Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Epiphany

Bishop Eric Menees

This Collect is one of those beautiful collects, prayed by Archbishop Cranmer that reflects both its, and our, Catholic and Protestant roots.  

Like so many of the Collects, this prayer for the Sixth Sunday in Epiphany is counter cultural. The culture tells us that we are strong and sufficient and good. That's what the culture tells us, but experience and the Word of God both tell us the opposite: we are not strong, but weak; we are not sufficient, but dependent; we are not good, but wicked. Archbishop Cranmer knew all of this, and so he prayed that God would act, as is His nature, counter-culturally!

O God, the strength of all who put their trust in thee: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without thee, give us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

First, when we pray this prayer, we acknowledge that any strength we have comes, not from within ourselves, but from God. This is a hard lesson to learn because our nature is fallen and we try to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, as it were. But that is a false understanding, because any strength we have is given to us by God, and by Him alone.

Secondly, in this prayer we acknowledge that our weakness is bound to our mortal nature - we will, all of us, die. As much as we try to put that out of our minds or even to deny it outright, the fact is that we could take our last breath in thirty seconds or in thirty or sixty years - but we will, all of us, die.

Thirdly, because of our inability to help ourselves and because of our fallen nature, even if we could, we would not use that strength to honor God. Therefore, we must humble ourselves to rely upon God and His Grace in order to obey Him and His Word.

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+  

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