The Collect for Proper 9: The Sunday closest to July 6

O God,
you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor:
Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit,
that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart,
and united to one another with pure affection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 230-1)

This Collect, slightly revised, is from the earliest surviving sacramentary (altar book for the priest) that we have, the Leonine sacramentary (Hatchett, 188).  This sacramentary, which is also called the Verona sacramentary, is attributed to Pope Leo I (died in 461) and contained in a manuscript from the cathedral of Verona that dates from the 7th century.  This sacramentary represents use by the church in Rome without Gallican (Celtic) influences.

The Preamble, “O God,” doesn’t provide us with additional information beyond whom we address in this prayer.

The Acknowledgement, “you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor,” refers to Matthew 22:35-40 in which Jesus replies to the question about which commandment is the greatest by stating that loving God and neighbor is the foundation for all of biblical teaching.  The confession of sin found in Morning and Evening Prayer and the Eucharist uses this same summary:  “We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves” (BCP 79, 116, 360).  Our Baptismal Covenant presupposes that love of God motivates our desire to be baptized and our loyalty to Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  Resisting evil, sharing the Good News of God in Christ, seeking and serving Christ in all persons, striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being, are all descriptions of loving our neighbor.     

The Petition, “Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit,” focuses our attention on the work of the Holy Spirit.  In our Baptism, we are fully initiated by the Holy Spirit to be members of the Church, Christ’s Body (Holy Baptism, BCP 298).  In the Prayers for the Candidates, we pray that those who are baptized will be “filled with God’s holy and life-giving Spirit” (BCP 305).  Our life as members of the Church is empowered through the Holy Spirit. With this week’s Collect, it doesn’t matter if you were baptized in the Episcopal Church before our present Prayer Book or were baptized in a different denomination; we are all included in this prayer that connects each of us to our own baptism and, through our own baptisms, the Holy Spirit connects us to each other as members of Christ’s Body.

The Aspiration, “that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection,” parallels the second half of the prayer the priest or bishop prays over the newly baptized:  “Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit.  Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works” (BCP 308).  We need the grace of the Holy Spirit to love God with all of our being, and we will continue to rely upon this grace throughout our lives.  In the Prayers for the Candidates, one of the petitions asks that the Holy Spirit teach the newly baptized to “love others” (BCP 305).  Being united to one another through our baptisms is the beginning of the Christian life as family.  We need the grace of the Holy Spirit to continue to unite us to each other with pure, tender care on good days and bad.

The Pleading, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen,” reminds us that God is united in life, love, and rule.  As we are united in pure affection, we reflect God’s nature.

This week we pray for grace to live into the two great Commandments.  Before the pandemic, what did we do as a parish that helped you cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit to love God and neighbor?  During the pandemic, what have you learned about loving God and neighbor?  Based upon what you have learned during this time, what might loving God and neighbor look like on the other side of the pandemic?

O God,
you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor:
Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit,
that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart,
and united to one another with pure affection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 230-1) © 2021 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick

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