The Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

O God, you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as surpass our understanding:
Pour into our hearts such love towards you,
that we, loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 22)

In his commentary on the Collect, Marion Hatchett shares considerable detail, some of which will be woven into our meditation where appropriate.  This Collect was already in use by the early 7th century in Gaul and continued to be used in various missals (the books containing the liturgy for the eucharist) in regions of the Church that used the Gallican Rite (as opposed to the Roman Rite).  In the oldest of these missals, the Missale Gothicum (c 700 AD), this Collect was used as the opening Collect for the eucharistic liturgy (for comparison with what we now use, see BCP 355).  The version of the prayer that we have in our 1979 BCP is more faithful to the original Collect than what is found in earlier editions of the Book of Common Prayer (Hatchett, 182).

The Preamble for this Collect, “O God,” doesn’t provide additional information for our meditation, but what comes next in the Acknowledgement does.

The Acknowledgement, “you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding,” gives us insight into God’s generosity and mercy.  The General Thanksgiving from Morning and Evening Prayer provides a short list of good things we are to thank God for (see BCP 101, 125).  A more expansive list is found in the Thanksgiving section of our Prayer Book (836-841), but even these lists don’t exhaust all of the good things that God provides.  Human understanding is limited; we can’t comprehend the breadth and the depth of God’s goodness towards us.  This “surpassing of our understanding” serves as an invitation to marvel at the wonderful ways in which God lavishes love and care upon us, those that we are aware of and those that are beyond our awareness. 

The Acknowledgement also points to our responsibility:  Hatchett comments that the Latin translated as “those who love you” (diligere) has a sense of “to choose” which is an act of the will, rather than focusing on the emotional dimension (Hatchett, 182).  Love of God is not passive or automatic, and while, it involves our emotions, it is primarily an act of the will:  loving God involves our active choice of how we feel about God, what our disposition toward God is, and how we respond to God.  In this part of the Collect, loving God with our will is in view.

The Petition, “Pour into our hearts such love towards you” continues our meditation on loving God, but this time through the use of amore,which focuses our attention on our emotions and passions (Hatchett, 182).  In the Petition, we typically ask for things that we are not able to do on our own.  As Hatchett notes, this Petition reminds us that we are not able to love God without God first loving us (1 John 4:19).  The sequence of uses of Latin words translated as “love” in this Collect assumes that our will to love—appreciating and esteeming God—prepares us to respond with our affections when we receive the gift of loving God with our whole heart.

The Aspiration, “that we, loving you in all things and above all things may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire” provides us with a motivation for loving God with our will and our heart:  anything that we might desire in this life is surpassed by what God has promised. 

The word translated as “loving” is back to the diligere form of love—the loving here is not emotional but choosing to appreciate God in all things and above all things.    

In this Easter season we have already prayed that the eyes of our faith would be able to see Jesus and his redeeming work.  This Aspiration tells us when and where we can expect to see God with the eyes of our faith focused by our will to esteem God above all else.  This two-fold love of God—orienting our minds to esteem God through our will and receiving the gift of loving God with our emotions—provides us with the means of understanding some difficult passages in the Gospels where we are called to love God more than everything and anyone else (for examples, see Matthew 10:37 and Luke 14:25-33).  By loving God in all things and above all things, we are able to love everything appropriately.

What has God promised that exceeds all of our desires?  A search of the Prayer Book provides us with a list:  God has promised to hear our prayers when we ask in Jesus’s name (BCP, 391, 842); “to be a father to a thousand generations of those who love and fear [God]” (BCP, 443); to supply all things necessary for life (BCP, 837); to give perfect peace (BCP, 458); and “to bring us into the kingdom of God and give us life in all its fullness” (BCP, 861), which is eternal life (BCP, 460, 481, 847). 

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 these promises are from the Holy Trinity.  From the liturgy for Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that, through Jesus Christ, God has given a message of forgiveness, reconciliation, and eternal life (BCP, 265).  The gift of fellowship with the Holy Spirit is a promise which is also the pledge that God will complete the work begun in us (Ephesians 1:13-14, Philippians 1:6).

What does it mean for you to have a favorable disposition toward God?  How do we as a parish demonstrate to ourselves and to others that we appreciate and esteem God above all things?  What does it look like for us as a parish to love God in all things?

O God, you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as surpass our understanding:
Pour into our hearts such love towards you,
that we, loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and 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

Scroll to Top