Bishop Eric Menees
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Diocese of San Joaquin - first allow me to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. This is that secular and sacred feast in our land where with one accord families and friends sit down to give thanks to God for His many blessings! Of course for us as Anglican Christians we gather for "Thanksgiving" every Sunday as we celebrate Holy Eucharist which has its roots in the Greek - εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), meaning "thanksgiving," thus every Sunday celebration is a Thanksgiving.
This week I begin a new series in the Bishop's Note which will last a year and cover the entire of the church calendar. Each Sunday as we gather to make Thanksgiving (εὐχαριστία) the service begins with an opening prayer known as the "Collect." The Collect is a gathering prayer that very often sets the theme of the week’s celebration from scripture. These collects date back to the earliest church but are most easily documented beginning in the fifth century. In the sixteenth century, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer used those fifth and sixth century collecting prayers to establish the collects for the church year that we find in the Book of Common Prayer. They were set in concrete, as it were, in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer that we still use as the foundation of our Anglican worship today.
These collects are beautiful - theologically, scripturally and poetically - some have argued that they capture the beauty and nuance of the English Language and did for English worship what Shakespeare did for English theater.
Beginning today, the Thursday prior to the First Sunday of Advent, and running through the season of Pentecost (also known as the Season after Trinity) we will be examining the collect for the coming Sunday. Because of Archbishop Cranmer's beautiful language I will most often but not exclusively use the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. I invite you to join me on this journey and to feel free to write me your own thoughts on the subjects the collects raise.
Collect for the First Sunday of Advent: "Almighty God, give us grace, that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in the which thy son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the holy ghost now and ever. Amen."
The season of Advent is a season of preparation - preparation for our death (or the 2nd Coming of Christ which ever comes first) and preparation to receive the incarnate Jesus born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.This preparation begins by seeking God's help to "cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light." It is only by the help of God the Holy Spirit that we can in fact truly examine our lives and repent of our sin. (Mark 1:15) Repentance of sin alone is not enough - forgiven of sin we are vulnerable and so we are called to clothe ourselves in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).
This collect is clear to say that we need to repent and put on the armor of God in this Mortal Life - so often, people put off repenting and accepting Christ believing that there is still time...the problem is that not a one of us knows if we have 30 seconds or 30 years to live. It was to this very life that Jesus took on flesh - he who knew no sin became sin in order to redeem our lives so that we who are also flesh may join him in life immortal.
As we begin this season of Advent, we prepare for this life by repentance of sin and putting on the armor of God, and we prepare for the life to come by receiving Him who came in humility and rose to Glorious Majesty so that we may join him in God's good time!
Note: The "Notes to the church" articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+