The Collect for The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation,
that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(BCP 212)

According to Marion Hatchett, this Collect, used in the late 7th– to early 8th-century missal and early 8th-century sacramentary of Gaul, has been adapted from William Bright’s translation.  The scriptural allusion is to both the first advent in which there was no room for him in the inn (Luke 2:7) and his entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:44:  “you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God”).  The Collect resonates with the themes of the Annunciation in the Gospel reading assigned for this Sunday (the Gospel readings for this Sunday are Matthew 1:18-25 for Year A, Luke 1:26-38 for Year B, and Luke 1:39-55 for Year C, see BCP 889, 901, 912).

The Preamble, “Almighty God,” invites us to consider the power of God that is needed for answering our Petition.

The Petition, “Purify our conscience, … by your daily visitation,” describes God’s intimate, frequent, and regular engagement in our lives and what we desire to happen in these encounters between each of us and the Divine.  Through our baptism, we receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, which includes cleansing us from all the things that have damaged our conscience (Hebrews 9:11-14).  Through the weekly Eucharist and the daily confession of sin which is integral to the Daily Office (BCP 79, 116, 127), we participate in God’s daily cleansing and restoration of our conscience.  In the other moments of the day, when we experience God’s presence—which includes seeing God’s goodness revealed in ourselves, others, and creation—we are invited into a re-orientation of our senses and understanding which is a way of participating in the purification of our conscience.

The Aspiration, “that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself,” provides the reason for this daily cleansing of our conscience.  As Hatchett noted, this Collect sets up two contrasts.  We ask for our consciences to be purified so that when Christ comes again in glory, instead of there being no room for him (as in his first coming), he will be received into a place appropriate for our King (see also 1 Peter 2:5 – we are being built together into a place for God to dwell).  We also ask that, in preparation for when he comes again in glory, we will all be ready to receive him with the full fanfare appropriate to his dignity rather than some of us meeting him with a lack of appreciation for who he really is (see Luke 19:44).

The Pleading, “who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen,” invites us to remember that when we ask for God’s mighty power to work in us, we are asking for the work of our Triune God to be made real in us.

Consider our common life as a parish as a dwelling place for God.  How has God, through God’s daily visitation, prepared us for Jesus’s coming?  What purifying work still needs to be done, in us together and in you privately, to prepare us for Christ’s coming again in glory?

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation,
that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for 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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