The Collect for The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Almighty God,
whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world:
Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments,
may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory,
that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(BCP 215)

According to Marion Hatchett, this Collect, which draws from the Collect in the Book of Common Worship of the Church of South India for the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, is new to our 1979 BCP.  Hatchett says, “[l]ike many of the post-Epiphany collects, this [Collect’s theme] relates to the Gospel of the Day” (Hatchett, 171). This statement invites us to read all three Gospel readings for this Sunday in the Church Calendar—Years A, B, and C—as a whole to explore the theological concepts within each of the post-Epiphany Collects.

The Preamble, “Almighty God” invites us to call upon God to exercise God’s power on our behalf.

The Acknowledgement, “whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world,” summarizes John 1:1-14 in combination with John 8:12

The Petition, “Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory,” connects the theme of The Collect for the Second Sunday after Christmas Day (our divinization) with the Aspiration. But before getting to the Aspiration, let’s follow Hatchett’s invitation to explore this Collect through the Gospel readings for this Sunday.

In the Gospel reading for Year A (John 1:29-42), we hear of John the Baptizer’s description of what was revealed to him through Jesus’ baptism—that John was baptizing in the Jordan River in order for Jesus to be revealed to Israel as the Son of God, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Andrew tells his brother Peter that Jesus is the Messiah when he introduces Jesus to Peter. 

In the Gospel reading for Year B (John 1:43-51), we hear the next section of John’s Gospel, in which Philip invites Nathaniel to come and meet Jesus. 

In Year C (John 2:1-22) we hear about Jesus’ revealing his glory before his disciples at the wedding at Cana at his mother’s insistence, the cleansing of the Temple, and the disciples’ understanding of Jesus’ actions and words after his resurrection. 

In all three Gospels, someone (John, Andrew, Philip, or Mary) sees Jesus as the light of the world, even though they use different terms:  the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the Son of God, the Messiah, the one Moses and the prophets foretold, or the one who can help in time of need.  By being in Jesus’ presence, John, Andrew, Philip, and Mary had each come to understand something about who Jesus is—that is, their hearts and minds were illumined.  Jesus’ glory revealed brings excitement, and out of this joy they share what they have come to know with those who are already in relationship with them:  Andrew is a disciple of John’s, Peter is Andrew’s brother, Nathaniel is Philip’s friend, and Mary is Jesus’ mother.  The disciples will have been with Jesus throughout his ministry at the time that they come to understand what he said and did earlier in his ministry. 

In these Gospel readings, we hear of the transformative power of Jesus’ presence.  Each of these moments of clarity, reflected upon and then shared, prepared the way for additional illumination, contemplation, and reflection of Christ’s glory to family, friends, and neighbors in an ever-widening circle. 

Our experience of Jesus’ presence is most often through Word and Sacraments—that is, we come to know who Jesus is through the work of the Holy Spirit in our worship of our Triune God, and through coming to know Jesus, we come to know God the Father (Galatians 4:6, John 1:18, John 14:8-10, John 15:26).  Through the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist, we are made able to participate in the divine life (see The Collect for the Second Sunday after Christmas Day).  Participating in the divine life through Word and Sacraments is transformative through the work of God’s power for us.  This transformation is illuminating as we come to know God better over time.  This transformation can be described as becoming images of Christ and sharing in Christ’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:16-18). 

The Aspiration, “that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth” connects God’s mighty work of our transformation with the mission of the Church “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (Catechism:  The Church, BCP 855). The personal stories from the Gospel lessons provide us with examples of how the illuminating presence of Christ works toward this mission.  The Holy Spirit continues this work of illumination of God’s people as we participate in the Church’s mission.  This mission is pursued as the Church “prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love” (Catechism:  The Church, BCP 855).

The Pleading, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen calls upon all three persons of the Trinity for the powerful work of our transformation for the sake of the world.

When have you—like Mary, John, Andrew, Philip, and all of Jesus’ disciples—had an “ah-ha!” moment about who Jesus is?  What aspect of his glory was revealed to you?  With whom did you share this illuminating revelation? 

Consider how you experience Christ’s glory among us when we are together in worship either in person or online:  what does it mean for us to “shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory”?  How have we shared this radiance of Christ’s glory upon us before the pandemic?  In what ways are we continuing to live out of the radiance of Christ’s glory so that others may know Christ, worship him, and obey him?  To what new ways of sharing our illumination through Word and Sacrament is the Holy Spirit calling and equipping us?

Almighty God,
whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world:
Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments,
may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory,
that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

© 2022 Donna R. 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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