the Holy Spirit “who guides the Church in the true interpretation of the Scriptures” (Catechism:  The Holy Scriptures, BCP 853-4).  Since we encounter God through the Scriptures, we recognize them as “holy.” 

Hatchett notes that “learning” means “instruction” and not “memorization” in this Collect (Hatchett, 195), which aligns with the Scriptural foundation of 2 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 15:4 and prepares us for the Petition.

In the Petition, “Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,” we ask for grace for the opportunities, abilities, and energy to cooperate with God’s transformative work in our lives.  We ask for grace to be like the wise man who built his house on the rock in Matthew 7:21-27; to be those who internalize what we hear God saying to us and seek to live according to God’s way in our circumstances (see James 1:21-25).  This Collect describes a sequence for participating in God’s transformative grace:  we ask for ears to hear, eyes to see, a mind to discern what needs to be focused on at this time, a heart that is willing to be changed, and grace to be transformed so that through the internalization of God’s message to us we are changed from the inside out (Romans 12:1-2, see also Matthew 15:10-20).

The Aspiration, “that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,” connects our deep engagement with Scripture with our holy hope of everlasting life.  In John 17:3, eternal life is defined as knowing the Father.  We come to know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ who [was sent by the Father]” through the work of the Holy Spirit.  That is, Scripture becomes the way through which we come to know Jesus, and through Jesus, we come to know the Father (John 1:18).  By the Holy Spirit’s invitation and instruction through Scripture, we are able to trust that the restorative and blessed relationship with God is active in us now and will continue forever. 

The Pleading:  “… in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” returns us to our affirmation of the mystery of the Trinity who, in unity of love, transforms us through Scripture.  

Even during non-pandemic times, our circumstances change enough between readings of Scripture passages in our two- and three-year Scripture cycles that we can always glean something new or be invited to a different application each time we encounter those passages. 

What have you heard differently in Scripture during this year?  What Scriptures have you marked for deeper study?  What has God taught you through your listening, your study, and your reflections?  How has your inward digestion of these passages of Scripture changed you?  

What have we, as a parish, heard differently in Scripture during this year?  What Scriptures have we marked for deeper study or have become more important in our parish life?  What has God taught us through our listening, our study, and our reflections?  How has our inward digestion of these passages of Scripture changed us?  

Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

© 2021 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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