A weekly worship aid from the Interim Rector
The Collect for Proper 16 (aka The Sunday closest to August 24th; in 2017, August 27, and the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost)
The Collect itself in its current form is a relatively new collect. It shows up first in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), appointed for Tuesday in Whitsun Week (that would be what was formerly the AKA for Pentecost, and the Monday and Tuesday following – why not the rest of the week is a discussion regarding Ember Days). The 1928 collects for Monday and Tuesday after Pentecost form a two-pronged petition following up and carrying on from Pentecost: Monday’s focus is on the Holy Spirit empowerment of the individual believer “ongoing,” kind of like Pentecost renewed daily; Tuesday’s collect is for the Church, the Body of Christ as a whole, that it will be a Holy Spirit-empowered evangelistic and missionary force displaying God’s power world-wide.
The Roman Catholic church still uses a collect from the ancient Gregorian sacramentary for the Tuesday after Pentecost, which some have suggested was the original of what we have now as this collect in the BCP for Proper 16. Although the Gregorian collect does begin with the power of the Holy Spirit and the life of the Church, it goes in a different direction in the bidding. It is, though, clearly a collect that is about Pentecostal power.
The BCP revision committee moved the Collect from its place in the 1928 BCP in order to make use of whichever Proper is appointed for that particular week after Pentecost, that is, for the Week (and Sunday) closest to that date. In so doing they followed a confusion that the entire Church was mired in at that time (the 1960s and 70s) regarding both Pentecost, and the connected Sacrament, Confirmation. In fact, what they did was to completely remove designated celebrations, and the propers, for the continuation of the celebration of Pentecost on at least Monday and Tuesday. Hopefully, this very ancient accentuation of Pentecost will be returned to the next BCP.
Here’s the Collect for the Sunday closest to August 24, Proper 16:
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The invocation/address of this collect could be as simple as, “O merciful God …” And when we consider what God has given us as His redeemed through the victory of Jesus Christ in order to carry out His mission in the world – He has given us what we need in order to do what He wants us to do – then we certainly and properly begin the collect praising the God of Mercy! But you can also see in the collect a longer invocation. It seems all woven together – the invocation and the petition – which is just fine. Let’s look at the parts, though. This merciful God is the God who has already accomplished these two things: He has created and owns The Church (“…Your Church,”), which is the Body of Christ. Jesus, the Head of the Body, paid for us to be set free. We are the redeemed of the Lord. And second, this Church is “gathered together in unity” by God the Holy Spirit. This understanding also is worthy of praise recognition because the members of the Church themselves have such a difficulty in gathering together in unity on their own! With these things in hand as we pray this prayer, we then have to go back to the first word of the collect which is the start of the petition phrase, “Grant.” And then, a few words later, the petition continues with the “Church,” and then finally comes to rest with, “may show forth your power among all peoples.” And for what purpose? “… to the glory of your Name.” Not power for the sake of power, but to bring glory to God. To show forth the Lord! To bring attention to the God of all creation. Presumably, knowing as we do the Mission of Jesus Christ, and knowing that the Church is constituted by people “who once did not know the Lord, and now they do,” this Holy Spirit power is to be on display for this purpose: to draw all peoples into relationship with Jesus Christ, and thus into the Church. As it says on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, verse 41, “Those who accepted [Peter’s] message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”