The Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation:
Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body
may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 224)

While this Collect has its roots in the 7th century, the 1857 translation has been updated and is considered a new Collect for our 1979 BCP (Hatchett, 180).

The Preamble of this Collect, “Almighty and everlasting God,” invites us to consider why these attributes of God are important to this prayer.  A cursory look through our Prayer Book shows that often God’s omnipotence (almighty) and eternality (everlasting) are used in prayers that focus on God’s creation, re-creation or restoration, and governance of what God has created.  The One who created the cosmos and all that is in it is the One who governs over it and re-creates it so that it is restored to his design.  Both re-creation and governance themes are present in this Collect.

The Acknowledgement, “who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation,” can be divided into two parts.

The first part of this Acknowledgement, “who in the Paschal mystery,” draws our attention to one of the three great mysteries of our faith.  These three great mysteries are:  the Trinity (One God in three persons), the Incarnation (by the power of the Holy Spirit, the fully divine Son of God became fully human), and our redemption (the Incarnation happened “for our sake and for our salvation”) (see the Nicene Creed, BCP 358).  Our redemption is accomplished through the Paschal (Easter) mystery of Christ’s living, dying, rising, and ultimately ascending.  How this happens is known to God alone (hence the mysterious part of the mystery of our redemption) but that it happens is revealed in Scripture and we joyfully proclaim this revealed mystery in our worship.  An example of how we proclaim this mystery is found in the Acknowledgement of the Easter Day collect we meditated on last week:  “O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy …” (Collect for Easter Sunday, BCP 222).

The second part of this Acknowledgement, “established the new covenant of reconciliation,” focuses our attention on the governing authority of God and connects it to the Paschal mystery.  Our God governs through covenants.  Covenants are binding agreements between two or more parties; the baptismal covenant is an indissoluble bond between the one baptized and God (Holy Baptism, 298). This new covenant is “the new relationship with God given by Jesus Christ, the Messiah, to the apostles and, through them, to all who believe in him.”  Through this new covenant, we are brought into God’s kingdom and given fullness of life (“The New Covenant,” Catechism, BCP, 850-1). 

The phrase “new covenant of reconciliation”  is unpacked beautifully in Eucharistic Prayer A, which we used throughout Lent—“Holy and gracious Father:  In your infinite love you made us for yourself; and when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, In your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all” (BCP, 362). 

The Petition, “Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith,” is also a complex statement that we can explore in two parts.

The first half of the Petition, “Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body,” describes for whom we pray.  This section of the petition expands upon the theme of God’s re-creative power and connects Baptism with Easter—in our baptism we die to sin and are re-born into newness of life in Christ.  Our re-creation happens because of and through the Paschal (Easter) mystery of Christ’s dying and rising.  We die to all that separates us from God and each other and rise as members of “Christ’s Body the Church” (Holy Baptism, BCP, 298)—through baptism, by means of the Paschal mystery, God re-creates us.  Our re-creation is not to just anything, we are reborn into fellowship of Christ’s Body.

The second half of the Petition, “Grant that [the baptized] may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith,” provides the what we ask for those whom we are praying:  We ask God to provide all that we, the baptized, need in order to live lives that demonstrate what God has done for us and to us in our baptism.  We pray that God will enable us, as those who have been re-created to be in the fellowship of Christ’s Body, the Church, to live lives that are faithful to Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  We are asking to be authentic Christians, those whose actions and beliefs are increasingly consistent with each other.

The Aspiration: the lack of Aspiration in this Collect provides us with a question:  Why is it important for the members of the Church to show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith?  How does this petition fit into God’s re-creative and governing purposes for all of creation?

The Pleading,  “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever” is the same as the Pleading for last Sunday, which is a standard phrase that we are probably used to hearing. 

Before answering these questions, take a few moments to look back over the Baptismal Covenant to see what we profess by faith.

Consider your day-to-day life:  How do you show forth in your life what you profess by faith? 

Consider the life of the parish:  What do we do together, as a parish, that shows forth in our common life what we profess by faith?

As you consider these thoughts, words, deeds, things done, and things not done, consider your and our energy requirements—what feels easy to do (or not do) and what feels difficult?  Could it be that when it is easy to live consistently with our beliefs that this is God answering this petition?  What about those things that are hard?  Could this Collect become part of our daily petitions for grace to live more consistently in the Good News of God in Jesus Christ?

Why is it important for the members of the Church to show forth in their lives that they profess by their faith?  How does this petition fit into God’s re-creative and governing purposes for all of creation?

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation:
Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body
may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 224)

© 2021 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick

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