The Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread:
Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(BCP 224-5)

This Collect was originally composed by the Rev. Dr. John W. Suter, Sr. for the 1928 BCP and was revised for 1979 (Hatchett, 180).

The Preamble, “O God,” doesn’t give us any additional information about the Father to whom we pray.  Not every Collect does.  We will, however, hear about the God to whom we pray in the Acknowledgement.

The Acknowledgement, “whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread,” is an allusion to Luke 24:35, which is from the last verse of the Gospel reading for Year A.  This moment of discovery comes at the end of the narrative about Cleopas and an un-named disciple who left Jerusalem for Emmaus on that first Easter morning before the women went to the tomb and found that Jesus had been raised from the dead.  These two disciples were talking about the events of the past week when Jesus, unrecognizable to them, joined them on the road and interpreted the passages from what we call the Old Testament concerning himself and his ministry.  The disciples realized that even though their hearts were burning within them as Jesus spoke, it was in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened and they saw through the eyes of their faith the reality of who had been talking with them all along. 

In Year B, we hear the next section of Luke 24 (verses 36b-48) picking up the narrative, right after the two from the road to Emmaus had returned to Jerusalem, found the 11 disciples and those who were with them, and shared their experience of recognizing Jesus when he broke the bread.  The disciples were so filled with joy and amazement, that they didn’t believe their eyes.  It was after Jesus ate broiled fish in front of them and then opened their minds that they could understand.

In Year C, the Gospel reading is John 21:1-19, another narrative of the disciples struggling to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead and, to help them know the reality of his resurrection, Jesus ate a breakfast of fish and bread with them. 

While the scriptural reference for this Collect is clearly from Luke 24:35, all three years of our Eucharistic Lectionary for this Sunday have Gospel readings in which the disciples come to know the risen Jesus in the context of a communal meal.  I wonder what it was in how Jesus had shared meals with them that, as soon as he did it again after his resurrection, they immediately recognized him.

The Petition, “Open the eyes of our faith,” contains an implicit acknowledgement that, like the disciples, we need the eyes of our faith to be opened.  Some of us need the eyes of our faith opened for the first time, some of us need the eyes of our faith re-opened after a difficult time in our lives in which our eyes were closed, some of us need the eyes of our faith opened again after we have chosen to close them for a while, and some of us need the eyes of our faith opened wider.  In the hospitality of this Collect, we aren’t asked to evaluate why the eyes of our faith aren’t wide open and we aren’t asked to confess why our particular eyes of faith need opening.  We simply join the entire Church in our desire to see Jesus more fully than we have. 

The Aspiration, “that we may behold him in all his redeeming work,” tells us why we need to have the eyes of our faith opened—without being able to see the world around us and ourselves through the lens of faith, our vision of Jesus as he works in us, through us, and around us is distorted.  Redemption, according to our Catechism, is described as “the act of God which sets us free from the power of evil, sin, and death.”  (Catechism:  Sin and Redemption, BCP 849).  We are redeemed through Jesus Christ’s life (blood) given for us (BCP 148); this redemption is applied to us in our baptism (Collect 11.  At Confirmation, BCP 203).  The purpose of having the eyes of our faith opened is to see not only Christ’s redeeming work, but in his work, to see him.

The Pleading, “[Jesus,] who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever,” is a variation of the standard Trinitarian formula, reminding us that all three persons of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are actively involved in the progressive opening of our eyes to that we can see Jesus in all of his redeeming work.

The disciples we meet in the Gospels needed to have the eyes of their faith opened after Jesus’ resurrection.  They were quickly able to see Jesus in a shared meal.  What situations make it easiest for you to experience Jesus’ redeeming work?  What are the redeeming works of Jesus that you have most recently seen?  When you experience works of redemption, do you look for Jesus?

When have we experienced Jesus’ presence in his redeeming work as a parish?  What were the circumstances?  How was Jesus perceived?  How did this seeing with spiritual eyes strengthen your faith and build up the faith of the parish?

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread:
Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(BCP 224-5)

© 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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