The Collect for The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Gracious Father,
whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven
to be the true bread which gives life to the world:
Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(BCP 219)

As noted by Marion Hatchett, the traditional Collect for this Sunday “beseeches relief from deserved punishment.”  This Collect, new to our present Prayer Book, “echoes the lections and reinforces the traditional custom of this day as ‘mothering Sunday’ or Refreshment Sunday.”  This Sunday is about half-way through Lent and was a time when the fast was relaxed.  The “mothering Sunday” reference comes from the English and Irish long-running practice of returning on this Sunday to the church where one was baptized (Hatchett, 175).  The Church has long considered the baptismal font as both tomb (where we die to sin) and womb (from whence we are birthed into new life in Christ).

While the Preamble, “Gracious Father,” is used just this once in the Collects of the Church Year, describing God as gracious or asking for God to be gracious is used in two other Collects, both also in Lent (The Second Sunday in Lent and Good Friday).  Considering the numerous times that we ask directly for God’s grace in the Collects, this modern Collect makes explicit that God is full of grace and is gracious toward us.

The Acknowledgement, “whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world” is a summary of John 6:32-33.  When we receive the bread during Holy Communion, we hear either “the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you in everlasting life” or “the Body of Christ, the bread of heaven” (BCP 365). Both of these phrases come from this section of the Gospel of John.

The Petition, “Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him” combines John 6:34 with John 6:53-58 in a concise request for our gracious Father to unite us with his Son through the Eucharist.  Jesus’s giving of his body for our sake heals us and gives life to us because it is a sacramental means of restoring our fellowship with him, and through him, we are restored to the Father through the Spirit.

The Pleading, “who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen,” invokes not only the Father and the Son, but also the Holy Spirit.  In each of our Eucharistic Prayers, we ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit to sanctify the bread (and the wine) so that they will be for us the body and blood of Christ and that we, too, are sanctified (BCP 363, 369, 371-2, and 375).

The long season of being unable to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion during the pandemic has been wearying.  It was also a season in which we longed for the return to being physically present together in the parish sanctuary for Holy Eucharist.  How have you attended to your longing to evermore receive this true bread been affected by the pandemic restrictions?

How can meditating on the amazing gift of abiding in the Son and the Son abiding in us be life-giving for you as an individual and for us as a parish? 

Gracious Father,
whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven
to be the true bread which gives life to the world:
Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for 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

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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