Sunday, November 30, 2014

Collects for the First Sunday in Advent

Prayer book
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in 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, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Breviary (Sarum)
STIR UP thy might, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come; that we, who are ever threatened by the peril of our sins, may be counted worthy to be rescued by Thy protection and saved by thy Deliverance. Who with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.

Already we see tensions arising between the Anglican Prayer book and the Pre-Reformation Breviary. The collect before the Reformation was that of the Sarum Rite, and this was replaced by Archbishop Cranmer with one that is probably of his own composition based on the Epistle for Advent Sunday. As Anglican Catholics, we have a duty to try and reconcile the prayers so that we may find a good sense of continuity across the time of Reformation.

The Sarum Collect focusses on our helplessness before God. Our sins imperil our lives to the extent that we are always teetering on the edge of death. That is the extent of the human condition. We have been created to live on that edge. Our lives are torn apart by the various forces, principalities and powers that fight over us for our destruction. They work in the darkness of the unseen; they influence us in the minuscule; they nudge us gently into oblivion. We need protection and deliverance – we may not presume on that protection and deliverance because we have been created to know our sins. God has given us capacities to tell right from wrong and to choose right from wrong, which is why we stand on the precipice all the time.

We cannot save ourselves from the precipice. We need God to steady us which He does with the grace that He gives us. Archbishop Cranmer’s composition for the prayer book focusses on that Grace. We need to be able to cast away from us the sins that crawl in the darkness of our being and we need the light of God to show this up to us first before we are even aware of the works of darkness within us!

We are responsible for our sins, and we are given the light to see them, but we can still close our eyes and refuse to see the sin within us. Our Advent must be spent getting our eyes used to the brightness of the Christ-child being born in our hearts. It is only through Him that His Church will receive Salvation.

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