The Collect for Proper 14: The Sunday closest to August 10

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right,
that we, who cannot exist without you,
may by you be enabled to live according to your will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 232)

Historical introduction:  This Collect, according to Marion Hatchett, is found in the earliest Roman-use sacramentary manuscript, the Verona Sacramentary.  In the English 1662 BCP, the phrase “who cannot exist without you” was changed to “who cannot do any thing that is good without thee.”  The 1662 BCP also exchanged the “able” in “be able to live according to your will” to “enable,” which we have retained in our 1979 BCP.  Cranmer added the “by you” in this phrase, emphasizing our dependence upon God’s grace.  The Collect, as we pray it today, is closer to the original than what is found in 1662, even after Cranmer’s addition.  The original, has an even clearer allusion to Philippians 4:8-9 than the present version. [1]

The Preamble, “Lord,” provide us with the opportunity to ponder whether it is God’s sovereignty or God’s covenantal relationship with us (which is denoted by God’s sharing of God’s name with us) that is in view.  For more about these two ways of reading “Lord,” see the meditations for the Collects for Propers 6 and 7.

The Acknowledgement, “we … cannot exist without you,” provides information about what it means to be human and our relationship with God.  This five-word phrase is, as Hatchett writes, “a succinct statement of the doctrine of grace:  it is not only true that we cannot think or do the right or live according to God’s will without God’s grace; we cannot even exist without the grace of God” (Hatchett, 190).  The revision of the 1662 BCP weakened this doctrinal statement by focusing on doing good.  Our current version of this Collect restores the original doctrinal statement that our very existence is dependent upon God’s grace (Acts 17:28).

The Petition,“Grant to us … the spirit to think and do always those things that are right,” is an opportunity to ponder why “spirit” is not capitalized.  If “spirit” had been capitalized, the referent would have been the Holy Spirit, with whom we trust that the baptized have been filled (Prayers for the Candidates, Holy Baptism, BCP 305).  Because “spirit” is not capitalized, the Collect refers to that part of the human person known as the spirit. Our spirit needs God’s grace for the ongoing transformation to become increasingly followers of Jesus, the transformation that begins in baptism.  Our Baptismal Covenant (BCP 305)—grounded in Matthew 28:19-20, 1 Peter 3:15Mark 12:30-31, and Micah 6:8—provides us with descriptions of right thinking and right doing.  Focusing on what is right (Philippians 4:8-9) is often counter to what our individualistic and capitalistic society promotes.  We need grace to begin and sustain this focus on the right way of thinking and being so that we can cooperate with God’s transformative work in our lives. 

The Aspiration, “that we … may by you be enabled to live according to your will,” includes Cranmer’s emphasis “by you.”  Our ability to live according to God’s will—to meditate upon the good and right and then to live accordingly—is completely dependent upon God’s empowering grace.   We pray for the spirit of the Baptized to be transformed to be able to know and love God (Holy Baptism, BCP 308); this Collect provides us with a distinct way of considering what it means to live into our baptism:  to know and love God is to be transformed in our spirit so that we think and do what is right (see John 14:23).

The Pleading, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen,” invites us to consider how all three persons of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are active in working grace into us so that not only do we exist, but we are becoming those who think and do what is right, living according to God’s will.

Consider which hymns, phrases and/or actions in Sunday worship, phrases in our common prayers at noon and in Compline, and symbols in our church building that God uses to speak to you.  Which of these are most helpful in orienting you toward thinking and doing what is right according to God’s will? 

What are the aspects of our common life together as a parish that orient us to living according to God’s will?  What does living according to God’s will look and sound like?

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right,
that we, who cannot exist without you,
may by you be enabled to live according to your will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 232)

(c) 2022, Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick


[1] This Collect is also attested in the mid-7th century Gelasian Sacramentary and the Gregorian supplement.  In the Verona Sacramentary, its use was as the first Collect for a September Eucharist.  The Gregorian supplement, the Sarum missal, and earlier BCPs appointed it for the Ninth Sunday after the Octave of Pentecost (that is, Trinity Sunday), which would be the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost in our counting.  Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book (New York:  Harper One), 190.

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