Sunday, June 14, 2015

Collects for the Second Sunday after Trinity

Gregorian Collect

(Latin) Sancti Nominis tui, Domine, timorem pariter et amorem fac nos habere perpetuum, quia numquam tua gubernatione destituis, quos in soliditate, tuae dilectionis instituis. Qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Make us, O Lord, to have a perpetual fear and love of Thy holy name, for Thou never failest to govern those who Thou dost solidly establish in Thy love. Thou who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.

1549 Collect

LORD, make us to have a perpetuall feare and love of thy holy name: for thou never faillest to helpe and governe them whom thou doest bryng up in thy stedfast love. Graunt this,..
1662 Collect

O LORD, who never failest to help and govern them who thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love; Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Perpetual fear is not something that appears on our list of things we associate with Love. It is something we might rather associate with abusive relationships, where one partner dominates the other in order to exercise power in an arbitrary and dehumanising fashion. We imagine the dominant partner in taking pleasure in belittling the other, controlling their actions, punishing any deviation from their will.

On the face of it, the substance of this collect in its several versions seems to uphold a view of God which has been adequately described by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. The god of the modern atheism is a capricious totalitarian who deserves not to be worshipped but ignored like any other bully. To pray for perpetual fear seems to be a prayer of submission and a disgustingly obsequious manner from human beings who need to learn to have some self-respect.

If we bother to look deeper, we still have this troubling notion of love, a steadfast love which governs those who wish to be governed. To pray this prayer is to wish for love and to recognise something great, something utterly powerful. This is the type of love that makes one weak at the knees in its power, that causes trembling and fear, but a fear born of love, not of dread. If anything this fear comes from awe, the realisation of something massive, beautiful, of something that overwhelms us to the point of losing our precious identity.

This is the love of God which sends shivers up and down the spine. This is the love of a God who wants us to know Him for our sake and for His good pleasure in us for who He created us to be, not taking pleasure in watching us jump when He says so and torturing us when we fail to jump sufficiently high. This is the love of a God who dared to become a man and whose unpredictability, untamedness, and sheer mastery of the art of creation frightens us by its power, yet draws us into deeper love and trust. This is the terror of pure love!

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