Parsing the Collect
A weekly worship aid from the Interim Rector
The Collect for Proper 8 (aka in 2017, the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, July 2nd)
In one sense this is not an ancient collect, as it was written apparently by Archbishop Cranmer for use on the feast of Saints Simon and Jude (celebrated October 28) and published in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. That’s old, but not like the collections of prayers from the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries. Still, it is made up of phrases that ARE ancient, making use of St. Paul’s words in his letter to the Ephesians, both chapter 2 (verses 20-22) and in chapter 4, specifically verse 3. There were some points of editing and revising a couple of words in the 1637 Scottish BCP and in the English 1662, but it remained associated with Simon and Jude until the 1979 Prayer Book when it was moved completely over to Proper 8. Marion Hatchett says the reason for this was deliberate, in order to place it on the Sunday closest to the Feast day of Saints Peter and Paul, celebrated June 29. And since Proper 8 is the proper used for “the Sunday closest to June 29”, then Proper 8 it is. Just a further thought, Simon and Jude were apostles, too, so I’m going to presume that it has more to do with the massive teaching and preaching ministry of the two major pillars of the early church, Peter and Paul, and because Paul’s letter was used as the original source for the collect. I’m sure there is a larger story there that I don’t find in my own commentaries or on the internet.
Here’s the Collect for the Sunday closest to June 29, Proper 8:
Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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 this collect helps us be reminded in our prayers – and in our doctrine – that 1) it is by God’s intention and authority and power that the Church has been built, that 2) God uses human beings who are called according to His purposes to work through, and 3) no matter what, only the Church that has been built upon the teaching, preaching, commands and presence of Jesus Christ is the one that is true to Him. But even given God’s intention and purpose, it is quite possible for those who belong to the Church through faith and baptism to be at odds with each other in unity, or rather disunity. Our prayer is that the very teaching of Jesus and His apostles – as we find it in the bible – will unite us, and in unity we will become what God further intended, a living, holy temple, acceptable to God.
May it be so among us.