Parsing the Collect
A weekly worship aid from the Interim Rector
The Collect for Proper 9 (aka The Sunday closest to July 6th; in 2017, July 9, the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost)
The pre-eminent resource and study book for background regarding the Collects is Marion Hatchett and his Commentary on the American Book of Common Prayer. His very short comment regarding the collect for Proper 9 refers to the ancient sacramentary known as the “Leonine,” and that the 1979 BCP translation of such is a slightly revised version of the one provided by Frank Colquhoun’s Parish Prayers. There are two things here to dig into – the Leonine sacramentary, and the work of Frank Colquhoun. Since the Leonine will come up again during the summer Propers, and this Proper 9 Collect is the only one from Parish Prayers used as a Sunday collect, I’ll say a few things about the latter.
The Rev. Canon Frank Colquhoun, a Church of England evangelical priest, scholar, and teacher, published throughout his life (he died in 1997) at least 26 books on prayers, edited or his own, as well as guides to preaching, hymns, the gospels and moral problems. He was also for a time editor of The Churchman and editorial secretary of the World’s Evangelical Alliance. Much of what he is remembered for is the aforementioned collection titled Parish Prayers, which contains almost 1,800 prayers, collected from an abundance of sources, including some prayers of his own. The collection was published in 1967, and, although he was already well known in academic circles, this collection eventually, by the estimation of some, would land on the bookshelf of virtually every parish church in England. It was given high praise in printed reviews by at least two archbishops of Canterbury, Coggan and Runcie, and that would have caused the book to have been given international favor. During this very time, the revision of the American BCP was well under way. It is clear that Colquhoun’s editorial work was taken into consideration by the revision committee, since at least 6 collects in the Prayer Book are referenced to “Parish Prayers,” as noted by Marion Hatchett in his Commentary. Given his “patient, gentle, conciliatory character,” (Alan Webster, Obituary, Sunday 13 April 1997 ), I doubt if Canon Colquhoun actively promoted his collect edition for the work of the American revision committee, although I would not be surprised to find out that he was a considered colleague and friend to any of the committee members.
What’s still missing from this interesting sidelight (at least it is to me!) is the reason for replacing another “Trinity Season” collect (what it was called prior to now being the Sundays after Pentecost) with a prayer that had not been seen in Anglican prayer books until the 1979 American. Still, it is an ancient prayer, having been noted in the Leonine sacramentary and associated with the Holy Eucharist in Septembers. Scripturally, it alludes to the summary of the Law as Jesus taught, as well as the Apostle John teaching in his first pastoral letter, 1 John 5:3 .
Here’s the Collect for the Sunday closest to July 6, Proper 9:
O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The address to God (the first phrase in any collect) is a rather sharp, articulate and concise exhortation to those praying that it is in fact God who has commanded/demanded the action of love. At the same time it is a clear statement of praise to God’s holiness that He is the very author of this action, love. In recognition of who this God is, we make our bidding. We want to be these very people who not only carry out such action of loving others, but, first, make this a priority by personal action that our love for God is securely and authentically in place. “Devoted’ here becomes as strong a verb as “devotion” to God is as a noun. Let’s not overlook how that petition begins, though. “Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit” is the key to accomplishing the petition in us, as anyone who has tried to maintain an attitude and action of love toward God and toward all others, knows it is not possible without God’s help. And, of course, as we have prayed in faith for it to be, God, by his promises, will give it. You may define the word phrase, “Holy Spirit Grace” as God’s Power and Strength. Who does not want that? And if you don’t want it, then for sure you need it. 🙂
May it be so among us.